Friday, February 9, 2018

Sharia CANNOT Coexist in Western Law

John R. Houk
© February 9, 2018

An email sent by Maryam Namazie via the organization One Law for All addresses how the British government is handling the existence of Sharia courts in the United Kingdom (UK). As of this writing I’m have difficulty connecting with the website. Either is having server problems or there might be some kind of IP blocking involved. But the organization’s Facebook page is still up and here is some info from their Facebook About Page:

No Religious Laws
One Secular Law for All
Rights are for People not Beliefs

One Law for All was launched in 2008 to campaign against Sharia and religious laws in Britain and around the world. Sharia law is arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular and works against equality, citizenship and secularism.

Under its family code, Sharia law treats the testimony of women as being worth half of that of a man, child custody is decided in favour of fathers regardless of the circumstances, women do not have the unilateral right to divorce as men do and violence against women is endorsed. Under its criminal code, there are over 100 offences punishable by death, including apostasy, homosexuality and adultery. Sharia courts in Britain decide on both civil and criminal matters.

Proponents argue Sharia law is a matter of choice; however, many women are pressured into using these courts. Moreover, violence and discrimination are not legitimate choices.

Whilst the far-Right blames ‘Muslim immigration’ for the implementation of Sharia law, it is READ THE REST

One Law for All’s apparent primary purpose is fighting the legitimization of Sharia Law in the UK as a tacit coexistent rule of law. In reality though the organization is Left Wing and is not friendly to any religious faith. This means they would not promote a Christian heritage in the UK.

Namazie politically is a Communist. As to religion she is an ex-Muslim atheist from Iran living in the UK. Since I am Christian, I don’t have a problem with Namazie’s virulent anti-Islam stand, BUT she is a militant atheist in which Christianity is on her hate-list too.

Nonetheless, Namazie and I are on the same page when it comes to Islam.

Namazie is concerned that the UK Home Secretary Amber Rudd has not gone far enough pertaining to rejecting Sharia courts as equal to the British rule of law. As an American, accepting anti-Western (and in the case of the USA – anti-Constitution) Sharia is in my belief must be anathema in our society and rule of law.

Here is the Executive Summary Home Secretary Rudd presented to Parliament (the whole pdf is 48 pages):

The independent review into the application of sharia law in England and Wales
Presented to Parliament by the Secretary of State for the Home Department by Command of Her Majesty

Executive summary

In May 2016 the independent review into the application of sharia law in England and Wales was tasked with understanding whether, and the extent to which, sharia law is being misused or applied in a way that is incompatible with the law within sharia councils.

Sharia is an all encompassing term which includes not only law in the western sense of the word but religious observances such as fasting and prayer, ritual practices such as halal slaughter, and worship in general. Sharia is written jurisprudence and law developed on the basis of a diversity of opinions among jurists in the classical period of Islam. While many aspects of sharia have been modified or modernised in most Muslim countries, in the area of personal law, especially marriage and divorce, many Muslim societies still observe rulings of classical jurisprudence. The word sharia is used in diverse ways by Muslims and this leads to varying degrees of understanding and application.

This review was set up to focus exclusively on the work of sharia councils in England and Wales and not to look at sharia practices in general. These councils call themselves sharia councils because they deal with aspects of Islamic law. The review has collected written and oral evidence from a wide range of sources. These include a public call for evidence issued by the review Chair Professor Mona Siddiqui, and oral evidence sessions with users of sharia councils, women’s rights groups, academics and lawyers, as well as other key stakeholders.

There is no clear definition of what constitutes a sharia council. Sharia councils vary in size and make up. There is also no accurate statistic on the number of sharia councils, with estimates in England and Wales varying from 30 to 85. To the best of our knowledge, there are no sharia councils in Scotland. For the purposes of this review we are defining sharia councils as a voluntary local association of scholars who see themselves or are seen by their communities as authorised to offer advice to Muslims principally in the field of religious marriage and divorce.

Sharia councils have no legal status and no legal binding authority under civil law. Whilst sharia is a source of guidance for many Muslims, sharia councils have no legal jurisdiction in England and Wales. Thus if any decisions or recommendations are made by a sharia council that are inconsistent with domestic law (including equality policies such as the Equality Act 2010) domestic law will prevail. Sharia councils will be acting illegally should they seek to exclude domestic law. Although they claim no binding legal authority, they do in fact act in a decision-making capacity when dealing with Islamic divorce.

Common misconceptions around sharia councils often perpetuate owing to the use of incorrect terms such as referring to them as ‘courts’ rather than councils or to their members as ‘judges’.

