The Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority withdraws its endorsement of the Law Society’s discriminatory practice note on Sharia wills

1398734961-protest-staged-against-law-societys-decision-to-recognize-sharia-law_4591701 (1)PRESS RELEASE
11 July 2014

Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and One Law for All welcomes the decision by the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA), the regulatory body for solicitors, to remove the Law Society’s controversial practice note(1) on drafting ‘Sharia compliant’ wills (2) from its ethics guidance on wills. The decision clearly demonstrates that the SRA considers it inappropriate to continue to endorse the note.

The SRA decision comes after threatened legal action on gender equality grounds and represents an important step in our campaign against the Law Society. On 13 March 2014, the Law Society issued a practice note for solicitors on drafting ‘Sharia’ compliant wills. The note, which was drafted with reference to conservative if not fundamentalist Muslim ‘experts’ (3) but not minority women’s organisations, said:

… illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs…The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir… Non-Muslims may not inherit at all…a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir…

This appalling institutional endorsement of direct gender and other forms of discrimination has been the subject of threatened legal action against the Law Society itself. We have demanded that the Law Society withdraw its guidance but it has resolutely refused to do so. In an extraordinary show of defiance, in a letter dated 4 June 1014, the Law Society stated that it had no intention of withdrawing the practice note and that ‘no equality and diversity implications’ arose from the note. Since receiving the SRA’s decision we have now written to the Law Society again demanding a reconsideration of their position. We are also taking further legal advice on the question of whether solicitors acting on the practice note might be themselves acting unlawfully.

Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors acting on our behalf said:

I am surprised that the Law Society considers that it did not have to consult with any women’s organisations or organisations working with Muslim women, despite the fact that there are significant disputes surrounding Sharia succession rules and a wide range of interpretations as to how they should apply. The Law Society should reconsider its position and withdraw the practice note now that the SRA has agreed to remove its own reference to it.

Pragna Patel of SBS said:

It beggars belief that the Law Society can see no wrong in issuing such blatantly discriminatory and offensive guidance. It shows a racist and callous disregard for minority women’s struggles for equality and Justice in the face of encroaching illiberal religious power. The Law Society should be encouraging and legitimising an equality and human rights and not Sharia compliant legal culture. We urge the Law Society to remove its practice note which is contributing to the disturbing creation of a culture of ‘Sharia compliant’ law and policy in the UK.

Maryam Namazie from One Law for All said:

There is no place for Sharia in Britain’s legal system just as there is no place for it anywhere. Sharia – like all religious laws – is based on a dogmatic and regressive philosophy and a warped understanding of the concepts of equality and justice. It is not a rule for equals and has no place in a modern state or system of law. The Law Society must immediately withdraw its shameful guidance.

NOTES.

1. See SRA ethics guidance on drafting and preparation of wills.

2. The Reference notesaid: “If you are acting for clients for whom Sharia succession rules may be relevant you will find the Law Society’s practice note on the subject helpful.”

3. See for example: Inheritance – Regulations & Exhortations (2nd edition) by Muhammad Al Jibaly, published by Al-Hidaayah Publishing & Distribution Ltd.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, pragna@soublacksisters.co.uk 02085719595.

Louise Whitfield or Sasha Rozansky of Deighton Piece Glynn, LWhitfield@dpglaw.co.uk
SRozansky@dpglaw.co.uk 02074070007.

Maryam Namazie of One Law for All, maryamnamazie@googlemail.com 077 1916 6731.

Press Release: Wills without bigotry – protest against the Law Society

1398734961-protest-staged-against-law-societys-decision-to-recognize-sharia-law_4591701 (1)About 70 protesters rallied outside the office of the Law Society to condemn their endorsement of discriminatory sharia law on April 28 2014.

The protest was organised by anti-racist, feminist and human rights groups, namely One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, and London School of Economics SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society.

Chris Moos was the master of ceremonies of the rally.

At the protest, Pragna Patel, director of Southall Black Sisters called upon the Law Society to withdraw its guidance:

Our message to you is this: Wake up: You are the Law Society and not a body advising on the compatibility of the law with religious principles! You have no business in normalising discriminatory religious principles in the legal culture and practice of this country. Your business is to ensure that the law is human rights complaint and not anti-rights compliant. Your business is to tear up the guidance. Your business is to stand with us on this side of the fence and on this side of history.

