Prepared by Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space, a Leading member of the One Law for All Coalition.
2008 – The One Law for All Campaign was launched on 10 December 2008, International Human Rights Day, to call on the UK Government to recognise that Sharia and religious courts are arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular and that citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable. The Campaign aimed to end Sharia and all religious courts on the basis that they work against, and not for, equality and human rights. This was the year when the Archbishop of Canterbury said that there was room for accommodation of sharia in British law and proposed a fundamentalist sharia court as a model.
2010 – Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights – found that Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals to be in violation of UK law, public policy and human rights.
2011 – Enemies not Allies: The Far-Right A report by One Law for All explores how the far-Right has attempted to hijack opposition to Islamism for its own ends. It focuses on the British National Party, the English Defence League and Stop Islamisation of Europe/America, and exposes how their activities, associations, opinions and intentions reveal a racist and inhuman worldview, which must be resisted and criticised with as much vigilance as Islamism itself.
2013 – Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left This report exposes Stop the War Coalition, Respect Party, Unite Against Fascism and individuals such as Ken Livingstone and George Galloway and their agenda and methods. This section of the Left uses accusations of racism and Islamophobia and a conflation of Muslim with Islamist in order to defend Islamism and Islam rather than out of any real concern for prejudice against Muslims or their rights, particularly since Muslims or those labelled as such are the first victims of Islamism and on the frontlines of resisting it.
2014 – Universities UK, a regulator for universities publishes guidance allowing visiting speakers to gender segregate their lectures. This follows struggles by students to oppose gender segregation, and reports of many universities segregating their meetings and events. One Law for All organises protests. Southall Black Sisters seeks legal advice from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which confirms that gender segregation is discriminatory, forcing UUK to withdraw its advice.
2014 – One Law for All campaigns against the Law Society for issuing a guidance note on ’sharia compliant wills’. An open letter to the Law Society is signed by senior women’s rights and secular campaigners from numerous countries. An open letter is sent to Asma Jehangir, Special Rapporteur on the Freedom of Religion or Belief. Content derived from extremist preachers is exposed by Maryam Namazie’s research and The organisers of the campaign also obtained legal advice from Karon Monaghan QC of Matrix Chambers, which stated that the Practice Note was unlawful as it provided guidance to solicitors that promotes an interpretation of Sharia that is discriminatory on the grounds of gender, religion and ethnicity and thus gave rise to the possibility of direct discrimination by solicitors. This came after the Solicitors Regulation Authority had already withdrawn its endorsement of the Law Society’s Practice Note on July 10, following the threat of legal action from Southall Black Sisters.
2015 Human Rights Day – On Thursday 10 December 2015, Southall Black Sisters (SBS), One Law for All, Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO), Centre for Secular Space and British Muslims for Secular Democracy attended 10 Downing Street to hand deliver a letter signed by nearly 400 individuals and organisations urging David Cameron to hold an inquiry into the discriminatory nature of Sharia ‘courts’ and other religious arbitration forums, restore legal aid and commit to maintaining the Human Rights Act.
2016 Government announces a full, independent inquiry into sharia – it does not extend to other religions courts and tribunals. The inquiry will examine whether there is misuse of sharia and what if any problems it causes. One Law for All welcomes inquiry but argues for wider terms of reference. Government announces that theologian Mona Siddiqui will lead the inquiry, Two Imams are appointed as advisors, members of the inquiry include a Christian fundamentalist judge and two lawyers. After a refusal to even respond to concerns by voiced by the One Law for All coalition that the inquiry should be transparent, judge-lead and human rights based and not a theological inquiry, the Coalition called for a boycott of the inquiry.
Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament also establishes inquiry into sharia. While the government appointed Siddiqui inquiry is not making either its hearings or its evidence public, the Home Affairs Select Committee will do so. The Coalition mobilises to collect testimonies of individual women and puts in a wide range of evidence detailing the international fundamentalist networks involved with running Sharia ‘courts.’ OLFA shows that the ‘courts’ are abusive and adversarial. They are not a mechanism for alternative dispute resolution. The Coalition establishes that a community based ‘zina’ law is in operation. Women feel that they cannot remarry after having a civil divorce, unless they are also granted a religious divorce. The Coalition shows that these attitudes were not held by Muslims a generation ago.
Maryam Namazie gives oral evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee, and provides devastating supplementary evidence, to clarify that many sharia courts are run as charities, produce fatwas and pressure that goes beyond women’s divorces and are part of international networks. They also do call themselves ‘Judges’ and refer to their proceedings as a ‘court’. IKWRO and Southall Black Sisters also submit evidence, along with other members of the Coalition. Dozens of testimonies are also submitted and a petition from women affected by violence. This inquiry is closed due to the calling of the general election.
2017: SBS and Inspire act as intervenors to explain why gender segregation of girls at a state funded Islamic school run by the al Hijrah trust, is discriminatory in case between schools regulator Ofsted v Birmingham City Council. The Court of Appeal rules that gender segregation can amount to unlawful sex discrimination.
2018 – The Siddiqui review reports after 18 months, having interviewed only 8 women (far fewer than the OLFA coalition), and recommends regulation of sharia courts, which the government rejects.
OLFA protests to government about having conceded the need for a civil divorce by changing the divorce form to indicate that a civil divorce may not be sufficient. This fundamentally undermines British law and justifies Islamists and other fundamentalists insistence on separate religious divorces.