These terms are used both in media articles but also on occasion by the sharia councils themselves. It is important to note that sharia councils are not courts and they should not refer to their members as judges. It is this misrepresentation of sharia councils as courts that leads to public misconceptions over the primacy of sharia over domestic law and concerns of a parallel legal system. The recommendations included in this report, such as changes to marriage law, are designed to promote equality between religions in ways that should challenge misconceptions of a parallel legal system and encourage integration.

In collecting its evidence the review looked to examine why sharia councils exist, who uses them and for what reasons. The evidence heard by this review indicates that the vast majority, in fact nearly all people using sharia councils, are women. In most of these cases (our evidence indicates over 90%) the women are visiting the council seeking an Islamic divorce. In attempting to understand what motivates women to use sharia councils the review found that there are many reasons why Muslim women seek an Islamic divorce. A key finding was that a significant number of Muslim couples fail to civilly register their religious marriages and therefore some Muslim women have no option of obtaining a civil divorce.

The review sought to understand what occurs at the sharia council and whether and to what extent the practices are discriminatory. The evidence collected by the review indicated a range of practices occurring in the sharia councils. The review found evidence of good practice but also clear evidence of bad practice. Furthermore, there is unanimous agreement among the sharia councils themselves that discriminatory practices do occur in some instances within the councils in England and Wales.

From the very beginning, the review panel established the principle that recommendations would be based collectively on the evidence it received rather than the personal opinions of the panel members. While there was broad and respectful consensus on most issues, this report also reflects the particular area where there was a level of disagreement.

It should also be noted at the outset that those proposing a ban on sharia councils provide no counter proposal or any solution for anyone seeking a religious divorce. It is clear from all the evidence that sharia councils are fulfilling a need in some Muslim communities. There is a demand for religious divorce and this is currently being answered by the sharia councils.

This demand will not end if the sharia councils are banned and closed down and could lead to councils going ‘underground’, making it even harder to ensure good practice and the prospect of discriminatory practices and greater financial costs more likely and harder to detect. It could also result in women needing to travel overseas to obtain divorces, putting themselves at further risk.

We consider the closure of sharia councils is not a viable option. However, given the recommendations also proposed in this report include the registration of all Islamic marriages as well as awareness campaigns it is hoped that the demand for religious divorces from sharia councils will gradually reduce over time. These key recommendations address the issue of current discriminatory practices identified within the sharia councils.

Here is One Law for All’s response.

JRH 2/9/18
The Independent Review on Sharia
Sharia Laws are part of the extremist threat and not a solution

Sent from Maryam Namazie
Sent 2/7/18 5:35 PM
Via [My browser timed out connection]

 Read this email online. [My browser timed out connection]

Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP
Secretary of State
Home Office
2 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DF

6th February 2018

Dear Right Hon Amber Rudd, MP,

The Independent Review on Sharia: Sharia Laws are part of the extremist threat and not a solution

As black and minority women and human rights campaigners, we voice our dismay at the outcome of the independent review on Sharia laws commissioned by the government in 2016. Although the government has rejected formal recognition (through regulation), the way has been left open for the Sharia courts to continue to exist in a no-man’s land where they continue to produce discriminatory parallel laws while posing as an acceptable alternative dispute mechanism. Now they will be strengthened by a review that has endorsed their existence.

At the outset, we feared a whitewash but what we have seen is worse. The review is superficial, narrow and secretive; and completely lacks credibility. We protested when the Home Office appointed a theologian to lead the review and two Imams as advisers. How absurd that the Home Office now claims that the review ‘was not tasked with considering theological issues, for example whether Islam and Sharia law treat women in an unequal way’. Why then appoint three people whose only qualification for the job was their status as religious scholars?

Any review that is based on interviewing only eight women and a handful of organisations; and that provoked a boycott from most of the organisations that deal with women adversely affected by religious laws, cannot be considered legitimate. Demands for the acceptance of Sharia laws to govern family matters are part of a wider fundamentalist and ultra conservative goal to normalise profoundly misogynist values in the law and other public spaces. Our front-line experience has found clear evidence that both the intent and the process of the Sharia courts is abusive and discriminatory; that the Sharia bodies are run by organisations with links to extremist organisations; and promote the full range of fundamentalist goals such as strict gender segregation, imposition of hijabs and other dress codes, homophobia, bigotry and discrimination against non-Muslims and Muslim dissenters, blasphemy laws and attacks on apostates.