Maryam Namazie, founder of One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation argued:

There is no place for Sharia in Britain’s legal system just as there is no place for it anywhere. Sharia – like all religious laws – is based on a dogmatic and regressive philosophy and a warped understanding of the concepts of equality and justice. It is primitive and patriarchal and based on inequality, retribution and religious [im]morality. It is not a rule for equals and has no place in a modern state or system of law. Law Society listen up: you must immediately withdraw your shameful guidance. Now! In the words of Algerian women singing for change: “We aren’t asking for favours. History speaks for us”.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

The Law Society is violating its own equality policies by providing guidance on Sharia-compliant wills and offering training courses in Sharia law for high street lawyers. It is colluding with Sharia law principles that discriminate against women, non-Muslims and children who are adopted or born to unmarried parents. This is a direct attack on the equal rights of many Muslims, especially women. The Law Society is supposed to uphold the equality values of British law. Instead, it is undermining them. The Law Society would never provide guidance to facilitate racist or homophobic-compliant wills. Why the double standards?

Kate Smurthwaite, comedian and activist, appealed to the Law Society:

Religious bigots are highly skilled at trampling on the rights of women, children and non-believers. They don’t need The Law Society to help them. The value of daughters is THE SAME as the value of sons. All marriages, religious, non-religious, gay or straight are marriages. And every child is legitimate. Faced with bigotry it is the job of all of us – including the Law Society – to challenge it. The protestors today did exactly that. When will The Law Society follow suit and rip up this ‘guide to discrimination’?

Abhishek Phadnis, president of the LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist society, added:

I come from a country which has seen this divisive trend being taken to its logical conclusion – where a woman’s rights to, among other things, alimony and inheritance, depend entirely on her religion, there being different laws for each community. The resulting discrimination has visited appalling suffering upon Muslim women in particular. I have no wish to see it replicated here. A man may choose to be as spiteful and chauvinistic as he wishes, but it is not something our public institutions should encourage or condone. I hope the Law Society will withdraw this Note before it causes any further damage.

James Bloodworth, the Editor of Left Foot Forward, said: [Read more…]

Survey on Gender Segregation at Universities

Dear friend

One Law for All, in conjunction with Southall Black Sisters and Fitnah, is conducting a survey as part of a research project investigating the nature and impact of segregation, specifically gender segregation, at universities in the United Kingdom.

If you have experienced gender segregation at a university, please take a few moments to respond to the questionnaire online by 31 March 2014. This research project is conducted in full compliance with the Ethics Guidelines of the Social Research Association. Your data will be treated as confidential and your participation will remain anonymous.

For more information about this research or to provide more in depth information, please contact: gendersegregationsurvey@gmail.com.

Thank you for your participation.

Warmest wishes
Maryam Namazie
Spokesperson

NOTES:

1. Please don’t forget to book early for the international Conference on the Religious-Right, Secularism and Civil Rights in London during 11-12 October 2014 so you can get the Early Bird Special Rates. The conference has a fantastic line-up of well known secularists from across the world. It is a not-to-be-missed event. We do hope to see you there!

2. I am hoping to start a new TV programme broadcast in Iran and the Middle East via Satellite called Bread and Roses. If you want to support the taboo-breaking, freethinking programme which will deal with a lot of the issues raised by One Law for All, please donate here. No amount is too little and every bit will help get equipment to tape the much-needed programmes.

Joint statement on legal note to Universities UK against their guidance condoning gender segregation

Protests-equality_2764314kJoint statement of Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All, Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation and LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society

We are pleased to learn of the legal note submitted to Universities UK (UUK) yesterday in the name of Radha Bhatt, a student of Cambridge University, against their Guidance condoning gender segregation. (Legal Note can be found here: 560365 Letter to Universities UK 06 01 2014 (final).)

We share Radha’s apprehensions that gender segregation reinforces negative views specifically about women, undermines their right to participate in public life on equal terms with men and disproportionately impedes women from ethnic and religious minorities, whose rights to education and gender equality are already imperilled.

Radha’s legal submission makes it unmistakably clear that despite UUK’s protestations, the law could scarcely be more unequivocal on gender segregation. The practice is specifically condemned by the Equality Act as amounting to less favourable treatment of women. We hope it will be noted that this condemnation applies equally to ‘voluntary’ segregation, a notorious misnomer used to pressure students to comply with ‘Mixed’ and ‘Segregated’ zones.

The existing rights legislation recognises that gender segregation undermines the dignity of both men and women and creates a hostile, degrading and humiliating environment. We hope Radha’s representations will remind UUK of its Public Sector Equality Duty towards the imperatives of eliminating discrimination, advancing equality of opportunity and fostering good relations between those who share protected characteristics.

