Dear Prime Minister,
I represent the One Law for All campaign. I write in response to your speech of February 5th 2011 and to ask for your support in bringing to an end the injustices currently being perpetrated in sharia councils and tribunals across Britain.
In your speech you stated the following:
“Let’s properly judge these organisations: Do they believe in universal human rights – including for women and people of other faiths? Do they believe in equality of all before the law? Do they believe in democracy and the right of people to elect their own government? Do they encourage integration or separatism?”
You then went on to say that organisations which failed to respond to such questions positively, should not be engaged with by the British state.
In sharia law, a woman’s word is worth half of that of a man. Child custody is awarded to fathers regardless of the circumstances of the case. A man can obtain a divorce by repudiation whereas it is extremely difficult for women to show grounds for divorce, even if abuse or violence has been proved. In sharia’s criminal code, apostasy (denouncing one’s religion) carries the death penalty, as does homosexuality. Women convicted of adultery under sharia law also face death, often by stoning (buried to her waist and stones thrown at her head until she dies). Sharia does not recognise a woman’s right to refuse sex to her husband and rape within marriage was described as “impossible” by Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed, president of the Islamic Sharia Council in Britain in October 2010.
Apologists for sharia law often claim that it is restricted “only” to civil cases in Britain, or that there is no appetite for sharia’s criminal code to be enforced either in the UK or Europe. However, in 2010, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed declared that rape and domestic violence cases were being heard and decided in sharia courts in the UK (with no punishments handed down to the perpetrators). Furthermore, in 2009, Sarfraz Sarwar, leader of the Basildon Islamic Centre in Essex told a journalist that the solution to underage sex and pregnancy in Britain was to “stone the girl”. Also in 2009, a Spanish woman was sentenced to death by stoning for adultery in a makeshift sharia court there. These examples provide evidence of some of the true aims and aspirations of sharia advocates in Europe.
As has been described, sharia law in Britain is being applied in the area of criminal law. However, perhaps the most common area of practice is within a family law context; this was condemned by now Attorney General Dominic Grieve in 2008 as being unlawful. In family law, as stated above, a woman’s word is worth half of that of a man, and child custody reverts only to fathers – regardless of the circumstances.
It is clear that sharia law does not support the concept of universal human rights or gender equality – either in its civil or criminal code. It does not respect the notion of equality before the law nor does it accept a person’s right to leave their religion. It does not promote cohesion but separatism, and its use in Britain has led to a diminishing of rights for Muslim women and children.
Please tell us if your government now intends to cease engagement with groups which operate or support institutions practicing sharia law and thereby promote separateness and legal segregation in the UK.
In your speech you said that you wished to see greater integration between different religious and social groups in Britain, but this can not happen if we continue to support or to fund groups which promote a legal system which is fundamentally opposed to British legal principles such as gender equality and equal rights before the law. Sharia is a threat to equality in law and is creating a separate judicial system in which Muslim women have fewer rights than their non-Muslim neighbours. Sharia is promoting a ghettoisation of Muslims in Britain and diminishing secularism. Several recent judicial rulings have shown that religious belief or practice can not ride roughshod over the human rights of others.
We therefore ask that you ban all use of sharia courts and tribunals in Britain. Such institutions are behaving unlawfully as they contravene section 6 of the Human Rights Act which requires that all courts and tribunals operate in accordance with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). Article 6 of the ECHR provides that all people should receive a fair and impartial hearing in legal proceedings – this is clearly and evidently not the case for women subject to sharia law, who face gender-based bias from the very outset.
In 2008, then Shadow Security Minister Lady Neville-Jones stated in a speech in Birmingham that the Conservative Party would ban sharia courts if it came to power. We are now asking that you stick to this ideal and that your party actively promote an equal application of the law for all people in Britain; thereby enhancing cohesion, secularism, democracy, and gender equality.
Our organisation would be very pleased to meet with you or your advisers on this very important issue.
Anne Marie Waters
One Law for All