Please see an open letter to the leading Pakistani lawyer Asma Jahangir about her forthcoming talk at the Law Society, which has endorsed sharia-compliant wills.
Dear Asma Jahangir,
We are writing to you regarding your forthcoming conversation at the Law Society on Law, Gender and Religion on the 30th July. We are very pleased you are coming to London but are concerned that you may not have been informed about the Law Society’s issuance of guidance which endorses sharia law in Britain and the campaign against it.
One Law for All, Southall Black Sisters, Centre for Secular Space, and LSE Atheist and Humanist Society have led a campaign asking the Law Society to withdraw its discriminatory and dangerous guidance on ‘Sharia Compliant’ wills. Recently, we won an important victory. Southall Black Sisters and One Law for All sought legal advice which resulted in the Solicitors’ Regulatory Authority withdrawing its endorsement of the guidance. The Law Society, however, has still not withdrawn the guidance, and instead embarked on an aggressive promotion of Sharia Law using advocates of parallel legal systems such as the legal academic Maliha Malik, the solicitor Aina Khan and Tariq Ramadan.
Our experience with many prominent British institutions has been that eminent secular voices such as yourself are often used strategically to be able to claim that they have consulted legal experts who have endorsed their position. Indeed, the Law Society claims that they have consulted ‘sharia law’ experts, although they have refused to name them. The guidance on Sharia-compliant wills mentions as references Islamists which defend death by stoning amongst other things.
We would be very pleased if would use this opportunity as a way of supporting the work that we are doing against the increase of religious fundamentalism and its promotion by British institutions. We would be grateful if you would consider calling on the Law Society to withdraw its guidance and to name the ‘experts’ they have consulted as campaigners have demanded.
The Law Society’s Sharia Compliant guidance is relevant to the subject of your talk, since their partners argue that sharia councils and what they call sharia compliant law are essential to the religious freedom of women. The work of the Law Society and the lawyers and academics we mention usually ignore actually existing family law in Pakistan and elsewhere and all progressive judgements on these issues.
It may well be that you have been asked to speak by members of the Law Society who want to present an alternative view, and felt that someone of your eminence, could help to break the hold of the pro-Islamist lobby; and that is why they want you to speak. We hope that you will be able to find some way of publicly supporting our campaign.
We would be very pleased to provide you with any further information you that you require.
With best wishes
Gita Sahgal, Director, Centre for Secular Space
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All
Chris Moos, Secretary, LSESU Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society