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What would we think of a man who believed that his wife should be subservient to him, to be obedient to him?  What would we think of a man who demanded his right to physically chastise his wife if she did not conform to this?  What would we think of a man who demanded that, even if he were hitting her, that divorce rights rested with him only and the marriage could only end on his sayso?  What would we think of a man who demanded that his children were his only and his wife had no rights or say over what happened to them?  What would we think of a man who insisted that his wife’s word was worth only half of his and that anything she says in untrustworthy?  What would we think of a man who insisted upon his right to bring new “wives” in to his home?  What would we think of a man who insisted that his wife must submit to him sexually irrespective of whether she wanted to or not?  What would we think of this man?  I have little doubt that we would be united in our condemnation of his misogynistic ideas and thoughts and we would have little problem opposing them. 

But what I have just described is sharia family law.  The same sharia family law that is put in to practice, quite openly, across this country.  The same sharia family law that is practiced across the Islamic world.  The same sharia family law that has been defended by public figures and sold to the public as a matter of choice, or religious freedom. 

In this country, there are hundreds of formal and informal sharia courts and tribunals practicing just this family law.  The largest of these is the Islamic Sharia Council in east London.  There is also the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal, the Muslim Law Sharia Council and countless others, I'm sure, that we do not yet know about. 

When we talk about these, lawyers will become awfully bookish and demand that this is just a form of alternative dispute resolution, it’s all perfectly legal.  Well, that is not necessarily the case.  The Arbitration Act for example states that arbitration should be fair, impartial and in the public interest.  Sharia law is not fair, it is not impartial, and it is certainly not in the public interest.  But even if it were perfectly legal, here is the first pivotal point I want to make – this isnot solely or primarily a legal issue, but a political one.  The core of this problem is that the sharia councils in this country are run by men with a political aim – that is the establishment of a separate jurisdiction, governed by them, and which imposes sharia rather than English law upon British Muslims.  It is the exploitation of alternative dispute resolution for political power.  These bodies are run by Islamists, by jihadists, who reject democratic law and notions of equality. Their influence is growing and their grip is tightening. 

Let me give you some examples.  Unregistered marriage.  The Barrister Neil Addison wrote in 2010, following research, that only around 1/3 of Muslim marriages in the UK are registered under English law.  Furthermore, he stated that this situation is unique to Islam.  The effect of this is that the marriage is not governed by English law but sharia.  It is not recognised under English law and thus the protections provided by that law are missing.  A further effect is therefore that the course of the marriage remains under the control of sharia – so that everything from marriage, to divorce, to child custody, and even domestic violence are governed by sharia law.

Keep in mind, under sharia law a woman has no unilateral rights to divorce and must get the permission of either her husband or a group of clerics.  This is the case even when she is subjected to violence.  This is because thanks to Sura 4.34 of the Koran, a man has the right to physically chastise his wife for disobedience. 

Here is the relevant verse of the Koran:

Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them;

Haitham al-Haddad, a senior judge at the largest sharia council in Britain, is on record (look it up) as saying that a man should not be questioned why he hits his wife.  Suhaib Hasan, another senior figure, when told by an undercover BBC reporter that she was being beaten, asked her whether the beatings were serious.  At another incident, he laughed when a woman told him her husband had hit her and said that the situation was not serious as he had hit her only once.  The fact of the matter is that these men believe in domestic violence as the right of men to control women. 

We must keep in mind that domestic violence is a criminal and not a civil matter, what we see then is the intended development of a separate criminal jurisdiction, starting with domestic violence.  The spokesman of the Muslim Arbitration Tribunal told the BBC that he was in negotiations with the police and the CPS so that such tribunals may be formally awarded criminal jurisdiction on matters of domestic violence.  (I contacted the CPS who denied any such negotiations or discussions had taken place.  However, confusion had been created as to the nature of sharia law and the public led to believe that 'if the CPS is negotiating to allow sharia, it can't be that bad'). 

If you want an idea as to what kind of criminal jurisdiction the men of sharia seek, Suhaib Hasan gives us some clues: “stoning will turn Britain in to a haven of peace” he said.  He has preached in mosques advocating the amputation of limbs, the flogging of the adulterers, the flogging of the drunkards.  He followed this statement with "then jihad against the non-Muslims". 

A further consequence of unregistered marriage in Britain has been an explosion in polygamy.  Of course because these marriages aren’t registered, the men can have several wives.  The effect of this is the reduction in the status of a wife – she is not an equal partner in a consenting relationship of two adults, but more likely to be one of many servants.  However there is a far more worrying and far more dangerous development that has resulted from unregistered marriage in Britain – and that is the practice of underage or child marriage.  The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation estimates that 100s of girls per year are forced in to underage marriage every year and figures from the government’s Forced Marriage Unit back up that claim. The organisation has claimed that girls of 10 years of age and younger are being married and yes, sent to live with their husbands and obliged to have sex with them.  Diana Nammi, the group’s leader, called these girls “a wife in a primary school uniform”.

