Press release – Women’s rights campaigners welcome withdrawal of the Law Society’s sharia wills practice note

24 November 2014

One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters, the Centre for Secular Space, Nari Diganta and the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation have welcomed the Law Society’s withdrawal of their sharia wills practice note.

The practice note advised solicitors on how to draw up ‘Sharia-compliant’ wills, stating that

“… 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…” 

The ensuing campaign organised by women’s rights advocates Pragna Patel, Maryam Namazie, Gita Sahgal, Yasmin Rehman, Dianna Nammi, Rumana Hashem and Chris Moos has seen an open letter to Asma Jahangir, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief; and an open letter to the Law Society included signatories such as scientist Richard Dawkins, writer Taslima Nasrin and founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue Marieme Helie Lucas, amongst others.

On April 28, a well-attended protest at the offices of the Law Society featured speakers such as human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, Muslim Institute Fellow Yasmin Rehman, Rumana Hashem from Nari Diganta – Women in Movement for Social Justice, Secularism and Equal Rights, and Diana Nammi, Chief Executive of the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.

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 This came after the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority had already withdrawn its endorsement of the Law Society’s Practice Note on July 10, following the threat of legal action from Southall Black Sisters.

In addition, the campaigners also found that the Law Society had used the works of an extremist cleric, who has advocated flogging and stoning for “fornicators”, for their Practice Note. The campaign received extensive press coverage and political support, including from Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, who warned that the Law Society’s Practice Note risks undermining the rule of law.

Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters, said:

“SBS welcomes the Law Society’s decision to withdraw the discriminatory guidance. We also acknowledge that it has publicly apologised for having produced the ill-advised guidance in the first place. Let this episode serve as a warning to other public bodies that may be contemplating instituting ‘Sharia compliant’ measures that flout equality and human rights law and values, which must be regarded as universal and non-negotiable. We now look forward to working with the Law Society to address the devastating impact of the legal aid cuts which also prevent many abused and marginalised women from minority backgrounds from accessing justice.”

Maryam Namazie, founder of One Law for All, commented:

“The Law Society has finally succumbed to our pressure and withdrawn its guidance a week before women’s rights groups were to meet with them to step up our pressure against the discriminatory nature of their Sharia-compliant guidance. This is another huge victory for equality, one law for all and civil rights and yet another loss for the religious far-right. We congratulate all those who took part in this campaign. One law for all is not an empty slogan but must mean something particularly when it comes to the law.”

Gita Sahgal, Director of the Centre for Secular Space, said:

“We are delighted that the Law Society has finally seen sense and made clear that they do not wish to condone discrimination, have withdrawn the note entirely and will not seek to replace it. Their apology is very welcome. This is a victory against the institutionalisation of religious law. Secular values protect the rule of law far better than the regulators do. There are many battles ahead to protect human rights and access to justice. We have a common interest in these struggles.”

Chris Moos, one of the organisers of the campaign, concluded:

“The Law Society has done the only sensible thing – withdraw the guidance for good and apologise for promoting the use of discriminatory practices in the first place. Hopefully, those who have defended the practice note will now realise that the only way public bodies and representative organisations can be sure to meet their equality duties is by adhering to the principle of secular neutrality in matters of belief.”

For more information, contact:

Pragna Patel
Southall Black Sisters
pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk
020 8571 9595
@SBSisters

Maryam Namazie
One Law for All
maryamnamazie@gmail.com
077 1916 6731
@MaryamNamazie

Gita Sahgal
Centre for Secular Space
gita@centreforsecularspace.org
079 7271 5090
@GitaSahgal

Chris Moos
LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
c.m.moos@lse.ac.uk
074 2872 0599
@ChrisMoos_

 

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…]

Equality before the law is not just an empty phrase

Pragna-Patel-InterviewThe below is an interview with Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters published in the April 2014 issue of Unveiled: A Publication of Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation:

On the Law Society’s Discriminatory Guidance on Sharia-Compliant Inheritance and Wills

Interview with Pragna Patel

Maryam Namazie: British law already allows people to leave their estates to whomever they choose so why does a statement signed by a number of groups and individuals label the Law Society’s guidance on Sharia-compliant inheritance and wills discriminatory?

