Sharia law: neither equal nor free

Here’s a letter being sent out today by my One Law for All co-spokesperson Anne Marie Waters:

Dear friend

Update on Baroness Cox’s Equality Bill

One Law for All has been spending a lot of time recently working with Caroline Cox and her team in promoting the Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equalities) Bill. The aim of the Bill, which was introduced to the House of Lords last year, is to make arbitration services in the UK subject to equality laws and to bar any arbitration where parties are of unequal standing; for example, it would disallow arbitration providers placing greater weight on the testimony of one party over another, as is the case with sharia law where a wife’s word is worth only half of her husband’s. The Bill will also create a criminal offence and make it illegal for arbitration bodies to pretend they have greater jurisdiction than they do – in other words, preventing them from misinforming people that they must obey their rulings. It will also place a duty on public bodies in the UK to inform women of their rights under British law.

The Bill is due for a second reading in the House of Lords this October. Many Peers have already pledged support but we need your help in persuading them further. If you have time, please write to any members of the House of Lords and ask them to consider the seriousness of this Bill and its need in maintaining a society where all people are equal before a single secular and democratic law. In your letter, you could point out to Peers that the Islamic Sharia Council and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal both openly acknowledge that the testimony of women is given less value than that of men, that custody of children is awarded to fathers regardless of the circumstances, and that sharia family law permits, and therefore encourages, domestic violence and the abuse of women and children. You can find out how to write to Peers here. You can read the bill here. [Read more…]

Often, the silence is deafening

I have just returned from the Center For Inquiry’s Rhine River cruise where Richard Dawkins, Ronald A Lindsay and I were speaking. I gave two talks – one on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism and the other on Free Expression and Islam. Here’s my speech on Sharia law:

My talk today is on Sharia law, Islamophobia and Secularism.

It’s a difficult topic, not – as one might assume – because of the threats and intimidations that surround this issue, or the palpable fear associated with it. While these are very real and colour everything, I find this topic difficult primarily because of how many people and organisations are siding with Sharia law at the expense of rights, equality, and secularism.

There are reasons for why a large segment of the population has become convinced that it is not possible to act or intervene and that it is racist to do so.

People will often tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it but doesn’t everyone know what Sharia law is even if they don’t know of the existence of Sharia courts in Britain or Europe.

You’d have to live under a rock not to know what Sharia law means for people across the world.

Sharia law is Islamic law and it’s based on a combination of sources, including the Quran, the Hadith or Sunna (sayings and actions of Islam’s orophet Mohammad), and Islamic jurisprudence and rulings or fatwas issued by scholars.

Sharia law is far from monolithic and consistent; there are four prominent schools of Sharia in Sunni Islam and one major school in Shia Islam.

But despite the inconsistencies, there is consensus within all schools regarding the necessity of the death penalty for apostasy and sexual “crimes” including homosexuality, on the need for women to be veiled, and on different treatment under the law accorded to men compared with women as well as Muslims compared with non-Muslims.

Sharia law rulings that everyone is familiar with is people being hung in Iran for examples from cranes in city centres for apostasy, blasphemy, heresy, being gay, and enmity against god. There are 130 offences punishable by death under Sharia. Another recent example is of morality police in Iraq stoning dozens of Iraqi youth to death because of their haircuts and tight jeans. Or in the case of Afghanistan, for example, a majority of women prisoners are there for ‘moral crimes’. The case of Gulnaz, which was highlighted in a documentary commissioned by the EU and then banned by it to safeguard their relations with the ‘justice’ institutions, is better known. She was given a 12 year sentence after being raped. After much protest, she was pardoned by Karzai so she could to marry her rapist! And of course there is the latest example of the Islamist-dominated government in Egypt introducing a law that would allow a man to have sex with his wife for up to six hours after her death…

Despite all the evidence – there are quite a few of people some of whom are humanists, freethinkers and atheists who will say they don’t know enough about sharia to criticise it though they know very well what religion in political power means since they spend quite a large chunk of their time fighting Christianity’s role in the public space. But bring up Islam and Sharia law and suddenly the response is hardly audible.

Often times the silence is deafening.