Abhishek Phadnis, President of the LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society commented: “The beliefs of visiting speakers are no excuse to legitimise discrimination against women or any group. We applaud Radha for her principled and courageous stand, and hope that UUK will heed her solicitors’ advice to redraft its guidance to reflect the manifest illegality of gender segregation. Following up on our rally against gender segregation, we are looking forward to continuing to work with Southall Black Sisters, One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation to ensure that the rights of all students in the UK are fully upheld at all times.”

Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters commented: “We welcome the legal advice which clearly states that UUK’s position on gender segregation in universities breaches both domestic and international human rights and discrimination law in substance and in process. We note that not a single women’s rights organisation was consulted about the guidance. Had it gone unchallenged, it would have had a profoundly detrimental impact on black and minority women who already struggle to assert their fundamental rights to education, freedom and independence. The whole sorry affair is symptomatic of a bigger battle waged by the religious right (aided and abetted by public bodies like the UUK) to control women’s minds and bodies. We must remain alert to the dangers of religious fundamentalism in all religions because its very goal is to use public spaces to gain power and to destroy the very principles of democracy and the universality of women’s human rights.”

Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation said: “For too long, cultural relativists have excused discrimination against women in the name of ‘respect’ for religious beliefs. Whilst the right to belief is absolute, the right to manifest it is not. Equality must trump religious beliefs, particularly if we want to respect human beings rather than beliefs. Moreover, let’s not forget that Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Endorsing segregation of the sexes means siding with far-Right Islamists – like Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, the Islamic Education and Research Academy and the Islamic Human Rights Commission – at the expense of rights and equality of many Muslims, ex-Muslims and others. We unequivocally support Radha’s stand and will continue to fight for an end to gender segregation at universities, including via teams of sex apartheid busters and a rally on March 8th.”

You can find regular updates on our campaign here.

For further enquiries please contact:

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
077 1916 6731
@maryamNamazie

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
Pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
02085719595
@SBSisters

Chris Moos
LSE SU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
c.m.moos@lse.ac.uk
074 2872 0599
@LSESUASH

Walking a tightrope: Between the pro-Islamist Left and the far-Right

1236466622-one-law-for-all-campaign-against-sharia-law-in-britain29189_29189Opposing Sharia and Islamism in the west is like walking on a tight rope most of the time – thwarting attacks from the Left, refuting cultural relativism, preventing alliances with the far-Right, explaining the issues ignored by government and the media, mobilising support for secularism and citizenship whilst opposing racism and xenophobia, and making linkages with the many fighting Islamism on the ground in countries across the world. It’s easy to fall off the tight rope and doesn’t surprise me when it happens given all the pressures involved.

Most disconcerting for many are the pressures from the Left; it is particularly hard when your “natural allies” betray basic human principles whilst using the language of rights and tolerance to defend the denial of rights and the intolerable.

Take this past weekend’s panel discussion at the NYU Global Secularisms conference that I was on. One of my co-panellists said she opposed all fundamentalists, including secular ones, when asked about my talk and another accused me of aiding and abetting racism against Muslims and Arabs by my very use of the term Sharia (I’ll have to comment on these later).

Add to this constant demonization, the day to day difficulties of doing such work, including the threats and all the clandestine attempts at intimidation and it is quite easy to see how one can be disillusioned and fall off the tightrope. (Just this week, I was asked to reassure a ‘moderate Muslim gentleman’ – read Islamist – with the content of my talk though he wouldn’t be attending and wanted me disinvited.)

I suppose it’s easier for people like me to stay the course coming from an Iranian Left political tradition with crystal clear clarity and an uncompromising defence of humanity. The Left I belong to has opposed cultural relativism and defended universal values and hasn’t sided with the Iranian regime or Syria’s Asad like Stop the War Coalition and the Socialist Workers Party.

When faced with such betrayal, I can fully understand that, for some, staying on course becomes impossible. What I can’t understand and will never accept, though, is falling off the tightrope or even trying to stay on whilst simultaneously finding solace in and partnership with the far-Right.

The argument in favour of collaboration with the far-Right is that we need as many allies as possible in the fight against Sharia and Islamism, which means that we must be “inclusive” and “tolerant” of those whose views we may find distasteful – all for the “cause.”

Sound familiar?

Is this not what the pro-Islamist Left says in justifying its collaboration with the Islamists?

I for one already work with many groups and individuals whose views I find distasteful; it is possible to do that in specific campaigns like One Law for All. But no movement includes or represents everyone. There are limits. And there are principles that are more important than any “cause.”

