8 March Seminar on Sharia Law in Britain a success
One Law for All held a successful seminar on Sharia Law on Monday 8 March 2010 at Conway Hall in London to mark International Women’s Day. The seminar brought together Muslims, ex-Muslims, women’s rights campaigners, lawyers and politicians to outline the problems with Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Sharia Councils and to propose recommendations for prohibiting religious courts and bringing about equal rights for all.
Speakers at the seminar were: Yasmin Alibhai-Brown (British Muslims for Secular Democracy); Yassi Atasheen (One Law for All); Clara Connolly (Women Against Fundamentalism); David Green (Civitas); Denis MacShane (MP); Rony Miah (Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Lawyers’ Secular Society); Maryam Namazie (One Law for All) and Pragna Patel (Southall Black Sisters).
A One Law for All report taking into consideration the seminar’s findings will be published shortly. Moreover, a working group is to be set up to draft an amendment to the Arbitration Act to prohibit religious arbitration in civil matters. The campaign will also look into proposing a European-wide amendment in the coming months.
Biographies of Speakers
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is a journalist and Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. She grew up in Uganda and completed her M.Phil. in literature at Oxford in 1975. She has written for major newspapers and magazines in the U.S.A. and U.K., and is now a regular columnist for The Independent and the Evening Standard. She is also a radio and television broadcaster and author of several books, including: No Place Like Home, an autobiographical account of a twice- removed immigrant; Who Do We Think We Are? on the state of the nation; and After Multiculturalism, which looks at the globalised future. From 1996 to 2001 she was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research. She is also a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Centre. In June 1999, she received an honorary degree from the Open University for her contributions to social justice. She is a Vice President of the United Nations Association, UK, and a special ambassador for the Samaritans.
Yassi Atasheen is the Legal Coordinator for the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain. She is a law graduate from the University of Essex. She studied LLB Law and received her BA in July 2008. She is currently taking a gap year to prepare for the Bar Vocational Course. She plans to pursue a career as a barrister in family and criminal law.
Clara Connolly is an immigration solicitor. She previously worked at the Commission of Racial Equality and the University of North London on issues relating to equality and discrimination. She has been a feminist activist for many years around issues of domestic violence, abortion for Irish women and the effects of Christian fundamentalism. She is active with Women Against Fundamentalism.
David Green is the Director of CIVITAS: The Institute for the Study of Civil Society. He has written a number of books on public policy issues Power and Party in an English City, Allen & Unwin, 1980; Mutual Aid or Welfare State, Allen & Unwin, 1984 (with L. Cromwell); The New Right, Wheatsheaf, 1987; Reinventing Civil Society, 1993; Community Without Politics, 1996; and Individualists Who Co-operate, 2009. In 2006 he wrote We’re (Nearly) all Victims Now: how political correctness is undermining our liberal culture. And in 2009 he edited Music, Chess and Other Sins (a study of Muslim schools in Britain) and Sharia Law Or One Law For All (a study of the growth of Sharia jurisdiction in the UK). He occasionally writes for the newspapers, including in recent years contributions to The Times, the Sunday Times, the Daily Telegraph, and the Sunday Telegraph, and occasionally broadcasts on programmes such as Newsnight, the Moral Maze and the Today programme.
Denis MacShane has been MP for Rotherham since 1994. He worked in the Foreign Office after Labour won power in 1997, first as a PPS and then as a minister, between 2001 and 2005. He was made a privy councillor in 2005 and now represents the UK on the Council of Europe. He is active in European and global policy discussions and writes and speaks on issues in different fora.
Rony Miah is a Solicitor, and a Management Committee Member of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. He is also a member of the newly formed Lawyers Secular Society. He comes from a traditional British/Bangladeshi Muslim background but renounced Islam in early adulthood after studying Islam and its roots. His particular interest lies in the historical origins of Islam and stopping young UK Muslims from veering towards extremism.
Maryam Namazie is Spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign, Iran Solidarity, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and Equal Rights Now- Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran. She is also National Secular Society’s 2005 Secularist of the Year award winner and an NSS Honorary Associate; Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran; Vice President of Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association; Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association, amongst others. Maryam was one of Elle Quebec’s 45 outstanding women of the year in 2007. Her blog has been ranked one of the top 100 atheist blogs.
Pragna Patel is a founding member of the Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. She worked as a co-ordinator and senior case worker for SBS from 1982 to 1993 when she left to train as a solicitor. She has remained active in the group in respect of its policy and campaigning work and has recently returned to SBS as its Director. She has been centrally involved in some of SBS’ most important campaigns around domestic violence, immigration and religious fundamentalism. She has also written extensively on race, gender and religion.
Yasmin Rehman has worked for more than 20 years on a range of crime reduction issues predominantly violence against women and community cohesion. Yasmin has worked in the private, public (local government) and third sectors during her career. As Director of Partnerships and Diversity with the Metropolitan Police Service, Yasmin had strategic lead for Domestic Violence, Violence against Women, and Hate Crime and Honour based Violence. She was the Deputy Association of Chief Police Officer lead for Honour based Violence. Yasmin is one of a handful of Police Staff who has held a national policing portfolio role and was the most senior Asian woman in policing in the UK for a number of years. Yasmin has also worked on a number of international projects. She is currently Chair of the Board of Trustees of Domestic Violence Intervention Project, a member of Women Against Fundamentalisms and a trustee of Searchlight Educational Trust. She is currently a freelance consultant and trainer.
Joan Smith is a novelist, columnist and human rights activist. Her columns appear in the Independent, Independent on Sunday and Evening Standard, and she also writes for the Times, Guardian and Sunday Times. She chaired the English PEN Writers in Prison Committee for four years and has advised the Foreign Office on promoting freedom of expression. She is the author of a dozen books, including Misogynies and six novels; the latest, What Will Survive, is set in London and Lebanon. She is an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society