Pragna Patel:  The practice note (guidelines) issued by the Law Society is extremely problematic because what it seeks to do is to institutionalise a profoundly discriminatory approach to the question of property settlements, disputes and trusts concerning women and children in minority communities. It is at best a misguided response but nevertheless dangerous, because it is yet another way of reflecting the growing view that civil matters and disputes in minority communities are to be addressed within a religious framework.

The practice notes states: ‘This is the first time guidance has been published for solicitors to assist them with the intricacies of Sharia succession rules, which is the code of law derived from the Quran and from the teachings and examples of Mohammed’.

The immediate question that needs to be asked is why does the Law Society not leave it to clerics to clarify the ‘intricacies’ of ‘Sharia’ rules outside the law for those who want it? How can it possibly think that its role is to guide on religious matters? More importantly, why does the Law Society feel that it needs to support and be seen to publicly support the drawing up of discriminatory wills? Quite apart from the fact that it cannot possibly know what is and isn’t ‘Sharia compliant’ given the many contested interpretations of so called ‘Sharia’ law, it actually wades into religious territory and gives succour to the view that religious and secular laws can operate in parallel with the former applying to minorities and the latter to the white majority society.

The role of the Law Society is to promote legal professional standards so that the law is upheld in a fair and non-discriminatory way. The phrase ‘equality before the law’ is not just an empty phrase. Justice must not only be done but seen to be done. The law is symbolic and aspirational at the same time; it is an important means by which just and democratic societal norms are established. The Law Society has no business in normalising ‘Sharia’ principles in British legal culture. The Law Society also has no business in endorsing and promoting discriminatory religious norms and values for minorities because in doing so, it enhances profoundly patriarchal and unequal social arrangements in minority communities.

Maryam Namazie: If it’s not binding, how can it seriously undermine the Equality Act, citizenship rights and one law for all?

Pragna Patel:  Those who argue that it is ‘not binding’ and that it is ‘all a fuss about nothing’, miss the point entirely.  The guidance signals the view that no matter how discriminatory and abhorrent certain aspects of minority cultures may be, they must be tolerated and even supported! We cannot underestimate the ways in which religion is creeping into the very fabric of legal structures in our society and it is minority women and other vulnerable sub groups who pay the price. By issuing such guidance, the Law Society is helping to create a context that is conducive to the practice of patriarchal oppression and to the legitimisation of anti-human rights religious norms. Religious norms dictate strict gender roles and codes of conduct for women – codes that deny their right to freedom and equality in the family in a range of matters such as marriage, divorce, children and inheritance.

I have noted that the religious-Right (who have been in the ascendency in our communities since the 90s) have been quietly going about trying to create a parallel legal system in the UK. By engaging in a pincer-like manoeuvre, they have on the one hand, obtained official endorsement for the establishment and operation of alternative religious forums for dispute resolutions on family matters, such as Sharia councils and tribunals, and on the other hand, they have influenced the legal system from the inside by demanding ‘Sharia compliant’ approaches to civil and especially family matters. The Law Society’s response is an example of the latter category.

The guidelines remind solicitors that under ‘Sharia’ ‘…as a general rule, a male heir will inherit twice the amount that a female heir will receive, Illegitimate children are not heirs’. This is really extraordinary since it accepts without question, the inherent discrimination that exists in Islam (as indeed in other religions) against women and children born outside marriage.  What happened to the ideals of justice, equality and fairness embodied in the law? Far from promoting equality and justice, by its action, the Law Society is helping to arrest the development of justice born out of struggles for equality by women in minority communities. It is one thing to recognise that discrimination exists in all societies, but quite another for the Law Society to be associated with and be seen to promote relativism to questions of equality and justice. The demand for recognition of separate religious or ‘personal’ laws to address family matters are gaining momentum, but it has serious and even life threatening implications for minority women and children and other minority sub-groups. [Read more…]

The Law Society must withdraw its guidance on Sharia-succession rules

We, the undersigned, are appalled to learn that the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors in England and Wales, has issued Sharia-related guidance on wills, succession and inheritance.

