Comment: Sharia Law has no place in Britain or anywhere else

We must each strongly and unequivocally demand one equal law for everyone - both here in the UK and abroad

By Nahla Mahmoud

There are many reasons why this needs to be said, starting with a personal trigger. I was recently interviewed by Channel 4’s programme about my opinions on sharia in Britain.

Out of seven people interviewed, I was the only one who was against sharia and for a secular state.

My interview has subsequently triggered a debate in Sudanese media, both at home and in the diaspora, from which campaigns have emerged inciting people against me, calling me a ‘Kafira’ (infidel) and ‘Murtadda’ (a person who has left Islam) .

The Facebook page of the Sudanese Armed Forces’ has also posted my picture, declaring me an infidel and a apostate.

I strongly oppose sharia law as well as any other religiously-based laws because I deeply believe in secular, humanist values that put each human being on a par with every other individual.

International human rights are a testament to this and stand directly opposed to the discriminatory practices enshrined in and justified by sharia law.

It is important that we secularists demand not only a secular Britain but also a secular Middle East, North Africa and world.

We have witnessed in the last two years a grand hijacking by Islamists of the achievements of civil society in the Middle East. Not only that, but here in Britain there are now 85 sharia councils implementing sharia law on the streets of London, Birmingham, Bradford and elsewhere.

Sharia discriminates against women (and Muslim women specifically). Compared to feminist victories elsewhere, women are still not considered equal in most Islamic settings.

Brutal examples of sharia in action include punishment by stoning for certain “crimes”, such as that of Iranian Skineh Ashtiagi, who was accused of having a relationship outside of an ‘Islamic contract marriage’, or the public flogging of Sudanese Lubna Husain, for her un-Islamic dress.

Here in the UK, a study conducted by the One Law for All campaign found that four out of 10 women in sharia court cases have been party to civil injunctions issued against their husbands on the grounds of violence.

Sharia discriminates against children. Not only does it affect children when they are young, but the implications last their entire life.

Under sharia a girl is eligible for marriage as soon as she begins her first period. This makes it difficult to maintain a minimum age for girls to be married.

Sharia discriminates against homosexuals. Homosexuality is forbidden in most Islamic states with punishments ranging from a fine or public flogging to life Imprisonment.

Ten Islamic states impose a death penalty for homosexuals, including Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi-Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Yemen and some states in Malaysia. In 2011, governmental driven gangs have been killing gays across Iraq.

Sharia discriminates against non-Muslims as well as other sects within Islam. Under sharia, no one is allowed to force someone to convert to Islam. However, someone who is born into an Islamic family will grow up with extreme social pressure from their family to stay within Islam.

For example, non-Muslim men (except Jewish and Christians) cannot marry Muslim women, while children of non-Muslim women cannot adopt their religion.

Sharia discriminates against non-believers, atheists and apostates.

I have seared in my memory the brutal persecutions and executions of many atheists and scientists for the “crime” of critical thinking.

Cases such as Iranian Ali Ghorabat for apostasy, Jafar Kazemi and Mohammad Ali Haj Aghaie for enmity against God, Sudanese theologian Mahmoud M. Taha for his progressive Islamic views and Egyptian Nasr H. Abu Zaid are examples of the widespread persecution of people who dare to question blind belief.

Being an atheist and an ex-Muslim should have been a private matter for me under a secular state.

However, under an ‘Islamic Inquisition’, as fellow secular campaigner Maryam Namazi describes, it is necessary for minority groups, especially those who are persecuted, to publicly air our views and call for equal treatment because this persecution will not end until we stand together and speak out.

I have chosen to speak out on Channel 4 and in many other venues in the UK because I cannot stand by and watch others suffer the same discrimination and persecution that I have faced.

My stand is about supporting freedom of expression, freedom of religion or no-religion. I stand for human rights in order to support equal rights for all citizens despite our gender, age, sexuality, religion or ethnicity.

I believe this is everyone’s battle, including progressive, secular and liberal Muslims.

We must, each of us, strongly and unequivocally demand one equal law for everyone – both here in the UK and abroad.

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32 Responses to “Comment: Sharia Law has no place in Britain or anywhere else”

  1. Newsbot9

    The ability of adults in the UK to agree to settle civil disputes under the ruleset of their choosing considerably pre-dates much Muslim immigration, and is a right worth preserving. Demanding that people must bring their disputes to secular courts will lead to communities – not just Muslim ones, but others – withdrawing not only from cooperation in civil but in many matters at a time of massively increased and worrying divisions between communities.

