Blow struck against UK ‘sharia’ wills

Blow struck against UK ‘sharia’ wills

ON March 13 this year 2014, the Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA)  issued a practice note for UK solicitors on drafting “Sharia compliant” wills.

The note, which was drafted with reference to conservative if not fundamentalist Muslim “experts” but not minority women’s organisations, said:

… illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs…The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir… Non-Muslims may not inherit at all…a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir…

But the threat of legal action on gender equality grounds forced the SRA to dump the note, much to the delight of Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and One Law for All which this week welcomed the move.

In a joint statement the two groups said:

The decision clearly demonstrates that the SRA considers it inappropriate to continue to endorse the note.

This appalling institutional endorsement of direct gender and other forms of discrimination has been the subject of threatened legal action against the Law Society itself. We have demanded that the Law Society withdraw its guidance but it has resolutely refused to do so.

In an extraordinary show of defiance, in a letter dated 4 June 1014, the Law Society stated that it had no intention of withdrawing the practice note and that ‘no equality and diversity implications’ arose from the note.

Since receiving the SRA’s decision we have now written to the Law Society again demanding a reconsideration of their position. We are also taking further legal advice on the question of whether solicitors acting on the practice note might be themselves acting unlawfully.

Louise Whitfield of Deighton Pierce Glynn Solicitors acting on the groups’ behalf said:

I am surprised that the Law Society considers that it did not have to consult with any women’s organisations or organisations working with Muslim women, despite the fact that there are significant disputes surrounding Sharia succession rules and a wide range of interpretations as to how they should apply. The Law Society should reconsider its position and withdraw the practice note now that the SRA has agreed to remove its own reference to it.

Pragna Patel of SBS said:

It beggars belief that the Law Society can see no wrong in issuing such blatantly discriminatory and offensive guidance. It shows a racist and callous disregard for minority women’s struggles for equality and Justice in the face of encroaching illiberal religious power.

The Law Society should be encouraging and legitimising an equality and human rights and not Sharia compliant legal culture. We urge the Law Society to remove its practice note which is contributing to the disturbing creation of a culture of ‘Sharia compliant’ law and policy in the UK.

Maryam Namazie from One Law for All said:

There is no place for Sharia in Britain’s legal system just as there is no place for it anywhere. Sharia – like all religious laws – is based on a dogmatic and regressive philosophy and a warped understanding of the concepts of equality and justice. It is not a rule for equals and has no place in a modern state or system of law. The Law Society must immediately withdraw its shameful guidance.

The Lawyers’ Secular Society has also welcomed the development. Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

Clearly the SRA has seen the error of its ways and we welcome its decision to withdraw its endorsement of the Law Society’s practice note. This sends an important message to the public, to the legal profession and indeed to the rest of the world.

Not only was the SRA’s decision to endorse the sharia practice note troubling, but so too was the method in which it did so. There was no accompanying press release and the endorsement came in the very final sentence of lengthy general guidance on the drafting and preparation of wills.

Our attention now turns once again to the Law Society and we very much hope that the SRA’s decision will lead to a serious rethink of policy at Chancery Lane. It is confusing to the public and the legal profession for two closely-related and key institutions within our legal system to have such different views on a matter of such importance to human rights generally, and female equality more specifically.

The Telegraph front page report in March of Islamic law and wills was reproduced by Islamophobiawatch under the headline: “More sharia hysteria from the Torygraph”.

Hat tip: Adam Tjaavk



16 responses to “Blow struck against UK ‘sharia’ wills”

  1. Trevor Blake says:

    Something to keep in mind… in no way whatsoever are these religious rules extremist. They are among the most basic and clear dictates of Islam. They are not distortions made by a Tiny Minority of Extremist Islamists ™. They are Islam. The distortion and the extremism is to say that these religious rules are not Islam. The problem is not a distortion of Islam. The problem is Islam.

  2. Gary says:

    “The problem is not a distortion of Islam. The problem is Islam.”

    That’s it. In a partial nutshell. It would be no different if the SRA were to sanction Jewish or Christian Old Testament ‘law’.

    They might call it law, but it is definitely not justice.

  3. John Coffin says:

    And there is no single, monolithic ‘Sharia’ to be invoked. Off the top of my head, I know that are at least FIVE major schools or sects of Islamic law. They are in contradiction to each other and have contributed to the continuous violence that marks (nay, constitutes) Islamic history.

  4. barriejohn says:

    Gary: Unfortunately, Jewish courts have been sanctioned in this country for a long time, which does set a something of a precedent. The following refers to an American case, but demonstrates that Jewish (and fundamentalist Christian) attitudes are much the same as Muslim ones:

  5. barriejohn says:

    Here is a less encouraging case, where religious traditions seem to have been given priority:

  6. barriejohn says:

    The Jews are worried that their powers will be limited:

  7. barriejohn says:

    One more link!

    Jews are, in fact, not supposed to take one another before the secular courts, and I know from my experience with the Plymouth Brethren that that applies to many Christian sects as well (eg Jehovah’s Witnesses).

    Are people unaware that this is going on in this country? It is religion (the sworn enemy of human rights) that is at fault, not just Islam.

  8. Robster says:

    The relentless “tock tick” of time going backwards to the Middle Ages has stopped, at least momentarily. If the muzzies are so keen on this sharia stuff, why not leave the UK for one of those delightful countries where sharia is the chosen (read imposed) system? There’s a number of countries to choose from, Saudi Arabia would be nice, those pesky women can’t even drive there, Pakistan at this time of year is pleasant too, be warned though, there is a strong secular community there.