The guidance says:

“Certain principles of Sharia are different to English succession laws. For example, it is not possible to inherit under Sharia rules via a deceased relative. No distinction is made between children of different marriages, but illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.

“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death”.

Whilst not binding, the guidance legitimises rules which are highly contested by many Muslims themselves and which discriminates against Muslim women, non-Muslims, and ‘illegitimate’ and adopted children. The guidance seriously undermines the Equality Act, citizenship rights and one law for all.

Since individuals are already free to dispense of their estate as they see fit (as long as they provide for their dependants) such guidance unwittingly aids and abets Islamist attempts at subverting democratic laws and principles with a de facto parallel legal system where minority women and children have increasingly fewer rights than other citizens.

This scandalous guidance is similar to that which Universities UK published endorsing gender segregation at universities in Britain. UUK was promptly forced to withdraw its guidance after widespread condemnation.

We call on the Law Society to immediately and unequivocally withdraw its guidance.

Ahlam Akram, Founder and Director of Basira for Universal Women Rights
Ahmed Idris, Member of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Ali al-Razi, Ex-Muslims Forum Administrator
Aliaa Magda Elmahdy, Egyptian Activist
Amina Sboui, Tunisian Activist
Behzad Varpushty, Activist
Caroline Fourest, Journalist
Charlie Klendjian, Secretary of Lawyers’ Secular Society
Chris Moos, Secretary of LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society
Christopher Roche, Chair of Bath Atheists, Humanists and Secularists
Elham Manea, Author
Fariborz Pooya, Founder of Iranian Secular Society
Farzana Hassan, Former Director of Muslim Canadian Congress and Writer
Fatou Sow, Senegalese Sociologist
Gita Sahgal, Director of Centre for Secular Space
Harold Kroto, Nobel Prize Winner
Ibrahim Abdullah, Muslimish
Imad Iddine Habib, Founder and Spokesperson of Council of Ex-Muslims of Morocco
Jackie Jones, Professor of Feminist Legal Studies, Chair of Wales Assembly of Women and President of European Women Lawyers Association
James Bloodworth, Editor of Left Foot Forward
Julie Bindel, Writer
Kate Smurthwaite, Comedian and Activist
Kiran Opal, Writer and Human Rights Activist
Lalia Ducos, Head of Women’s Initiative for Citizenship and Universal Rights
Lawrence M. Krauss, Physicist and Author
Lisa-Marie Taylor and Julian Norman, Co-Chairs of Feminism in London
Marieme Helie Lucas, Founder of Secularism is a Woman’s Issue
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson of One Law for All and Fitnah
Mersedeh Ghaedi, London Spokesperson of Iran Tribunal
Mina Ahadi, Coordinator of the International Committee against Stoning and Execution
Nadia El-Fani, Filmmaker
Nahla Mahmoud, Spokesperson of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, President and co Founder of Stop Child Executions
Nina Sankari, President of the European Feminist Initiative in Poland
Omar Kuddus, LGBTI / Human Rights Advocate and Director of GayAsylumUK
Pat Black, Immediate Past President of Soroptimist International GBI
Patty Debonitas, Spokesperson of Iran Solidarity
Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation
Pragna Patel, Director of Southall Black Sisters
Raheel Raza, President of Council of Muslims Facing Tomorrow
Reza Moradi, Political Activist
Richard Dawkins, Scientist
Rouhi Shafii, Executive Director of International Coalition Against Violence in Iran
Safia Lebdi, Conseillère Régionale EELV and présidente des Insoumises
Salil Tripathi, Writer
Sarah Haider, Co-Founder of Ex-Muslims of North America
Shelley Segal, Singer and Songwriter
Soad Baba Aissa, Head of Association pour la mixité, l’égalité et la laicité en Algérie
Sohaila Sharifi, Women’s Rights Activist
Soraya Chemaly, Writer and Activist
Sue Cox, Co-Founder Survivors Voice Europe
Syed Raza, Director of Forum for Learning
Tarek Fatah, Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress
Taslima Nasrin, Writer
Yasmin Rehman, Women’s Rights Campaigner

To support the campaign calling for the Law Society’s withdrawal of its discriminatory guidelines, please sign the Lawyers’ Secular Society’s petition.