    This is a matter of personal freedoms.

    Criminals trying to take criminal law into their own hands is something else entirely.

  2. blarg1987

    Add to that if it is across religious groups for example a fight or marriage that breaks down.

  3. Dave-o

    You are assuming that all parties within this “civil dispute” agree (and are afforded the ability to disagree) with this “ruleset”. This of course can never be proved, so all such disputes must have recourse to non-biased resolution.

  4. Newsbot9

    If you don’t agree, then it falls back to English/Welsh or Scots law.

    You’re claiming because in theory people might not agree, people need to be end up not using the system at all because it’s not trustworthy/the enemy.

    Didn’t we just have this with the SWP? Why is that better?

  5. rebecca.

    I’m with you.

  6. bluecatbabe

    Contract law and marriage law (which is a subset of contract law) can be agreed by the parties to be under the religious laws of their choice – within limits: polygamy is not legal, for example.
    Some Orthodox Jewish couples particularly use this with regard to marriage. It can cause problems, though, as the rights of one partner (guess which?) to a divorce are not equal. But I suppose, absent compulsion, people can willingly limit their own rights if they wish.
    Or do we allow for the power of false consciousness?

  7. Newsbot9

    bluecatbabe – You’re talking about an issue within Judaism which is tangentially related to this, about granting religious divorces. There are solutions for this – actually, making the arbitrator for divorce by prior arrangement a Beis Din, which will not separate the grant of civil divorce and of the get. Take that away, and you’re back to civil courts having to rule on a purely religious issue. (Which is the root of the issue in the first place)

    And yes, at the end of the day this is a civil liberties issue for me. Lots of business relies on arbitration by non-state parties, too, so…

  8. LB

    So lets see.

    MPs, exempt themselves from tax on their expenses, plus investigation by HMRC.

    So much for one law for all in the UK.

    MPs are more equal that others.

  9. Omar Kuddus

    Nahla Mahmoud I am a bit confused and would like to point out an inaccuracy in your comment.
    I too was on the very same series of Channel 4s 4thought and I am very much AGAINST the introduction of Sharia, as I more than made clear in MY segment.
    Thus perhaps you could explain and justify “Out of seven people
    interviewed, I was the onlyone who was against sharia” as apparently you have either not viewed my take on thesubject or have seem other reasoning for your statement.
    Considering that I am an LGBT activist, a Muslim LGBT rights advocate and founder of GayAsylumUK as well as a columnist on GayStarNews you can appreciate how you comments can be interoperated by those who have not personally viewed my segment and also my reputation in general.

  10. Sudo Nim

    Let me know how I can help

  11. Newsbot9

    And your 1% keep on putting themselves above the law too, on tax. Of course you defend this.

  12. Sue Eades

    I’m with you too

  13. kwhitus

    One law, the law of the country that you choose to live in.

  14. LB

    I’m far from being a 1%.

    There are fewer and fewer of them too.

    That means more tax for you and I to pay if we keep paying your salary.

    Dependent on the state? You’re going to lose because they have stolen your money.

  15. Newsbot9

    Ah right, you’re a 0.1%er.

    And you don’t seem to understand statistics, or the idea of paying tax either.

    Ands yes, neoliberal, your death cycle economic policies are crushing the economy. This isn’t anything to do with the debt, it’s to do with your systematic and deliberate dismantling of society.

  16. Newsbot9

    And the law is very plain – civil issues can be settled under a mutually agreed ruleset. There are safeguards to this, but…

  17. Gita Sahgal

    Nahla Mahmoud, I would be honoured if you came to the meeting that the Centre for Secular Space is organising to launch our book ‘Double Bind: the Muslim Right, the Anglo-American Left and Universal Human Rights’. It is at Toynbee Hall, 28 Commercial St, London E1 nr Aldgate East tube., and starts at 7pm Speakers Ansar Ahmdedullah, Maryam Namazie, Pragna Patel and Meredith Tax( the author ) of the book. Others welcome too.. To register please email.

  18. Nahla

    Hi Omer,
    I have accredited your opinion as a guy right activist strongly opposing sharia law. afraid the Left Foot Forward cut that part out as well as many other background details and intro’s to my ideas, which i believe were all quite important….i have rewritten them to add these parts back. on the other hand, I didn’t really count Christian evangelist views as his opposition to sharia was based on religious grounds. he thinks the christian rules would be a better alternative. so doesn’t really count as in favor of a secular state, just changing terrible rules to less worse.