When people tell me that they don’t know enough about Sharia law to oppose it – though we hear about its abominations day in and day out – I think what they really mean to say is that it is not their place to oppose it.

In its very essence the reason for this – for the conviction that it is not one’s place to act – is a false belief that to do so would be tantamount to racism. And I do think this is why we don’t see the outrage that barbarism of this kind deserves and demands.

Now, if you are fighting Islamism or Sharia law in Iran, Egypt or Afghanistan the debate is not framed around racism and Islamophobia. I remember being on a panel discussion in Sweden with a famous Syrian atheist, Sadiq al-Azm and when the Swedes called his criticism of Islam racist, he said I’ve been arrested, imprisoned and called many things but never this. This accusation of racism is specific to the debate in North America, or Europe or Australia.

If you criticise Islam or Islamism in Iran, you’re not labelled a racist, you are accused of enmity against god, corruption, blasphemy, heresy and apostasy. So the accusation of racism and Islamophobia is specific to the debate taking place in the west.

Just to give you an example, when the Saudi government arrests 23 year old Hamza Kashgari for tweeting about Mohammad, it doesn’t accuse him of racism; it accuses him of blasphemy – an accusation punishable by death. The same government though will accuse critics of Saudi policy abroad as Islamophobic.

What I’m trying to say is that Islamists and their apologists have coined the term Islamophobia, – a political term to scaremonger people into silence – by deeming it racist to criticise anything related to Islam. [Read more…]

Nightmare week

This week I have been dealing with a number of really heart-wrenching cases. Apart from the asylum cases that need support, and desperate emails and calls from people living under Islamism who fear for their lives and want to flee, I am also working on a case of a young woman (under 18 and a British national) who has been sent back to North Africa by her family because she is disobedient. Her passport has been taken from her and she is in danger of forced marriage. Doesn’t it make you wonder how it is possible that her school or social services have not registered that a young girl is missing and not been heard of or seen for months!?

And just today, I was asked to help a woman whose 5 year old son has been abducted by her abusive husband and taken back to the Middle East. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how small he is, how scared he must be and how lost she must feel without her baby… She had gone to the police a number of times warning them of his intentions but did they listen?

When I say that people have to take precedence over religion and culture, it’s not just a slogan. It is about saving lives, protecting rights and treating people equally no matter what their background…

Why is that so hard to understand?


Poor Little Victims (yeah right!)

At the Queen Mary talk two nights ago, I had yet another Sharia apologist come up to me and ask whether I would be willing to debate the pro-Sharia lobby so that there can be a ‘fair’ hearing on the issues. Well I have always ‘debated’ with Islamists when possible (knowing full well that they would be more than happy to decapitate me if we were in their territory). Ironic when you think that this very talk was initially cancelled due to Islamist threats not long ago.

Seriously, don’t you lot ever tire of playing the victim?

Err the last time I looked, you all have political power – and implementing your despicable Sharia courts up and down the country and across the world.

And you want to talk about ‘fair’. Pulease! Sell it to someone else.

You don’t need to speak Arabic to know that Sharia stinks

I had a ball in Sheffield when I went to speak about Sharia law at the invitation of the Sheffield Humanist group. Some Islamists came to the meeting to try and win their case. Poor things. They spent the entire time giving me the evil eye and whispering about their strategy and all they could muster was this: one of them got up at the end of my talk and said something in Arabic. I responded in Persian. But of course his point was how a person could speak about sharia when they don’t speak Arabic.

Err well lots of people.

Islamists can’t have it both ways. They say that they represent a billion or more ‘Muslims’ – many of whom don’t speak a word of Arabic. But if you speak against Sharia – you’re not allowed to unless you speak Arabic. (Oh and if you do speak Arabic, they have other excuses up their sleeves.)

Well, I’ll tell you how I can speak about Sharia – I have lived through it and survived to tell the tale of its medievalism and barbarity.

But as an aside, according to this piece of ‘logic’, someone should have told the black South African that s/he couldn’t resist racial Apartheid because s/he couldn’t speak Afrikaans…

By the way, some woman came up at the end of the session to say that I should have been nicer to the poor chap since he made a valid point!? Yes, let’s leave it to the well meaning to feel sorry for the Islamist…

Anyway, the video of the very fun night should be available soon and when it is I will be sure to post it for you.