There will be a symbolic protest action on Monday 28 April at 5pm. More details to follow.

For more information, contact:
Gita Sahgal, Centre for Secular Space, gita@centreforsecularspace.org, http://www.centreforsecularspace.org/
Maryam Namazie, One Law for All, onelawforall@gmail.com, www.onelawforall.org.uk, 07719166731
Pragna Patel, Southall Black Sisters, pragna@southallblacksisters.co.uk, http://www.southallblacksisters.org.uk/, 07985399740 [Read more…]

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.

Paedophilia law in Iran confirmed by Guardian Council

Fitnah_CFN_iranped_finalThe Guardian Council has now approved the bill passed by the Islamic regime of Iran’s Majlis or parliament for the “protection” of children and young people, which includes a clause allowing men to marry their adopted daughters with the permission of a court..

The bill had previously been denied and sent back for review because it had originally banned the marriage of step-fathers and their adopted daughters; the Guardian Council found this to be in contradiction with Islamic Sharia law.

The law legalising paedophilia and child rape has sparked outrage in Iran and across the globe though it is touted as an attempt to solve problems related to the hijab or veil in the family. An adopted daughter is expected to wear the veil in the presence of her father and a mother is expected to do so in the presence of her adopted son if he is old enough.

Children First Now and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation unequivocally condemn this inhuman law. Today, on 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child, we call on the public and rights organisations to condemn this legalised paedophilia and child rape. This law, like many other laws in the Islamic regime of Iran, violates the dignity and rights of children. And it must be stopped.

Here are five things you can do on 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child, to condemn legalised paedophilia and child rape, and demanding dignity, security and rights for all girls and children in Iran and beyond:

1. Tweet against the law: #Iran #No2LegalPaedophilia

2. Sign our petition and forward it to 10 friends or acquaintances.

3. Write to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Leader, info_leader@leader.ir, Twitter: @khamenei_ir or to Hassan Rouhani, President, media@rouhani.ir, Twitter: @hassanrouhani demanding an end to child rape and paedophilia.

4. Publicise the campaign on social media including by changing your social media profile to our campaign poster. Join the Event on Facebook.

5. Do an act of solidarity on the internet, in your city square, at work, at your university… in support of children’s rights and against the law.

For more information, contact: [Read more…]

End legalised paedophilia and child rape in Iran

Fitnah_CFN_iranped_finalUrgent Action
End legalised paedophilia in the Islamic Republic of Iran
Join Protest on 11 October 2013

On 22 September 2013, one day before the start of the school year in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Majlis or parliament passed a law permitting a stepfather to marry his adopted child.

In defence of the law, one Member of Parliament said: “According to Islam, every child who is accepted as an adopted child is not considered a real child. Islamic jurisprudence and Sharia law allow the guardian of the child to marry and have sex with his step-child.”

This shocking law will encourage child ’marriages’ and is nothing more than legalised paedophilia and child rape. It will further endanger the welfare of the child and violate her basic rights. It will deny the child any sense of security and safety in the home.

Children First Now and Fitnah – Movement for Women’s Liberation unequivocally condemn this inhuman law. On 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child, we call on the public and rights organisations to condemn this legalised paedophilia and child rape. This law, like many other laws in the Islamic regime of Iran, violates the dignity and rights of children. And it must be stopped.

Here are five things you can do on 11 October, International Day of the Girl Child, to condemn legalised paedophilia and child rape, and demanding dignity, security and rights for all girls and children in Iran and beyond:

1. Tweet against the law: #Iran #No2LegalPaedophilia

2. Sign our petition and forward it to 10 friends or acquaintances.

3. Write to Ali Khamenei, Iran’s Leader, info_leader@leader.ir, Twitter: @khamenei_ir or to Hassan Rouhani, President, media@rouhani.ir, Twitter: @hassanrouhani demanding an end to child rape and paedophilia.

4. Publicise the campaign on social media including by changing your social media profile to our campaign poster. Join the Event on Facebook.

