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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Sharia law

Sharia law fundamentally undermines the rule of law in this country and represents a division of rights among racial and religious lines. Muslim women and the children of Muslim parents are particularly vulnerable under this system and our society has a responsibility to protect them.

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.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has stated: "The Court concurs in the Chamber's view that sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy, as set forth in the Convention".

We regard it a national scandal that the UK government tolerates, respects, or in any way accommodates a legal system which discriminates so openly against women and children, and we believe it to be a threat to community cohesion and the legal and political equality of all women. As recent legal rulings have shown, religious freedom does not – and should not – include the freedom to overrule the fundamental human rights of others.

What are we doing?

We are founder members of the One Law for All Campaign. The Campaign launched in 2008 to call on the UK Government to recognise that sharia and religious courts are arbitrary and discriminatory against women and children in particular and that citizenship and human rights are non-negotiable. The campaign aims to end sharia and all religious courts on the basis that they work against, and not for, equality and human rights

We are also co-sponsors of a parliamentary Bill in the House of Lords that would stop sharia courts in this country claiming that they have legal jurisdiction over criminal or family law.

We have also raised the issue of sharia law with all three European Union Presidents, the European Commission Justice Division and at the Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels.