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.”
On April 19, 2009, the Somali parliament unanimously endorsed the introduction of Sharia law across the country.
A few days earlier, the imposition of Sharia law in Pakistan’s northwestern Swat region was approved.
Last month, a sweeping law approved by the Afghan parliament and signed by President Hamid Karzai required Shi’a women to seek their husband’s permission to leave home, and to submit to their sexual demands. Because of international and national protests the new law is now being reviewed but only to check its compatibility with Sharia law.
Sharia law deems a woman unequal and subordinate to her husband or male guardian. Under Sharia, women’s testimony is worth half that of men’s, women have limited rights to divorce and child custody and women can be executed for apostasy or stoned to death for adultery. It imposes sexual or gender apartheid and the veil and denies women rights, equality and freedom.
The imposition of Sharia law in the legal codes of Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan brings millions more under the yoke of political Islam.
Local and international pressure and opposition are the only ways to stop the rise of this regressive movement and defend women’s universal rights and secularism.
From Iran and Iraq to Britain and Canada, Sharia law is being opposed by a vast majority who choose 21st century universal values over medievalism. We, the undersigned, support this international struggle and call for:
List of initial signatories:
Boaz Adhengo, Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya, Kenya
Nazanin Afshin-Jam, Coordinator, Stop Child Executions Campaign, Canada
Mina Ahadi, Spokesperson, Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany; Coordinator, International Committee against Stoning, Germany
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Chair, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, UK
Mahin Alipour, Coordinator, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Stockholm, Sweden
British Humanist Association, UK
British Muslims for Secular Democracy, UK
Caroline Brancher, UFAL, France
Nazanin Borumand, Never forget Hatun‚Campaign against Honour Killings, Germany
Clean Break Theatre Company, UK
Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, UK
Council of Ex-Muslims of Germany, Germany
Council of Ex-Muslims of Scandinavia, Sweden
Richard Dawkins, Scientist, UK
Patty Debonitas, Coordinator, International Campaign for Women’s Rights, UK
Deeyah, Singer and Composer, USA
Sonja Eggerickx, President, International Humanist and Ethical Union, Belgium
Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Sweden Tarek Fatah, Author, Chasing a Mirage: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State, Canada
Jacqueline Fichet – Professeure en Retraite, France
Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, UK
AC Grayling, Writer and Philosopher, London, UK
Rahila Gupta, Activist and Writer, UK
Maria Hagberg, Chairperson, Network Against Honour-Related Violence, Sweden
Katie Hickman, Writer, UK
Humanist and Ethical Union of Kenya
Leo Igwe, Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
International Committee against Stoning, Germany
Iranian Secular Society, London, UK
Asqar Karimi, Central Committee Member, Worker-communist Party of Iran, UK
Kenya Association of Humanists in Aid of Women Atheists
Ruth Kithei and Teresia Naomi, Kenya Association of Humanists in Aid of Women Atheists, Kenya
Derek Lennard, Chairperson, Gay and Lesbian Humanist Association, UK
Doreen Massey, Peer, House of Lords, London, UK
Caspar Melville, Editor, New Humanist magazine, UK
Reza Moradi, Director, New Channel TV, UK
Maryam Namazie, Spokesperson, Equal Rights Now – Organisation against Women’s Discrimination in Iran, Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain and One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain, UK
National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies, UK
National Secular Society, London, UK
Never Forget Hatun Campaign against Honour Killings, Germany Network Against Honour-Related Violence, Sweden
Nigerian Humanist Movement, Nigeria
One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain, UK
Lucy Perman, Executive Director, Clean Break, UK
David Pollock, President, the European Humanist Federation, London, UK
Fariborz Pooya, Founder, Iranian Secular Society, London, UK
Pragna Patel, Founding Member, Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism, UK
Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, Afghanistan
Terry Sanderson, President, National Secular Society, London, UK
Sohaila Sharifi, Editor, Unveiled Persian, London, UK
Joan Smith, Writer and Activist, London, UK
Southall Black Sisters, UK
Issam Shukri, Head, Defense of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq; Central Committee Secretary, Left Worker-communist Party of Iraq, Iraq
Hanne Stinson, British Humanist Association, UK
Annie Sugier, Ligue du Droit International des Femmes, France
Peter Tatchell, Human Rights Campaigner, UK
Women Against Fundamentalisms, UK
Ibn Warraq, writer
To join the coalition, click here: http://www.PetitionOnline.com/ICFWR/petition.html
To help organise a rally in your city on November 21, 2009, please contact coalition coordinator Patty Debonitas +44 (0) 7778804304, ICFWR, BM Box 2387, London WC1N 3XX, UK, email email@example.com.