5. Do an act of solidarity on the internet, in your city square, at work, at your university… in support of children’s rights and against the law.

For more information, contact: [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…]

Multiculturalism and Child Protection in the UK: Sharia Law and Other Failures

Today, 11 June 2013, 18.00 hours, at London School of Economics, STC.S75 in St. Clement’s Building, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, Anne-Marie Waters and Baroness Cox will be speaking about One Law for All’s newest report on the state of children’s rights in Britain. The report “Multiculturalism and Child Protection in the UK: Sharia Law and Other Failures” can be read here.

The talk is going to be chaired by Professor Eileen Munro, CBE and review the effects of state multiculturalism on the matter of child protection in Britain.

Anne-Marie Waters and Baroness Cox will show that a multicultural approach, adopted by local authorities and other public authorities, to child protection is placing children in danger and creating parallel societies. Furthermore, the talk is going to topicalise sharia tribunals and their increasing authority in the issue of child custody, questioning the impact this has, and is likely to have, on the equal protection of children regardless of race or ethnicity.

Anne Marie Waters is spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign. She campaigns against Sharia and religious Laws as she believes they represent a sacrifice of the rights of women in the name of legal and cultural relativism. She is a council member and campaigner for the National Secular Society, and campaigns more broadly for gender and race equality. She also writes and speaks on the importance of trade unionism, democracy, and Government and public sector accountability.

Baroness (Caroline) Cox was made a Life Peer in 1982 and was a deputy speaker of the House of Lords from 1985 to 2005. She was Founder Chancellor of Bournemouth University; Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University from 2006-2013 and isanHon as well as Vice President of the Royal College of Nursing. She also was a founder Trustee of MERLIN [Medical Emergency Relief International] and is Chief Executive of HART [Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust].

Eileen Munro is currently Professor of Social Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science. In June 2010, the Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, asked Professor Munro to conduct an independent review to improve child protection in England. Her final report was published in May 2011 and contained fifteen recommendations, all of which were subsequently accepted by the government. For services to children and families, Professor Munro received a CBE in the New Year’s Honours 2012.

You can find the Facebook Event here.

Sharia: What’s Going On?

One Law For All and the Lawyers’ Secular Society are pleased to announce a student research competition on the subject of sharia law.

Sharia What's Going OnThe competition is sponsored by the National Secular Society and the winner will receive a prize of £300. The winner and the two runners-up will have their essays published in full on the website of all three organisations.

Background

In June 2010 One Law For All produced a report, Sharia Law in Britain.  It was clear from this that Sharia Councils and Muslim Arbitration Tribunals are operating in violation of UK law, public policy and human rights.

It’s unclear how sharia is being applied elsewhere in Europe, especially as mediation and arbitration – the legal mechanisms under which sharia seeks to operate in the UK – are generally less prevalent in the rest of Europe. There was even evidence in One Law For All’s report of sharia’s application to criminal matters in the UK.

The purpose of the competition is to understand sharia’s reach and influence in Europe, and to highlight any harm or human rights abuses which might be taking place.

What to do

If you would like the chance to win £300 all you need to do is write a well-researched and well-referenced essay, of about 2,500-3,000 words in length, on the subject of sharia law in Europe. [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…]

BBC Panorama Programme on Sharia: It is enough now

One Law for All
Press Release

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, including in “Sharia Courts in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights”, 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. The undercover reporter is told not to contact police when she asks a senior cleric Suhaib Hasan (who has advocated stoning and amputation) whether she should report the violence she has suffered at the hands of her husband.  Mr Hasan also wrongly tells her that if she were to report the violence to the police, she “will have to leave the house”.  This is entirely untrue.  In fact, an abused spouse may apply to the Court for an Occupation Order, which can remove a violent spouse from the home – or a defined area surrounding the home – and can impose criminal sanctions if the order is not obeyed.  Mr Hasan’s advice is misleading and deliberately aimed at frightening women in to adhering to the Sharia Council’s authority.  Hasan also repeats the Sharia position that a man has the right to hit his wife provided he leaves no marks. He asks if her husband beats her “severely”.  When she questioned what was meant by “severely”, Hasan asks “it leaves some bruises on your body?”.

