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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

One Law for All campaign launched

The One Law for All campaign was launched at the House of Lords on International Human Rights Day, 10 December, 2008. It draws attention to the problems of Sharia and was offered help by Parliamentarians last night to explore possible legislative changes, for example to curb the activities of Sharia councils and tribunals. The Canadian Province of Ontario has reacted to similar problems by outlawing all religious tribunals.

Campaign organiser, Maryam Namazie commented: “Even in civil matters, Sharia law is discriminatory, unfair and unjust, particularly against women and children. Moreover, its voluntary nature is a sham; many women will be pressured into going to these courts and abiding by their decisions. These courts are a quick and cheap route to injustice and do nothing to promote minority rights and social cohesion. Public interest, particularly with regard to women and children, requires an end to Sharia and all other faith-based courts and tribunals.”

Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said: “Sharia is becoming a growth industry in Britain, putting growing pressure on vulnerable people in the Muslim community to use Sharia councils and tribunals to resolve disputes and family matters, when they could use the civil courts. Sharia “law” is not arrived at by the democratic process, is not Human Rights compliant, and there is no right of appeal.

The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal’s (MAT’s) own website says “MAT will therefore, for the first time, offer the Muslim community a real and true opportunity to settle disputes in accordance with Islamic Sacred Law with the knowledge that the outcome as determined by MAT will be binding and enforceable.” It proudly shows photographs of the recently retired Lord Chief Justice and Justice Minister Lord Hunt claiming various types of endorsement by them.

Carla Revere, Chair of the Lawyers’ Secular Society added: “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.”

Read the speech delivered by Keith Porteous Wood in full

11 December 2008


Published Thu, 11 Dec 2008