Also, creating movements is not merely a numbers game. When Stop the War Coalition brought in Islamists as partners, it ignored Islamic terrorism and discrimination against women. It sided with oppressive regimes, segregated meetings and defended Sharia and the veil. It brought lots of people to the streets initially but at what cost and for how long?

Collaborating with the likes of the English Defence League (EDL) may increase numbers in the short-term, but it’s self-defeating. This isn’t only about numbers. Aims and principles matter too.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I’m against the war on Iraq as is Al Qaeda but we’re against it for different reasons. I’m against Sharia and so is the EDL and the supposedly reinvented Tommy Robinson but we’re against it for different reasons.

I oppose Sharia in Britain and everywhere because universal rights, secularism, women’s rights and equality mean something to me. The EDL and Tommy Robinson oppose it because they want to defend their “homeland” (which I am reminded is a human right recognised by the UN) from “the changes and dangers brought to it by mass influxes of people from cultures they don’t understand or recognise.” Can you not see the fundamental differences in position? Theirs is a xenophobic position that blames immigrants and minorities for everything wrong with Britain. It’s a racist perspective that sees the teeming masses as the “other” trying to change white, British, Christian culture.

But people’s “culture” is not based on their immigration or citizenship status. Not every white European represents enlightenment values – as the EDL clearly proves. Nor is every immigrant or minority a regressive theocrat. This is not about a clash of civilisations between a regressive “east” and a secularist “west” but a clash between theocrats and the religious-Right on the one hand and secularists and democrats, including Muslims and immigrants on the other.

Where we each stand is based on our politics and choices not on our “identity” or immigration status. I too am one of those teeming immigrant masses after all as are many who are at the forefront of doing much of the dirty work of defending secularism in Britain and elsewhere.

It always annoys me to no end when I hear that the EDL are the only ones speaking out against Sharia. Please, we were speaking out against Sharia when EDL/BNP-types were openly collaborating with neo-Nazis and for white supremacy. Their language may have changed but political movements and organisations are thankfully not merely judged by the duplicitous language they use.

An undue focus on Britain, “homeland” and the west means that one can only see the likes of the EDL, thereby seeking common cause where there is none.

It also means that one cannot see the real allies in this fight, including amongst the “teeming hoards of immigrants” and women and men struggling in Iran, Afghanistan, Tunisia, Algeria, Mali, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey and elsewhere. One Law for All and the fight against Sharia and Islamism is a continuation of their struggle and fight – not that of the EDL’s and far-Right.

The far-Right will never have a place in One Law for All. I will make sure of that.

***
As an aside, I must briefly address the fact that Tommy Robinson has left the EDL. I for one have nothing against working towards common goals with those who have left far-Right organisations – EDL or Islamist. One Law for All already works with ex-Islamists and ex-members of the BNP and EDL. However, I am doubtful that Tommy is a changed man. When Ed Hussain or Majid Nawaaz left Hizb ut Tahrir and founded Quilliam Foundation, they criticised the Islamist organisation they left and created a new position and space for themselves and others. Tommy has yet to do that. So far, all I have heard from him is how proud he is of his time with the EDL; he continues to defend the organisation. He has merely criticised certain elements within the EDL but not the organisation itself and its politics. One can’t be ex-EDL and still defend the EDL if one wants to show that they have truly changed. Islamists do this all the time by changing their organisational name and carrying on with business as usual.

Personally I think this is all a publicity stunt for Tommy to reinvent himself into a more palatable persona without any lasting change in his politics. (Notice how the BBC follows him everywhere?) For his politics to be considered different, he would need to take responsibility for the EDL’s far-Right politics during his leadership and must be judged not only by what he says but by what he does. Only time will tell whether he is the same old Tommy; I certainly hope not.

The show will go on

passion_for_freedom_03The show will go on.

The 5th Passion for Freedom Festival will take place as planned from 02 November 2013 even though the original venue – out of sheer cowardice – pulled out last minute.

The festival will now be held at:
Embassy Tea Gallery
195-205 Union Street
London SE1 0LN (Closest underground Southwark)

The 2 November private view and movie screenings can be attended by reservation only. To reserve your place on the guest list please email: RSVP@PASSIONFORFREEDOM.CO.UK.

Shortlisted artists will exhibit works which will be judged by an international Selection Panel including Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen.

Passion for Freedom is affiliated with One Law for All.

For more information on the festival, click here.