Mr Hasan goes on to advise the undercover reporter to question herself as to what she had done to provoke this violence.  He suggests she ask her husband “is it because of my cooking?”, “is it because I see my friends?”.

Women’s rights organisations have for many years been working to end this disgraceful victim-blaming when women are abused, and great strides have been made.  These strides, however, do not seem to apply to Muslim women.

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. [Read more…]

Horror in Paradise

Here is a must sign Avaaz petition on the Maldives:

4633_maldives2_1_460x230A 15-year-old rape survivor has been sentenced to be whipped 100 times in public! Let’s put an end to this lunacy by hitting the Maldives government where it hurts: the tourism industry.

The girl’s stepfather is accused of raping her for years and murdering the baby she bore. Now the court says she must be flogged for “sex outside marriage”!  President Waheed of the Maldives is already feeling global pressure on this, and we can force him to save this girl and change the law to spare other victims this cruel fate. This is how we can end the War on Women – by standing up every time an outrage like this happens.

Tourism is the big earner for the Maldives elite, including government ministers. Let’s build a million-strong petition to President Waheed this week, then threaten the islands’ reputation through hard-hitting ads in travel magazines and online until he steps in to save her and abolish this outrageous law. Sign now and share this with everyone to get us to a million!

We can’t leave Islam? Watch us!

apostasyJANDMOI was at Birmingham University yesterday speaking on apostasy and freedom of conscience for the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society’s Reason Week. We had an excellent discussion. Of course, there had been complaints about my speaking there (yes it is very controversial to defend the rights of apostates not to die!). The Society was even asked to record my speech in case of further complaints. Here’s my speech, just in case they need it in writing too:

Punishing apostates is a long-standing and fundamental feature of all major religions. Repudiating religion is deemed to be the worst of crimes.

And in Islam it’s no different except that Islamism is this era’s inquisition and totalitarianism.

To the degree it has power, that is the degree it controls every single aspect of people lives and society via its Sharia laws – from what people wear, who they have sex with, what music they listen to – even what they are allowed to think.

One of the characteristics of an inquisition is the policing of thought. Freethinking and freedom of conscience are banned. Even for Muslims, a ‘personal’ religion is impossible under an inquisition. You can’t pick and choose as you’d like. You don’t want to wear the veil; acid in your face should teach you a lesson. You want to go to school; maybe we can gun you down on your way there. You want to be an atheist. Off with your head…

Islamists will kill, threaten or intimidate anyone who interprets things differently, dissents, thinks freely or transgresses their norms by living 21st century lives. Of course people resist day in and day out but that is a testament to the human spirit despite Islamism and Sharia.

If you look at the purpose of the Sharia ‘justice’ system, it is there to teach the masses the damnable nature of dissent and free thought. Where it has power, like in Iran, there are 130 offences punishable by death – from heresy, blasphemy, enmity against god, adultery, and homosexuality. But apostasy is the highest and most heinous crime.

Around 19 countries consider apostasy from Islam illegal and a prosecutable offence. Depending on the influence of Islamism and Sharia law, in places like Malaysia, Morocco, Jordan and Oman punishments vary from fines, imprisonment, flogging and exclusion from civil or family rights. In ten countries apostasy is punishable by the death penalty.

And whilst there are religious justifications for the execution of apostates, apostasy laws today under the Islamic inquisition are the ultimate means of political rather than religious control.

Of course, from a religious standpoint, apostasy is the unravelling of the entire system from within by those considered to be “members” of the imagined Muslim community (often out of very little choice of their own). Question one law, one hadith, one sura in the Koran, and you begin to unravel it all. To question and dissent denies the Islamic inquisitor the opportunity to feign representation. And it prevents the submission that they demand. If you are allowed to leave, you undermine it all.