Our research also shows that they do refer to ‘courts’ and ‘Judges’, because of a clear intention of establishing themselves as a parallel law which ‘good Muslims’ must adhere to. The review suggests that that they are ‘Councils’ only and thus sanitises them.

In order to arrive at its conclusions, the reviewers conducted no investigation and ignored evidence that would have undermined their conclusions. They ignored the wider political fundamentalist drive to undermine human rights. They also ignored a considerable body of evidence submitted to the Home Affairs Select Committee in Parliament by members of our coalition and others. For instance, Maryam Namazie submitted two statements in evidence which contained details of statements made by Islamic law ‘Judges’, that exposed their wider political agenda. Knowing that hate speech and discriminatory speech is regularly erased from websites once it has been exposed, she had taken screenshots of their statements. She stated in conclusion, ‘despite all efforts to package Sharia’s civil code as mundane, its imposition represents a concerted attempt by Islamists to gain further influence in Britain’. If the reviewers did not wish to draw on our submissions, they could have applied some diligence and researched it themselves. Why did they not do so?

The coalition also gathered detailed testimony from many women. Unlike the reviewers, we did not ask for evidence solely from women who had experience of sharia courts, although we met and interviewed many who had tried to get a divorce under ‘sharia law’, were deeply traumatised by the experience and experienced further violence and abuse of their rights. We also published and put in evidence to parliament, a devastating letter signed by over 300 abused and marginalised women from all religious backgrounds expressing their fear of being controlled by religious laws.

Sweeping statements are made about the “choice” that Muslim women make to approach such councils without giving any consideration to the highly constrained religious context in which that “choice” is made. The review is utterly silent on the crucial concept of ‘zina’ (sex outside marriage), the grave sin punishable by death in many Muslim countries. It is fear of ‘zina’ which compels many women, even those with civil divorces to seek an Islamic divorce. Procedural changes in sharia councils will not diminish their role in spreading this concept; to which they provide the only ‘solution’. That is why use of Sharia bodies is increasing. Evidence before the Home Affairs Select Committee makes clear that fundamentalists insist that a civil divorce cannot be final. Yet earlier generations of women had civil marriage (as well as a Muslim marriage contract) and were satisfied with a civil divorce. Increased religious bullying is a major reason for women’s recourse to sharia, not simply their ‘conscience’. Indeed, the form of Sharia which the theologians of the panel have failed to challenge is much more regressive than Muslim personal laws in Muslim majority countries.

Unlike the review, we have shown that women cannot engage with Sharia Councils or the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal in relation to their divorce without this also impacting on their rights and freedoms in other areas. Our research shows that Sharia Courts/ Councils deal with more than divorce – they impose ‘mediation’, promote polygamy and child marriage, and interfere with child custody and criminal proceedings in relation to domestic violence. The review made no serious attempt to investigate these issues.

The review stands in direct contrast to the devastating observations made by Dame Louise Casey in her report in 2016 “women in some communities are facing a double onslaught of gender inequality, combined with religious, cultural and social barriers preventing them from accessing even their basic rights as British residents.”

A forensic examination of the operation of Sharia in Britain lays bare what fundamentalists do to achieve their goals, not merely what they think. We do not accuse them simply of ‘thought crimes’ but of promoting crimes and human rights violations.

The review is a botched attempt at consultation established with flawed terms of reference and an explicit disregard for gender discrimination. The government and the reviewers have failed the women most affected and ignored the concerns of rights advocates.

We will be providing a more detailed submission. Meanwhile, we call on you, as Home Secretary, to ensure that none of the recommendations contained in the review are implemented without consultation with those advocates who are able to make clear connections with extremism, fundamentalism and inequality. The government has, so far, failed in its duty to make an equality impact assessment, which it needs to do with the full weight of evidence before it. Continued indifference to the government’s duty to respect, protect and fulfil human rights will leave us in no doubt that there is no change to the social contract in which women’s rights are traded off as part of a process of appeasement of fundamentalists and extremists.

We look forward to your response.


Gita Sahgal and Yasmin Rehman, Co-Directors, Centre for Secular Space
Pragna Patel, Director, Southall Black Sisters
Diana Nammi, Executive Director, Iranian Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation
Houzan Mahmoud, Culture Project
Sadia Hameed, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain
Rumana Hashem, Human Rights Advocate
Nasreen Rehman, Human Rights Advocate
Gina Khan, Spokesperson, One Law for All
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, One Law for All

For more information, please contact Gita Sahgal at 07972 715090 or email
Sharia CANNOT Coexist in Western Law
John R. Houk
© February 9, 2018
The Independent Review on Sharia

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