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Sharia - a recent introduction

Maryam Namazie of One Law for All gave evidence to the government review of sharia law on 1 November, and faced hostile responses. In turn the organisation stated that “accusations of 'anti-faith', 'Islamophobia' and racism constitute an attempt to delegitimise the evidence of secular witnesses to the inquiry”.

Namazie’s oral evidence gives a historical context which is not widely known. Here is an extract: “Sharia courts ... [in Britain] came in the mid-1980s. They are a result of the rise of the political Islamic movement internationally, the repercussions of which we have seen here in Britain and in Europe. If you talk to older women who were living in Britain prior to this period, none of them were required or pressured to go to Sharia court...

“In the past they would get civil divorces, which are acceptable in Pakistan, Iran and elsewhere. In a sense, we see this as part of the rise of the Islamist movement. It is one of their projects to manage and control women. They created a problem, and then they came forward and pretended that Sharia courts were the solution to the problem that they had created. It is highly problematic.

“We need to look fundamentally at why women from minority backgrounds should have different rights and rules applied to them. Why are we not stressing one law for all?

“In any sort of religious law—not just Sharia courts but Beth Dins and any sort of parallel legal system where religious arbitration is at play—you will find that women are discriminated against because of the nature of these sorts of rules.”

• Related article: Why it has to be one law for all