To support the coalition, please send your donations to One Law for All (http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/donate.html) or the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain (http://www.ex-muslim.org.uk/indexDonate.html) earmarked for the coalition.
One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain was established on December 10, 2008 – International Human Rights Day – in order to mobilise opposition to Sharia and all religious based tribunals and defend universal and citizenship rights.
12,000 signatures and a successful March rally and meeting
In the short time it has been established, we’ve gathered over 12,000 signatories to our petition calling for a ban on religious tribunals and organised a successful demonstration and public meeting to mark International Women’s Day in March in London.
A free legal and informational helpline
We have also set up a free legal and informational helpline for those who have been denied their rights by Sharia councils and all religious tribunals. Trained volunteers will provide callers with information and referrals to pro bono lawyers. The helpline is being managed by our Legal Coordinator, Yassi Molazadeh. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to volunteer to staff our helpline or provide pro bono legal advice. The number of the Advice Helpline is 0800 228 9897; lines will be open daily from 9am to 10pm.
A speaking tour in Canada and elsewhere
Moreover, we have spoken at an international conference on secularism in Paris, France and completed a speaking tour across Canada.
During the last two weeks of March, Spokesperson Maryam Namazie and Outreach Coordinator Goranka Gudelj travelled to Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria and spoke with hundreds of people to network and broaden support for the One Law for All Campaign. The visit was significant because of the success of a similar campaign against Sharia law in Ontario province in Canada, which Maryam was also involved in. Her visit was covered by Canadian media, including: http://www.nationalpost.com/opinion/story.html?id=1379415
Whilst in Toronto, Maryam participated in a panel discussion with Tarek Fatah (Founder of Muslim Canadian Congress and Author of “Chasing a Mirage”: The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State”, Justin Trottier (Executive Director of Center for Inquiry, Ontario) and Issam Shukri (Head of the Organization for the Defence of Secularism and Civil Rights in Iraq), and spoke at an event sponsored by the Centre for Inquiry. She also spoke at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the University of Victoria and at a fundraising dinner with Victoria’s atheist, secularist and humanist group. To see footage of the panel discussion and speeches in Canada, see: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/video.html
Maryam and Goranka also met with a number of personalities involved in the Campaign against Sharia Courts in Canada, including Farzana Hassan and Hassan Mahmoud of the Muslim Canadian Congress. Farzana Hassan has agreed to act as a Canadian spokesperson for the One Law for All Campaign against Sharia Law in Britain.
Mobilising support for November 20 mass rally
In the coming months we plan to go across the country to raise opposition to Sharia and religious tribunals and mobilise support for our next big mass rally in London on November 20, Universal Children’s Day. To find out where we will be next, see: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/events.html. And if you want to organise a public meeting in your area, please feel free to contact Outreach Coordinator Goranka Gudelj at email@example.com to arrange it.
We urgently need money to do all that still needs to be done to get rid of Sharia and religious tribunals in Britain. Every bit helps so please do take the time to send us a cheque made payable to One Law for All or by donating via our paypal account. You can find out more here: http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/donate.html
Thanks again for your support.
It can and will make a difference!