    Best wishes and keep up the great work ,

  19. Mohamed Sam

    I’m deeply sorry about the way you feel about Islam, sharia law and religion in general. I was born in Sudan and my family a religious Sufi background. But I was raised outside of Sudan with my parents travelling all over the world from USA, UK to several secular and Islamic countries. From a young age I was exposed to both worlds and in my youth till my late 20s I was rebellious. I drank, dated, partied and believed religion was a waste of time. I thought it was strict and strangled my freedom with no obvious gains. I had and still have gay friends, and believe male or female we all have to potential to do good in this world for ourselves and others. But I took time to reflect .. read and understand what is Islam and even more who is god. I went further than the superficial stereotype that you describe from media mad few examples of what some people do in the name of religion. Be it Muslims, Christians , Jews or many other religions. I am deeply proud to be Muslim and feel lucky and given a second chance to see it in a different light. I’m happy to talk to you further about this. But holding fanatic views on anything religious or atheistic I believe holds back as humans. I think one place to start is asking yourself, who is god, why am I or any of us here and what is our purpose in life. Humanism is a too simplistic solution and explanation. But please take time to read the Quran, preferably in Arabic and form your own views instead of taking other people interpretations as fact and law. And Inshalah .. god willing you will find your answers. You can brush me aside and say I know .. I read and I spoke about Islam to different sources. But I want this to be different, open your heart and find for a few hours and read.

    Salam and may god guide you.
    This isn’t to antagonist you but I genuinely wish you find guidance, if you want answers.

  20. Mohamed Sam

    sorry for the errors I was writing using my phone

  21. Dr Salah Al Bander

    Huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum !

  22. Dave-o

    I’m claiming that in religious cases, there is often so much social and familial pressure on people (expecially younger people) to accede to religious dogma, that they are not in a position to be able to state their true choice. Hence we have to take all such disputes out of the confines of religion.

  23. Newsbot9

    Right. So basically you support a revolutionary change to the British system, which is – like it or not – heavily influenced by (c)hristian morality.

    That goes well beyond removing an important part of British civil law, which was my former objection.

    It’s typically hostile of militant, sadly, and would of course lead to a massive disengagement by tens of millions with the law. But details.

  24. Robert Morgan

    Agreed, we all must be equal under the law, irrespective of colour, race, religion or gender. Best wishes, totally support you

  25. Cobalt-Blue

    It is simple: Islam is not a fit religion for a free man nor woman. Those who push for Shariah are no better than slaves that seek to make everyone else a slave as well.

  26. Alec Toynton

    I couldn’t agree with you more. Well done for putting the case against Sharia Law so eloquently! Sharia Law is barbaric, sexist and homophobic and totally incompatible with civilized values. The recent rise in Islamism is an extremely worrying development and bodes ill for us all, in particular women and non-Muslims living in Islamic countries. The only way that we can have a decent future is for the human race to live according to secular and humane principles. We don’t want our lives governed by religion!

  27. Jerry C. Allen

    There are few bad article in Sharia law and I do not support this law. I am shocked to read this that “Under sharia a girl is eligible for marriage as soon as she begins her first period. This makes it difficult to maintain a minimum age for girls to be married.” Though I am a Personal Injury Lawyer Tacoma not a marriage lawyer but I do not support this law, and I believe not a single man or women would support this law.

  28. Arsalan

    Nahla Mahmud you were born and brought up as muslim. Women do not face inequality if they did Allah wouldn’t give heaven under the feet of mums. Islam provides a law that allows everyone to get justice. If you are that powerful rejects Allah’s order then do one thing, Please make sure that you do few things. Live forever in this life, Live younger always, don’t get old, don’t die. and if you can’t do that then come back to Islam because you know that its the only way to make your this life and hereafter better otherwise be ready for the torment in Allah’s court on the day of judgement. May Allah guide you soon.

  29. Muhammd

    Sharia Law is just for live life in peace and comfort, As you analysis in Saudi Arabia.

    Isalamic Sharia Law

  30. jipco saudi

    Islam gives message of peace and mankind, as shown in Holly Quran and Hadees and gives complete right to women according sharia law of Islam. Islamic Sharia Law

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