On Tweeting EDL supporters

Enemies-not-Allies-thumb“Soupy” has asked for clarification on One Law for All’s position with regards the English Defence League. I don’t see why we need to clarify every time some Tom, Dick or Soupy demands clarification but since I have promised to respond, I will do so briefly and this once.

Firstly, our position is as clear as daylight. For One Law for All, the English Defence League and far-Right are our enemies not allies. We’ve campaigned extensively against them, including opposing them at every opportunity possible. We’ve explained countless times why secularists should oppose them (see our FAQs here) and we have written an extensive report on the matter. You can also see our position being explained at a seminar we organised on the issue here.

All these years of work and our ongoing fight against the far-Right (and also the pro-Islamist Left) have apparently come to  nought because my co-spokesperson Anne Marie Waters has tweeted a couple of EDL supporters in a “friendly” manner.

Really?

First off, Anne Marie didn’t know they were EDL supporters or members. I know I don’t look at the history of people who tweet me or who I tweet back as there is simply no time to do so. Depending on what they say or the nature of their responses, I might then decide to block them or oppose them or follow them… They might then say something that makes me decide to un-follow them. It’s Twitter for goodness sake. Anne Marie can’t be held responsible for tweeting with people whose affiliations she is unaware of. Of course, now that she does know, it’s a different matter. It reminds me of a Pakistani born supporter of the Council of Ex-Muslims. When he told me he was also a member of the BNP (British National Party), I kicked him out of our organisation – no hesitation. Once you know, it becomes a different matter. Then it is no longer a question of merely continuing with our awareness raising efforts.

Yes, as campaigners, we explain and mobilise and strengthen our movement by persuading people to join us in our fight. Single issue campaigns by their very nature means working with all types of people with different points of view. But even whilst trying to build a mass movement, there are those who are not welcome. Full Stop. And the EDL and far-Right are not.

This has nothing to do with ignoring one’s racist neighbour rather than trying to persuade him to see how Islamists and Muslims are not one and the same and that the fight against Sharia is a fight against the far-Right and for equality and secularism for all – including “Muslims.” Of course, by all means, we must continue to speak to our racist or sexist neighbours until we are blue in the face and try our hardest to change their views. Anne Marie and I have gone up and down the country speaking till we are blue in the face – trying to explain these very things. But once that neighbour or the person you are tweeting joins an organised movement that spews hatred, then s/he must be held to account.

I know many EDL members will say they are not racist. To me, that is like an Islamist saying he is not anti-woman. It’s not possible. If you’re not racist or misogynist, then get the fuck out of the EDL or Islamism and then maybe we can talk.  I explain this more here. Until then, you are my enemy not ally.

This is not about restricting anyone’s free expression. Everyone is free to say anything they want and speak with anyone they want. Especially on their own time. Anne Marie and I campaign on other issues too. We also have other very strong views that go beyond the remit of our work as spokespersons for One Law for All. Nonetheless, there are some things that are fundamental to who we are and one of them is that it is impossible to fight the far-Right Islamic movement with the Christian far-Right. They are two sides of the same coin. They are thugs. They hate anyone and everyone who does not look like them or agree with them. And they don’t just disagree in the way the rest of us do. They threaten, harm and murder with impunity.

The Nazis, Norway’s Breivik and Greece’s Golden Dawn are good examples. And there are many examples of the EDL’s inhumanity and racism. They are thugs and haters just like the Islamists. It’s no wonder every neo-Nazi and fascist in a 100-mile radius flocks to them like moths to a flame. Just recently, again, Tommy Robinson, the EDL’s leader, has been exposed for threatening and intimidating behaviour. Read it here.

I know people will say that the EDL’s actions are incomparable with the Islamists but if it is so, it is only because of their differences in power. Even Islamists in Britain are incomparable with those in Iran or Saudi Arabia. They have to use rights language and double speak to make inroads whereas there they just hang people in city centres and call it justice. It is not because they are nicer here. It is because they have less access and influence. Whatever amount of power they do have, that is the degree to which they will make life hell for the population at large.

As I said, two sides of the same coin…

So Soupy: not complex for those committed to anti-racism, or anyone literate as you say.

 

We look forward to continuing our fight

1236466622-one-law-for-all-campaign-against-sharia-law-in-britain29189_29189Dear Friend,

We are writing to give you an update on One Law for All.

Rights for All Turkey

First, let’s begin with the good news. We are very pleased to announce that Rights for All Turkey is being established to defend secularism and equal rights in that country. It’s an important development given the role of Turkey’s secularists in challenging Islamism. The group will be affiliated with One Law for All. We look forward to our continued and close collaboration with our secularist friends in Turkey and the region. Here’s more information.