Why remove One Law for All’s name?

On the cancellation of our talk, New Humanist magazine wrote: Yesterday evening, a talk on “Sharia Law and Human Rights” organised by the Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society at Queen Mary, University London, had to be cancelled after threats of violence. The talk was due to be given by Anne Marie Waters of the One Law For All campaign, which campaigns against the use of Sharia in the UK.

Correction: The British Humanist Association posted a press release on the cancellation as well (it did so first) without any reference to Anne Marie and One Law for All.

An oversight maybe?

More likely it is part of the ongoing effort to ignore the real links between campaigning against Sharia law and attacks on free expression as well as their priority of working with religions rather than keeping religion out of the public sphere.

Mentioned or not, though, we mean business and we will get rid of Sharia law.

The Guardian’s at it again

The Guardian  is at it again. It has published yet another article by David Shariatmadari on how a ‘leading barrister’ says ‘Sharia is compatible with human rights’. If you read the article though, it hard to find much evidence on how it is compatible other than that this is the barrister’s ‘interpretation’.

So we’re back to the ‘interpretation’ argument and also of course the bogus ‘not in the Koran’ argument.

Listen up Guardian: Sharia law is based on the Koran but also the Hadith and Islamic jurisprudence so whilst ‘not in the Koran’ might be a helpful PR exercise, it’s not very upstanding journalism, now is it?

It’s disturbing that ‘leading’ barristers and newspapers can say Sharia is compatible with human rights whilst it amputates, stones to death, imposes veiling, and kills apostates as we speak.

The best line of the whole puff piece though has to be: ‘only about half a dozen allow for amputations’. Only?!!

David is the Guardian paying you to write this crap or the Islamic regime of Iran? Oh I forgot, same difference…

ACLU: How can you simultaneously defend sharia and rights?

One Law for All co-spokesperson Anne Marie Waters has just sent off a letter to the the ACLU criticising its support or sharia law. In the letter she asks: ‘I am interested to know how the ACLU intends to square the circle on this, and how you can simultaneously support the application of sharia law in US Courts while claiming to stand up for the rights of women and fight against gender-based violence and discrimination.’

Here’s the letter in full. [Read more…]

Scientific proof that women cannot talk and remember at the same time

Sharia law is the same everywhere. Iran, Britain, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia – that is if it’s Sharia.

And under Sharia law a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s so you always need two women for every man, not just in financial transactions – as its proponents deceptively say (as if that’s not bad enough) – but in any matter of importance. We are told it’s because women are too ’emotional’, menstrual, or so that if one errs the other can remind her. It’s about the nature of women. But for those ‘heretics, communists, and other atheists’ who ridicule this, finally here’s the scientific proof that women cannot talk and remember at the same time:

Oh well, that settles that then.

Women cane morality police

Islamists have been harassing shop owners and female customers in rural towns around Egypt for ‘indecent behaviour’ and enforcing Sharia law. Shop owners have been told they can no longer sell ‘indecent’ clothing, barbers can no longer shave men’s beards, and customers ordered to veil and threatened with severe punishment if they did not abide by ‘God’s law on earth’.

Okay yes, I know business as usual… But when they burst into a beauty salon in the Nile delta town of Benha and ordered the women to stop what they were doing or face physical punishment, the women struck back, whipping them with their own canes before kicking them out to the street. [Read more…]

Religiously Sanctioned Paedophilia

The Director General of the Census Bureau in Hormozgan announced that there had been five marriages of girls under the age of 10 in the Iranian province. Latest national statistics for children ‘married’ under the age of 14 in Iran is 24,506 girls and 5, 519 boys. The total number of marriages from 10-18 years of age is 848,000.

But don’t be alarmed. A member of the Islamic Assembly (Majlis) and its ‘Judicial Commission’, Nayereh Akhavan (here’s a photo of her),  has said that there can be no ban on child marriages because there are ten year olds who have reached ‘sexual and intellectual puberty’ and because it would ‘contradict sharia’. We know Islam’s prophet consummated his ‘marriage’ with Aisha when she was 9.  And of course there is Ayatollah Khomeini ‘s book of sayings: ‘Tahrir al Wasilah’, where he says that a man can even have sex with a baby. [Read more…]

We intend to step up pace against Sharia law in 2012

Dear Friend,

We want to thank you for your support throughout 2011 and to give you a reminder of the important steps we took throughout the year, none of which would have been possible without you.

