Discrimination and violence lie at the heart of Sharia courts

The below was published in The Freethinker.

I gave oral evidence at the Home Affairs Select Committee evidence session on Sharia Councils on November 1 on why Sharia courts in Britain are an Islamist project to control women, are discriminatory and should be dismantled. (This was preceded by a written statement.)

When questioned by MP Naz Shah, above, though, one would have thought it was I and not Sharia courts that were under investigation.  She said:

But Ms Namazie, according to your blog, which I read earlier, this isn’t just about Sharia courts. If we were to look at implementing your view of the world, the majority of discrimination would be faced by the 33 million Christians of this country because you would have away with Christianity and any religious institutions … What you are saying is that you are denying everybody’s religious view on life.

Naz Shah also accused opponents of “Islamophobia”.

The accusations were a clear attempt to discredit my evidence solely based on my atheism and being an ex-Muslim. There was no similar attempt to discredit any of the other nine witnesses giving oral evidence in this manner – including those who actually ran the discriminatory Sharia courts.

The wilful conflation between criticism of religion and the religious-Right with discrimination against believers is nothing new. Nor is the attempt to vilify dissenters.

As Algerian sociologist Marieme Helie Lucas says:

Yes, we do have an already quite long experience of perversity, which magically turns the victim into the abuser and blames her for the crimes that are committed against her.

Whether she realises it or not, Naz Shah’s line of questioning  feeds into a “culture that incites religious hatred and violence towards those, especially from Muslim backgrounds, who are perceived to be apostates, atheists and non-conformists”.

This is especially true in a context where atheists are executed in 13 countries and incitement to violence, discrimination and shunning are pervasive, including in Britain – as was highlighted in a recent ITV documentary by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan, Islam’s Non Believers.

And the threats of violence are not limited to ex-Muslims and atheists from Muslim backgrounds but all those who are seen to challenge Islamist norms of the “authentic Muslim”, including for example, Usama Hasan, above, an imam who was threatened in Pakistan and in Britain for his views on evolution and women’s rights, and secular Muslim women’s rights activists like Yasmin Rehman who have been branded “apostates” and “anti-faith” for speaking out against Sharia courts.

Hate crimes against those deemed “apostates” are on the rise, including against Christian covert from Islam Nissar Hussain who was forced to flee his home in Bradford with his family due to violence and threats in November 2016 and Ahmadiyya Asad Shah who was murdered in Glasgow in March 2016.

Sharia courts normalise discrimination against women but also incite violence against apostates, amongst others. Which is why their existence is of concern to ex-Muslims as well as society at large.

Sharia judges, for example, promote the death penalty for apostasy. Haitham al Haddad, above, who was until recently a Sharia judge at the Islamic Sharia Council, has said: “apostasy deserves, once the conditions are met, deserves capital punishment in an Islamic State and I can say this openly; I am not here to hide it“.

Suhaib Hasan, a co-founder of the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton  is a member of The European Council for Fatwa and Research chaired by Yusuf al-Qaradawi who says that killing apostates is essential.

In the testimonies of women gathered by the One Law for All, Nadia Sadiq went before a judge at the Green Lane Mosque in Birmingham, which is a Salafi mosque where Abu Usamah has said women were created deficient and “whoever changes his religion, kill him“; Habiba Jan, went to a Sharia court judged by Anjem Choudary who defends the death penalty for apostasy and stoning to death for adultery. He has recently been jailed for urging support for ISIS.

Even questioning the competency or relevance of Sharia courts are equated with “disbelief”,  a form of kufr, which has serious penalties including the death penalty in some countries. The Islamic Sharia Council, for example, has said (now deleted but screenshot available here):

As a Muslim we should know that our religion is perfect without any imperfection as Allah says: ‘this day, I have perfected your religion for you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion’.

Therefore, belittling them or calling them as out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says.

Far from being harmless, Ms Shah’s allegations feed into a climate that targets dissenters.

Needless to say, it is not an insult to Islam or any religion, if one becomes an atheist – either in public or private. It is exercising a fundamental right to freedom of conscience.

Moreover, criticism of religion, including Islam, is not “Islamophobia” but exercising a fundamental right to freedom of expression.

Those who “punish” or forcibly prevent freedom of conscience and expression are the ones who commit a crime – not those exercising their basic human right.

It is high time that human rights and “progressive” organisations and personalities stop legitimising de-facto or de-jure blasphemy and apostasy laws and start defending, not blaming, Islamism’s victims.

Sign a statement in defence of Islam’s Non-Believers here.

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