European Commission President Manuel Barroso and President of the European Parliament, Hans Gert Pőttering hosted a lunch in Brussels on Friday 26 June 2009 with philosophical non-confessional organizations in the Commission’s efforts towards Strengthening European values.

Keith Porteous Wood, supporter of One Law for All and the National Secular Society’s Executive Director was one of the guests. One of the concerns he raised with President Barroso was about the growing pressure on Muslims to use so-called official Muslim Arbitration Tribunals rather than the established justice mechanisms. Mr Porteous Wood said that those using these tribunals often did not know they had alternatives. Women were particularly vulnerable as they are forced to submit to these tribunals and Islamic law treats women less favourably than men. It was essential, he said, that it is One Law for All in every country: and that the law is democratically established and human rights compliant. Sharia demonstrably fails that test.

Mr Porteous Wood pointed approvingly to the experience in Canada where some provinces troubled about these issues had outlawed religious arbitration in recent years. He asked President Barroso to consider similar measures for the EU.

In his concluding address, President Barroso acknowledged these concerns and said that he would give the matter further thought.

Turning to the UK, Mr Porteous Wood commented: the problem of burgeoning Sharia law tribunals, run of course by men, is becoming more acute and the need for action has become urgent. Shamefully, the Government, Parliament or the judiciary are prepared to take on Sharia law for fear of upsetting Islamic leaders. This is a betrayal of those forced to be subject to these laws which have no place in a modern democratic society.”