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The Law Society and Sharia
The Law Society and Sharia
Earlier this year, the Law Society (the “trade union” for solicitors in England and Wales) issued guidance to its members on how to draw up wills in accordance with sharia law.
The guidance can be found here
In response, the Lawyers’ Secular Society (LSS) initiated a petition and called on the Law Society to withdraw the guidance:
The LSS is very concerned to learn that the Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, has recently issued a practice note on “Sharia compliant” wills.
Practice notes are guidance issued by the Law Society for specific areas of law.
This practice note contains the following wording:
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised.”
“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.”
Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:
“This is a very worrying move by the Law Society, and the LSS strongly condemns them for issuing this practice note.
By issuing this practice note the Law Society is legitimising and normalising – or at the very least being seen to legitimise and normalise – the distribution of assets in accordance with the discriminatory provisions of Sharia law. The Law Society is therefore being seen to legitimise and normalise Sharia law more generally. This is a matter of grave concern for the LSS given that Sharia law is inherently discriminatory against women and non-Muslims.
As a matter of law, testators (the person making the will) can generally dispose of their assets as they wish, but there are restrictions to this principle, for example to ensure dependants are provided for.
Although the Law Society’s practice note does not change the law, it does undermine, for example, the way adopted children, children born out of wedlock, and children who are deemed to be of another faith are viewed. This is a worrying precedent to set. At the very least this practice note undermines the dignity of these children; at the worst it starts to slowly undermine the legal protections rightly afforded to them.
The practice note is dangerous to the priceless notion of equality before the law for people of all faiths and none. It potentially paves the way, ultimately, for a change in the law so that different laws of intestacy (the situation where someone dies without making a will) are applied to Muslims, or those who are deemed to be Muslims.
The practice note states that ‘there are specific differences between Sunni and Shia rules on succession. These differences are not covered in this practice note’. In time will the Law Society publish different guidance notes for different branches of Islam?
The LSS calls on the Law Society to withdraw its shocking practice note without delay.”
The LSS wrote to the Law Society, you can read the letter here.
It was soon discovered that wills guidance was not the sole sharia endorsement that was being put forward by the Law Society - formal training in sharia law is also being provided by the Society to lawyers in England and Wales. The Telegraph reported in April that high street lawyers were being offered a course described as “introduction to Islamic Sharia law for small firms”. You can read the full article here.
Also in April, the Lawyers Secular Society, along with other campaigners, held a rally outside the Law Society’s offices in central London protesting against the guidance. Reports on the rally can be found here and here.
In May, the Law Society responded to the Lawyers’ Secular Society – you can read the letter here.
The LSS issued a follow-up statement here.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling warned that the Law Society was at risk of “undermining the rule of law”. He stated: “The Law Society will need to satisfy themselves that nothing in the course of guidance undermines the principle that Sharia law is not part of the law of England and Wales.”
Conservative MP Robert Buckland, a member of the Commons’ Justice committee and a part-time judge, said: “There is one law in this country, and it is the law of England, Wales Scotland through our common law and statutes. We don’t have room for other legal systems and everybody who lives in our country should abide by our law. The Law Society has a wider duty to uphold our legal system. They are validating a set of values that are not part of our law.”
You can read the full Telegraph report here.
Later, in June, the LSS reported that the Solicitors’ Regulation Authority (SRA) had endorsed the guidance issued by the Law Society – you can read their statement here.
The LSS then wrote to the SRA questioning their endorsement of a system of law that discriminates against women and non-Muslims and whether, in doing so, the SRA was in breach of its duties under equalities laws. You can read the letter here.
In July, the SRA responded to the LSS – you can read the letter here.
The SRA confirmed that they had now removed the reference, which pointed solicitors to the guidance issued by the Law Society, from its own guidance notes.
You can read the LSS response to this withdrawal here.
Sharia Watch UK would like to thank the Lawyers’ Secular Society for its robust and principled position in opposing this dangerous endorsement of sharia law in Britain. We fully support the LSS, and other campaigners, who have spoken out in opposition to the Law Society’s position.
In issuing this guidance, Sharia Watch UK believes that the Law Society has helped to disguise, and has sanitised, the gender discrimination inherent in sharia law. We believe it has aided the expansion of sharia law in Britain, undermined the democratic concept of one law for all, and threatened the rights of Muslim women and children in the UK.
Lawyers' Secular Society - http://lawyerssecularsociety.wordpress.com/