Last year, an ITV undercover reporter approached 56 mosques asking if they would marry an underage girl.  18 of those mosques agreed.  These are mainstream British mosques.  One of these mosques was the Central Jamia Masjid Ghamkol Sharif Mosque in Birmingham, the second largest mosque in Britain. 

No action has been taken against the mosques or the men involved.  One imam caught on film was suspended but was back at work within a month.  Major institutions like the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the marriages but not because of the harm they cause to girls, but because they’re against the law of the land.  (One should always take note of what people fail to say).  Mufti Shams al-Huda al-Misbahi, based in Leeds, was also filmed agreeing to marry an underage girl.  He has also been an adviser to West Yorkshire police on matters of community cohesion, and has condemned forced marriage in the public domain. 

Let me make something else clear, this is not a feminist issue.  Indeed, most feminists are distinctly silent on these issues, this is a matter of freedom, of democracy, of civil rights – these things do not exist if women and girls are treated as property.  The oppression of women is the first step to totalitarianism, the first step to Islamism and the first step to sharia – we saw this in the wake of the Arab spring when despite national instability and economic upheavel, the veiling of women was a high priority. 

The second, or simultaneous, step on the road to totalitarianism is the destruction of perhaps the most important freedom of all – freedom of speech.  This is threatened in Britain not only through self-censorship such as when Channel 4 refuses to show a mundane cartoon, or a Parliamentary candidate openly threatened for tweeting a cartoon, or the burning of books… but it also manifested in the dishonest use of words and the manipulation of language.  I have often said that we are living in the year 1984, but George Orwell has described our current situation more than once.  In his essay Politics and the English Language, Mr Orwell pointed out how redefining language, so that words no longer have any true meaning, “is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable”.  This, we see over and over again with the so-called “interpretation” argument.  Let me give you an example; recently the charming Haitham al Haddad was asked on Channel 4 whether a man should be allowed to beat his wife.  To which Haddad replied ‘the word “beat” has a number of different interpretations’.  No it doesn’t.  Words have meanings, and pretending they don’t is pretending that black is white, that up is down, it is designed to confuse and as such represents a potent and dangerous political game.  In politics as in life, language matters, and being true to the meaning of words is vital if we are to debate and explain and understand the truth.    

I will finish by addressing a couple of final points; I am often asked why I single out Islam for criticism.  First of all, I do not.  I have frequently criticised other religious extremism and will continue to do so.  However, I will make this quite clear.  Islam deserves attention because, at this point in time, Islam has political control over the lives of millions of people, many of whom are suffering immensely as a result.  Because Islamist groups are currently blowing up civilians, slaughtering Christians en masse - while the West looks away, stoning people to death, oppressing and terrorising women in ways that are unimaginable.  Islamic states currently apply the death penalty for apostasy, for blasphemy, for adultery, for homosexuality.  Islamic states rule their people with utter brutality.  People tell me that stoning appears in the old testament so why only address it when discussing Islam?  To which I must say yes - stoning does appear in the Bible, but it isn’t being carried out in the name of the Bible.  It is however being carried out in the name of Islamic scripture and real people are really being murdered by way of this appalling cruelty.  That is the vital difference. 

Finally, there is another distinction to make; despite what Islamists will tell us – Islam and Muslims are not the same thing.  Muslims are human beings, most of them peaceful and getting on with their lives like anyone else.  But Islam has an objective existence – it is in the Quran and, for most Islamic sects, the ahadith as well.  By pretending that Islam is entirely subjective and open to interpretation is to employ the same word-play that I described moments ago.  That is not to say that some elements are not open to interpretation, but some of it is perfectly clear and we need to tell the truth about this.  Lying to ourselves because we are afraid to confront reality is putting this problem off for the next generation and the one after that.  We have no right to follow that path.

In conclusion, sharia law has arrived in Britain; it is here – both hidden and out in the open.  It is our duty to confront it.  For every woman and girl who is forced in to marriage, or beaten and abused, both now and in the future, it is our duty to defend her.  For every man and woman who wants to utilise their fundamental right to free expression, to criticise or leave their religion, without being terrorised or killed.  It is our duty to defend them, both now and in the future.  We have to do it now, before it is too late.

English law, which has spread across the world and is overwhelmingly just and fair, did not come in to being by accident.  The laws we have today were fought for over many centuries and we have a duty to defend them, for ourselves and future generations.

We do not have one law for all in Britain today.  We have a dangerous, political and religious ideology which is imposing itself on people within our country.  This is not alternative dispute resolution, and it isn’t arbitration either, it is jihad.  We are fighting it abroad, and it is high time we started fighting it at home.