I’d never have believed it!
Scholars at the Centre for Islamic Pluralism interviewed 90 Muslims in London, the West Midlands, Lancashire and West Yorkshire, and found some women did not get fair hearings in forced-marriage, arranged-marriage and domestic-violence matters.
The finding has been welcomed today by One Law for All Campaign, which is supported by a variety of organisations and individuals.
The campaign’s spokesperson Maryam Namazie said, “This research reinforces our own findings that sharia councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals are discriminatory and unfair. However, the solution to the miscarriages of justice is not the vetting of imams coming to the UK as the report has recommended, but an end to the use and implementation of sharia law and religious-based tribunals.”
She added, “At present these sharia-based bodies are growing and appear to have some sort of official backing. But they are leading to gross injustices among women who are often unaware of their rights under Britain’s legal system.”
This perspective was reiterated in the One Law for All Campaign’s launch on 10 December in the House of Lords at which Maryam Namazie and campaign supporters Gina Khan, Carla Revere, Ibn Warraq and Keith Porteous Wood spoke; the meeting was chaired by Fariborz Pooya, head of the Iranian Secular Society.
Gina Khan, a secular Muslim, said, “Under British law we are treated as equal and full human beings. Under the antiquated version of sharia law that Islamists peddle, we are discriminated against just because of our gender. These Islamists use our plight by meddling in issues like forced marriages, domestic violence and inheritance laws for their own political agenda.
“To allow them to have any sort of control over the lives of Muslim women in British communities will have dire consequences.” She added, “Sharia courts must be a pressing concern, not just for Muslims but for all those living in Britain. Anyone who believes in universal human rights needs to stand united against the discrimination and oppression visited upon Muslim women.”
Carla Revere, chair of the Lawyers’ Secular Society, said, “Such self-appointed, unregulated tribunals are gaining in strength; they increasingly hold themselves up as courts with as much force as the law of the land, but are not operating with the same controls and safeguards.
“They appear to be operating in the area of family law and some even in criminal matters, where they have no right to make binding decisions as they claim to do.
“Even if the decisions were binding, UK courts do not uphold contractual decisions that are contrary to UK law or public policy. We call on the government and legal establishment to stand up for the vulnerable and tackle this significant and growing problem, rather than ignoring it.”
The writer Ibn Warraq said, “Sharia does not accord equal rights to Muslim women: in regards to marriage she is not free to marry a non-Muslim, for instance.”
The same applied, he said, to divorce, custody of children, inheritance, the choice of profession, freedom to travel and the freedom of a Muslim woman change her religion. “In other words, Great Britain, in allowing sharia courts, has contravened the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, and all the other more legally binding United Nations’ Covenants on Discrimination and the Rights of Women.
“Multiculturalism is turning communities against each other; it is fundamentally divisive. We need to get back to the principles of equality before the law, principles that so many people fought so hard to achieve for so long.”
The writer and journalist Joan Smith, who was unable to speak at the 10 December launch, sent the following message to the campaign:
This campaign is very important because many people in this country – including politicians – have yet to realise the isolation of many Muslims, particularly women, from the wider society. Some of them are already under intolerable pressure from their families, and the principle of one law for everyone is a protection they desperately need. That’s why I give this campaign my whole-hearted support.
You can find out more or support the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain by going to their website.