Two-day International Conference

To further highlight Islamism and the religious-Right’s assault on rights and freedoms and to strengthen the international front of secularists, One Law for All is organising a two-day international conference in London during 11-12 October 2014 with the organisation Fitnah. Notable speakers will join the conference to discuss and debate the Arab uprisings, Sharia and religious laws, the burqa and conspicuous religious symbols, freedom of expression and Islamophobia, faith schools and religious education, reproductive rights and secular values, amongst other topics. Details of the conference can be found here. Please put the date in your diary and get your tickets soon so you can take advantage of the discounted early bird special rate.

Other Events and Burka Debate

Given the renewed debate on the burka and niqab (face veil), we will be discussing the issue at a 15 October event at the LSE. We’ll also be speaking on women’s movements at the House of Lords and on Sharia law, secularism and the burka in Brighton, Salisbury and New York City. For more details, visit here.

In the past few months, we have been to Tunbridge Wells, Boston, Edinburgh, Marseilles, Manchester, Leicester, Dublin and Sutton in order to mobilise support and raise awareness on Sharia courts. Recently too, Maryam Namazie was awarded Dods Women in Public Life’s 2013 Journalist of the Year for her blogging and campaigning work in support of women’s rights. You can find out more here.

Passion for Freedom Festival

During 2-9 November 2013, the One Law for All-affiliated Passion for Freedom will be holding its 5th annual festival. Shortlisted artists will exhibit works at the UNIT24 Gallery together with special guest artists Mehdi-Georges Lahlou and Firoozeh Bazrafkan. Judges selecting the winning piece will be Anda Rottenberg, Sarah Maple, Deeyah and Nick Cohen. More information can be found here. [Read more…]

Two new reports by One Law for All

Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left

A new report by One Law for All entitled “Siding with the Oppressor: The Pro-Islamist Left” 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.

The report has been written as a companion volume to “Enemies not Allies: The Far-Right”. Like the far-Right which ‘despises’ multiculturalism yet benefits from its idea of difference to scapegoat the ‘other’ and promote its own form of white identity politics, the pro-Islamist Left also uses multiculturalism to side with the oppressor by viewing the ‘Muslim community’ and ‘Muslim world’ as homogeneous entities thereby ignoring and silencing dissenters.

This politics of betrayal sides with the Islamic far-Right and the oppressor. Challenging this perspective is especially important given its wide acceptance as ‘progressive’ in mainstream society.

Any principled point of view must oppose all forms of fascism, including Islamic fascism, and instead side with the countless people, including Muslims, who are fighting and challenging Islamism here in Europe as well as the Middle East, North Africa and the world.

Multiculturalism and Child Protection in Britain: Sharia Law and Other Failures

Another new report by One Law for All entitled “Multiculturalism and Child Protection in Britain: Sharia Law and Other Failures” reveals how a multicultural approach, adopted by local authorities and other public authorities, to child protection is placing children in danger and creating parallel societies. [Read more…]

Update from One Law for All

Update from One Law for All

Dear Friend,

Thank you as always for your support of One Law for All.  As you might know, sharia is being increasingly discussed in the media quite regularly, including an undercover report by the BBC’s Panorama programme.  We write today to give a review of that programme, and to tell you a little about our upcoming plans.

Panorama

This week’s BBC Panorama programme “Secrets of Britain’s Sharia Councils” confirms why One Law for All has been campaigning against the discriminatory parallel legal system running counter to British law for nearly five years.

As has been repeatedly stated, women are being held to ransom, told to remain in violent situations, blamed for the violence they face, refused divorces over many years, and placed under undue pressure including with regards child access and welfare. The programme confirms this.

Whilst Chief Crown Prosecutor for the Northwest, Nazir Afzal, asserts that “most of them are absolutely fine but there are some clearly, like this one, who are putting women at risk”, One Law for All believes that all Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals put women at risk. This is because the problem lies not with rogue councils or judges disrespecting the tenets of Sharia but is the result of a strict adherence to the Sharia.

Both the previous Government (which allowed them to evade investigation) and the current one, which asserts that existing legislation is sufficient to address this matter have shown nothing but moral cowardice and betrayed a large segment of British society. It is enough now.

The British government must put the rights and equality of all citizens over and above any religious laws and put an end to this human rights scandal once and for all. You can read the full text of our press release on the programme here.

We urge you to continue to exert pressure on the Government. Clearly our message is getting through. We must keep fighting till we win.