Historically apostasy laws have always been used as a form of control. It’s no different today. Islamists use it as a means of political control. After all they represent god’s rule on earth and any opposition to their rule, is a direct affront to God himself. [Read more…]

A few things about Sharia and Islamism

Haven’t had time to write a blog post today but wanted to bring attention to a few things:

* Several Ahmadi Muslims have been arrested for publishing ‘blasphemous’ books about their faith. This is what happens when Islamist values are seen to be one and the same with Muslim values. Then a large number of Muslims are no longer ‘real Muslims’ and face threats, persecution and intimidation. Religion is a private matter; the sooner we can get rid of Islamism, the sooner people can believe in Islam or not without fear.

* Roy Brown from the International Humanist and Ethical Union just informed me that somebody tried to kill writer Lars Hedegaard in Denmark today. Roy received this news: “The guy rang his doorbell pretending to be the postman delivering a package. When Lars opened the door he tried to shoot him in his head, but missed. Lars went into a fight with him, managed to get the gun off him, the guy managed to get hold of the gun again and Lars went into a new fight with him while he tried to shoot again, but the gun didn’t go off. After this resistance the guy fled.” You might recall that Lars was previously fined for making insulting remarks about Islam. it is most likely the work of Islamists. Appalling that someone who has made some ‘insulting’ remarks must die but Lama’s father goes free! What an upside down world!

When I spoke in Denmark a while back, Lars and I disagreed on many a thing but one thing is certain: no-one must be threatened, intimidated, or censored for “insulting” Islam or religion… It’s a little thing called free expression.

*  By the way, the brilliant Nahla Mahmoud has written a piece on Sharia law here as a follow up to her Channel 4 piece on Sharia.

* When you get a chance, take a look at a movie on Sharia made by President of Free Muslims Toronto Chapter, Hassan Mahmud, here.

Ana Lama

Update: Sign a petition calling for justice for Lama here.

Cleric sheikh Fayhan Al Ghamdi, a regular on Islamic channels, was absolved and made to pay blood money (only half of what he would have had to pay had he killed a boy) for raping and torturing his five year old daughter Lama last October; he had custody of the child after he divorced from her mother though she begged him for Lama.

The absurdly lenient ruling is based on Saudi law that a father cannot be executed for murdering his children. It is also based on some Hadith sources (sayings and actions of Mohammad).

According to OnIslam:

As for fathers, the matter is different; a father cannot be executed for killing his child. This is because a father is the considered the origin of his child and the child is the branch; and the branch cannot be used to eliminate the origin.

It was narrated that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “No father should be killed (executed) for killing his son.” (At-Tirmidhi)

Having said this, it should be also pointed out that Imam Malik has a different opinion: if a father kills his son definitely on purpose without any doubt, he may be executed.

Allah Almighty knows best.

Three Saudi activists, including Manal al-Sharif from the SaudiWomen2Drive campaign, have raised objections to the ruling. They have started a Twitter campaign hashtag “Ana Lama” which is Arabic for “I am Lama”. The campaign must be unequivocally supported until there is justice for Lama.

Imprisoned Saudi journalist Hamza Kashgari did say “No Saudi women will go to hell, because it’s impossible to go there twice”, but I do sometimes wonder whether hell isn’t better.

Please remember Lama next time someone tells you that matters of marriage, divorce, child custody, and females being worth half of males are ‘mundane’ family matters that can be relegated to Kangaroo Sharia courts.

I held my son a little closer when I picked him up from school today and wept for Lama and her mother who speaks below about what happened (in Arabic): [Read more…]

One Law for All statement on Jewish court

Below is One Law for All’s Statement on High Court Beth Din Case:

A High Court judge in London last week approved the decision of a Beth Din Council in New York.

The anonymous couple were in dispute over access to children and asked the High Court judge to agree to allow them to refer their case to the Beth Din Council in New York. In agreeing to allow this, the judge referred to a speech by former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams in which he described the adoption of sharia in family matters as “inevitable”.

Mr Justice Baker said: “The outcome was in keeping with English law, whilst achieved by a process rooted in Jewish culture to which the families belong.” He also stipulated that the husband must give his wife a Get – a Jewish divorce. The power to grant a Get is in the husband’s hands only and represents yet another example of anti-woman gender discrimination inherent in religious legal systems. Given that the power of divorce rests with the husband only, Mr Justice Baker should have recognised that this is not in keeping with English law – it is entirely discriminatory. [Read more…]