One of the most significant events this year was the introduction of the Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill which was introduced to the House of Lords by Baroness Caroline Cox. Baroness Cox has said that she was inspired by the work of One Law for All. I, along with Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society, have been working closely with Baroness Cox in recent months to assist in her efforts, within Parliament, to shore up support for the Bill. Last week, I addressed a meeting of Peers at the House of Lords and further talks and information sessions will be held in the New Year. The Bill aims to end discriminatory practices, particularly against women, in arbitration and mediation carried out in the UK. This would mean that the sharia practice of giving the testimony of women only half the weight of that of men would be unlawful. The Bill will also create a criminal offence which will prevent people from pretending to have lawful jurisdiction that they do not have. This would carry a five year prison sentence and is aimed at protecting vulnerable women. We will continue to push this incredibly important Bill in 2012, which promotes equal rights for all. [Read more…]

They deserve it! They defied culture and religion!

Indonesian sharia police arrested more than 60 youth at a punk rock concert in the provincial capital Banda Aceh on Saturday night, and forced them to have their hair cut, bathe in a lake, change clothes and pray (definitely not the same as my extending a handshake in case you were wondering).

Now there are at least two responses to this. One very sad group of people will say the youth shouldn’t have defied Islamic culture and religion; they should have respected it; blah, blah, blah.

The rest of us, however, will side with the youth.

It’s not difficult to see that the side one takes is a matter of choice.

I know which side I’ve chosen but do you? (And you know who you are.)

Beheading is not real Islam or Sharia!?

According to a Saudi Interior Ministry statement, a woman, Amina Bint Abdulhalim Nassar, was beheaded today in the northern province of Jawf for ‘practising witchcraft and sorcery’.

Yes beheaded and yes for witchcraft and sorcery.

Oh but according to the Ahmadiyyas who I debated last Thursday (and which I will be blogging about later today), this is not real Islam or Sharia.

Yeah, right…

The absurdity of debating Sharia law

I find it absurd that tonight – and for the umpteenth time – I must argue that Sharia law negates human rights at a ‘debate’.

It reminds me of my ‘debates’ with campaigners at a women’s rights meeting more than 20 years ago. They kept excusing FGM as a cultural matter that needed to be respected whilst I argued otherwise. Having lived in Sudan for two years with roommates who were mutilated, I can still hear their screams when they were having sex or menstruating. (I lived there from 1988 until 1990 when I was evacuated by my employer after being threatened by Sudanese security but that’s another story). [Read more…]

Sharia law negates human rights


On Thursday 8th of December, from 18:00-21:00 hours at UCL, 26 Bedford Way, London UCLU-Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society and One Law for All will be hosting a debate on a very important topic. The proponents of the motion will be arguing that Sharia Law negates human rights. [Read more…]

Gulnaz pardoned… so she can marry her rapist

Hamid Karzai is pardoning Gulnaz, the Afghan woman serving a 12-year prison sentence after she was raped.

But don’t get too excited. He is pardoning her so she can marry her rapist!

According to a statement from the presidential palace, ‘As the both sides [Gulnaz and the rapist] have agreed to get married to each other with conditions, respective authorities were tasked to take action upon it according to Islamic Shariah’.

It doesn’t get more [un]just than that. [Read more…]

Invitation to legislate misogyny

The lying Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (also known as a Sharia court) has been sending out letters to lawyers inviting them to legislate misogyny. As I’ve explained countless times, sharia law – or any religious law for that matter – is discriminatory and unfair (at best), and medieval and barbaric (when it’s at its best). Yes, Sharia’s family code is not stonings and amputations (that’s its criminal code) but the denial of women’s and children’s rights in the family are pillars of suppression in countries under Islamic rule.

There will of course be loads of lawyers willing to take them up on their offer – money talks after all – lawyers like Aina Khan who have made it their business to defend Sharia and not people. Here’s their letter: [Read more…]