Please also sign One Law for All’s petition against Sharia law, which has over 29000 signatories.

Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill

One Law for All continues to work with Caroline Cox in the promotion of her Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill which aims to place criminal sanctions upon religious councils and tribunals that mislead women.  The Bill will also place a legal obligation on public sector agencies to advise women (correctly) of their rights under English law, and aims to bring private tribunals in to line with equality and human rights laws in the UK.  The Bill has received strong support from women’s rights organisations as Inspire, as well as by the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, the Henna Foundation, Karma Nirvana and British Muslims for Secular Democracy.  Last year, it passed its second reading in the House of Lords.  Whilst the Bill has stalled due to the Government’s refusal to support it, the Bill will be re-introduced following the state opening of Parliament in May and we will update you on its progress.  You can read more here.

Please support Baroness Cox Equalities Bill, which was inspired by One Law for All here. [Read more…]

One Law for All’s ‘Sounds of Freedom’ Song Competition –calling for entries.

One Law for All is inviting musicians and songwriters to create and submit their original material for a song competition.

‘Change comes about by breaking taboos and pushing aside that which is deemed sacred and art is such an important way of doing this’ –Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All

Song entries should be focused on issues that relate to the work ‘One Law for All’ is engaged with, discussing themes like religion, freedom, secularism, Sharia law, equal rights & religious arbitration. [Read more…]

One law for All – Passion For Freedom – Awards 2012

One Law for All’s 4th Passion for Freedom Art Festival opened on 3 November with a private viewing at Unit24 Gallery. Hundreds attended the viewing.

The festival, which is addressing the issue of freedom, is showcasing the work of over 40 artists from 20 countries worldwide (including censored works shown in London for the very first time) under the direction of Agnieszka Kolek, KM Curator and Marianna Fox, Assistant Curator.

gallery

Winners of the 2012 Freedom Awards are as follows: [Read more…]

Despite the Fear

Last night’s private viewing of One Law for All’s 4th Passion for Freedom Art Festival was absolutely brilliant. I spent most of the night on the couch in the back feeling ill but managed to give my speech. The art was fantastic – some shocking, others heart-wrenching or inspiring, and all of them thought-provoking. The festival is on until 10 November so drop by if you can. More details on the night’s winners are to follow but here is a piece by Nick Cohen in the Spectator about it. You can also see some photos of the night hereThe people’s vote went to a painting in homage to Pussy Riot (see featured photo).  Here’s my speech:

Under totalitarianism and dictatorship, one eats “fear for breakfast, fear for lunch and for dinner, fear” says Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano.

Fear is palpable when one lives under an Islamic inquisition, even if it’s not experienced directly.

Even here in Europe – Islamism’s Sharia laws and fatwas of censorship and death for everything from blasphemy, heresy, and apostasy become secular ones – where the artist or dissenter is not routinely imprisoned or killed (even if the threat is always there) but proclaimed ‘guilty’ of offence, disrespect, intolerance, and Islamophobia, thereby making censorship and self-censorship ‘justifiable’.

Where it rules, Islamism forbids you to dissent; here, it convinces you that dissent is impossible.

Yet fear is only part of the story; it is what we do despite the fear that counts.

In the late 1980s, whilst working in Sudan, I and a Burmese colleague whose name I cannot recall initiated an underground human rights organisation opposed to the Islamic regime there. When things got tricky, he said the fear was secondary. Taking action – even when one is afraid – that is the sign of true courage. [Read more…]

One Law for All has changed the public debate on Sharia

Dear Supporter,

I wanted to write to give you a quick update on some of the things we’ve been doing recently, as well as some of our plans for the near future. Thank you, as always, for your support.

Meeting with Trevor Phillips

Recently, Maryam and I met with Trevor Phillips, Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. We told him of our concerns at the existence of sharia tribunals in Britain and the treatment of women by these bodies. We also discussed the refusal of the Charity Commission to grant charity status to secular organisations such as the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain which was refused status by the Commission for being too political, despite the fact that the Islamic Sharia Council – which runs a system of sharia-based family law and promotes Islamism – is a registered charity. Mr Phillips was very supportive and promised to look in to these issues for us. He also agreed to contact Baroness Cox’s office at the House of Lords to discuss her Arbitration and Mediation (Equality) Bill. [Read more…]

Letter to Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission

Maryam Namazie and Anne Marie Waters of One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain met with Trevor Phillips, Chair of Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), on 28 June to raise our concerns about sharia courts in Britain and the Charities Commission’s refusal of charity status for secular organisations. Nobel Laureate Harry Kroto was also present at the meeting.

