Anne Marie Waters had a depressing experience a couple of weeks ago.
On Sunday, I spoke at the University of Kent’s Critical Law Society conference under the heading of ‘Equality: Are We There Yet?’
I was invited to speak alongside pro-sharia advocate Aina Khan (more on her later) and a PhD student (more on her later as well) and found myself in a not-too-unfamiliar situation of having to argue against domestic violence in opposition to a room full of “feminists”.
Having described how sharia family law in Britain allows men to beat their wives – as the testimony of women who have been through it confirms – the “feminists” weren’t quite sure whether or not they disapproved. I was met with highly accusatory questions such as How can we be multicultural if we don’t allow sharia?, and comments such as We must tolerate … well, pretty much everything from what I could make out. With the mumblings and applause in favour of my opponents, I was left in no doubt as to the company I was keeping.
Here’s how it seems to go: “We are feminists. We are incredibly right-on. We read the Guardian. We disapprove of women’s breasts getting a public airing and we strongly object to the fact that boards of directors are not 50% female. We will go absolutely ballistic if anyone dare understate how vile domestic violence is, or attempt in any way to justify it. We are feminists you see. Oh, but only when it comes to white women – did we mention that?”
I think I understand where it comes from. (I’m sure so does Anne Marie.) Muslims are underdogs here (here=at the University of Kent; the UK; “the West”; the developed world, the first world, the rich world). There is racism and xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiment. We mustn’t add to it by being critical of sharia.
It comes from a benign place, but it’s not benign itself.
I must talk a little more about Aina Khan – Britain’s favourite sharia-loving lawyer who is making quite a name for herself in such circles. I’ve heard Aina speak many times but this weekend her comments were even stranger than usual. This time, upon realising she was defending the indefensible, Khan stated that she doesn’t send her clients to the Islamic Sharia Council or the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal; the two largest sharia court bodies in the country. What they’re doing isn’t proper sharia, she said. It’s strange how this only came to light after I had read out the quotes condoning domestic violence and marital rape from ‘judges’ of both the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (people Khan has previously boasted about how wonderfully respectfully they treat her, but this time denied having any contact with them).
Anne Marie is having an effect then! Good. But not good that Aina Khan is dodging and weaving. Another thing to keep an eye on.