  9. charlie says:

    Good grief! Give ANY damn fool religion a millimeter and they WILL take every kilometer they can grab. There should be NO religious courts in any western nation, ever. If they want to live where their particular brand of doG rules the law courts, let them all move to whatever country is run by the absolute stupid.
    I try, really do try every day to be tolerant of others and their beliefs, but this shit MUST stop, NOW, or every damn fool religion will DEMAND they have their own court system, it would be the biggest clusterfuck ever if that were to be allowed to happen anywhere.
    Oh bother, I AM becoming a “militant atheist”, but this sort of bullshit has pushed me to that point. ENOUGH!
    There is NO invisible magic friend, never was, never will be, this is 2014, time for the religious nuts to get with the times or pack up and go away to some remote place where they cannot harm or interfere with decent, thinking humans.

  10. Paul Cook says:

    We live in 2014.

    Our common law, based upon reason, logic and precedent is one exported to the majority of countries on this planet. And one viewed with great jealousy and awe. It can rightly be referred to as a great secular law. It holds up very well against the religiously motivated codified laws such as from France, Spain etc. English law is flexible and changes with the times. Codified laws don’t have this flexibility. Even set codified legal systems try to incorporate our English system of precedent.

    English law and London, is the chosen centre for international dispute resolution primarily due to this reason, logic and precedent, but also for it’s clarity and ability to proceed in the early stages upon a path that gives each side a ‘fair’ chance by use of discovery and interlocutory proceedings, even when money and big legal guns can and will crush even the best of cases.

    Islam has no law whatsoever. Islam itself is not even a legal system. Whilst it was written as one book, unlike the OT and the NT which is a jumble, the Koran has at least 20% that is incomprehensible.

    For an alleged legal system to state that 200 years later, in our most primitive times, that ‘we knew people who knew people who knew people who knew people that can repeat as they heard what the alleged prophet said at a certain place and certain time’ and that ‘this is the not just what the prophet meant but also THE law from god’ (AND used today 1000 years later) is utter stupidity.

    The hadiths were created by lawyers hundreds of years after the oral stories were eventually written down, to explain and dictate, they had to be created by lawyers not just for their selfish monetary reasons or reasons of control, but also as the koranic system is exposed for the poor quality of itself as a set of ‘laws’: it is not such. Its failings are evident as is the entire religion itself.

    1000 years ago ‘we know for sure exactly what some bloke said at a place and time’ and that ‘what that bloke said can with absolute certainty be correct and that is law, gods law straight from gods mouth’. Only a mental defective would believe such a thing with a straight face.

    So instead of a law being created by society evolving in time to events and situations, the internet is a prime & clear example, because we have told you. (there is no direct evidence – it is all oral statements which are then written down 200 years or so later), a train of people who repeat what this alleged prophet said 1000 years ago, this is law? This isn’t law this is moronic. And should be treated with the utter contempt it deserves. It has no place in 2014.

  11. Matt Westwood says:

    Surely people can bequeathe their assets in any which way they so desire?

  12. barriejohn says:

    Matt: Wills are being contested all the time. I think I have mentioned here before the shock I experienced when acting as executor for a neighbour and finding that beneficiaries can get their heads together and change anything in a will that they so desire – so much for “respecting the wishes of the deceased”! I think you might get the point if you had been disinherited purely because you were of the “wrong” religion or gender.

  13. barriejohn says:

    Under English law individuals have complete testamentary freedom to leave their estates to whomever they choose. This includes leaving their estate to pass in accordance with Sharia. The only proviso is that the will must be valid under English law.

    This sounds simple, but Sharia only determines how an estate actually devolves depending upon the structure of the family at the date of death. This creates a potential lack of certainty, which might affect the validity of the English will.

    With potential changes to asset values, beneficiaries’ religious beliefs and family trees, there is no certainty when a will incorporating Sharia is created as to who will inherit until after death. Therefore, simply stating in an English will that an estate ‘must pass in accordance with Sharia law’ will not create a valid will.

    The solution is to write a will that incorporates a discretionary trust, with an accompanying detailed letter of wishes. This allows the client to appoint executors, who act as trustees of the estate, to distribute it in accordance with the letter of wishes depending upon the circumstances that exist at the time. It is important to remember, however, that the trustees would have complete discretion and, although morally obliged to follow the letter of wishes, it’s important the client appoints individuals in whom they have full confidence to carry out their wishes after death.

  14. barriejohn says:

    There are obviously much broader questions here:

    ?First (C of E consistory courts excepted), to what extent, if at all, should the secular courts of England and Wales recognise or enforce the judgments or arbitrations of any religious tribunal?

    ?Secondly, as a matter of wider social policy should the law in England and Wales be more prescriptive (as in Scotland) about what is and is not acceptable by way of testamentary disposition?

    On those matters we emphatically take no view: but to make the changes would certainly require fundamental amendments to the current law (not least to the Arbitration Act 1996) which go far beyond the issue of “High Street solicitors” drafting sharia-compliant wills.

  15. Rob Andrews says:

    As an openly gay person I’m glad I live in the U.S., not Europe. I would really fear for my life if Islam became the dominant belief system in my country. i used to make fun of the people who talked about the ‘spred of communism’as a danger, back in the 70s. But this has actually got me worried.

    They’re not going to stop here. As the Muslim population grows, more laws favorable to them will be forthcoming.radical Islam is driving the agenda-they are the movers and shakers, not the peaceful ones.Even if they are a minority.

    I hate to sound reactionistic, but something has to be done.