Below is our follow up letter:

Dear Trevor,

Thank you once again for meeting with us. We appreciate your taking the time out to hear about the work of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All.

Just to highlight a couple of the issues we raised:

On One Law for All and Sharia Law

1) There are currently two major bodies carrying out sharia based arbitration and mediation in the UK – these are the Islamic Sharia Council (a registered charity) and the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (operating as an independent tribunal under the powers of the Arbitration Act 1996).

2) Both bodies acknowledge that the bulk of their work is in family matters such as child custody, divorce, domestic violence (both a family law and a criminal law matter). The Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve in 2008 said arbitration in the UK was not intended for family matters. [Read more…]

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…]

11 February 2012: An Important Stand for Free Expression

One Law for All held a successful rally in defence of free expression on Saturday 11 February 2012 opposite the Houses of Parliament. Hundreds braved the cold weather to join the rally at Old Palace Yard.

The rally followed several incidents in London recently where freedom of expression was curtailed in favour of fear of causing offence. In one incident, a talk on sharia law by One Law for All’s Anne Marie Waters was cancelled following threats of violence. Rhys Morgan was told by his school to remove a picture of Jesus and Mo from his Facebook page – a picture he had used in solidarity with the University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society who had been asked by their student union to remove the same image. Both UCL and the London School of Economics have since passed draconian motions which will further restrict religious criticism or satire at their schools.

Speakers at the rally included A C Grayling, Nick Cohen, Caroline Cox, Gita Sahgal, Keith Porteous Wood, and Rhys Morgan. The event was sponsored by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science UK and featured Richard Dawkins who told the crowd to ‘stop being so damn respectful’ and that without freedom of speech, society would be a ‘scientific, technological, moral dark age’. [Read more…]

11 February: Be there or be square!

Join the International Day for Free Expression
Defend the right to criticise religions and beliefs
Saturday 11 February 2012

London, UK
Rally at Old Palace Yard (across from the House of Lords)
2:00-4:00pm

Speakers are: Richard Dawkins (Scientist); A C Grayling (Philosopher); Alex Gabriel (Blogger); Anne Marie Waters (One Law for All); Caroline Cox (Peer); Derek Lennard (Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association); Faisal Gazi (Spittoon.org); Gita Sahgal, (Centre for Secular Space); Hasan Afzal (Stand for Peace); Jennifer Hardy (Queen Mary Atheism Humanism and Secularism Society); Jenny Bartle (National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies); Jim Fitzpatrick (MP); Kate Smurthwaite (Comedian); Kenan Malik (Writer); Lilith (Poet, Anti-Injustice Movement) ; Marco Tranchino (Central London Humanist Group); Mark Embleton (Atheism UK); Maryam Namazie (One Law for All and Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain); Nick Cohen (Writer); Nick Doody (Comedian); Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters); Rashid Ali (Centri); Rhys Morgan (Student activist); Roy Brown (International Humanist and Ethical Union); Rupert Sutton (Student Rights); Sohaila Sharifi (Equal Rights Now); Sue Cox (Survivors Voice Europe); Sundas Hoorain (London School of Economics Atheist, Secularist, and Humanist Society); Susan Zhuang (University College London Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society); Keith Porteous Wood (National Secular Society); and Yasmin Rehman (Campaigner). There will also be messages from Jesus and Mo creator. Iranian Secular Society’s Fariborz Pooya will be the Master of Ceremonies. For more information, go to its Facebook Page. [Read more…]

HOLD THIS DATE – 11 February 2012: A Day to Defend Free Expression

One Law for All is calling for a rally in defence of free expression and the right to criticise religion on 11 February 2012 in central London from 2-4pm.

We are also calling for simultaneous events and acts in defence of free expression on 11 February in countries world-wide.

The call follows an increased number of attacks on free expression in the UK, including a 17 year old being forced to remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon or face expulsion from his Sixth Form College and demands by the UCL Union that the Atheist society remove a Jesus and Mo cartoon from its Facebook page. It also follows threats of violence, police being called, and the cancellation of a meeting at Queen Mary College where One Law for All spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was to deliver a speech on Sharia. Saying ‘Who gave these kuffar the right to speak?’, an Islamist website called for the disruption of the meeting. Two days later at the same college, though, the Islamic Society held a meeting on traditional Islam with a speaker who has called for the death of apostates, those who mock Islam, and secularist Muslims. [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…]