Although the issue is framed as a matter of choice for communities and individuals in the UK, many believe that there is no real option for women in Muslim families to avoid using faith-based arbitration, due to the stigma of rejecting their family’s faith. “Many Muslim women and girls are oppressed and victimised by their families. Some have been killed for being ‘westernised’. How can a woman in that position ask for her equal rights as a human being to be respected?” explains Ms Nammi.
While interpretations of sharia law vary, in the family context it usually results in women having fewer rights to divorce, child custody, alimony and inheritance. “Establishing sharia law in Britain would send a message to the patriarchal and reactionary members of the Muslim community that they are free ignore women’s rights as long as they can justify it in the name of religions and culture.
We are starting this campaign to tell Rowan Williams and others that sharia law is not inevitable. What is inevitable is that it is discriminatory. Only a secular society can guarantee women’s equal treatment before the law.”
Attempts to introduce sharia law into the Canadian legislature were defeated by the concerted action of women’s rights activists across the world. “Women’s rights activists have been fighting for reform of the civil codes in many countries where Islam is the state religion,” says Ms Nammi. “To introduce these reactionary and discriminatory ideas into Britain would be a great setback for women’s rights – one that we are determined fight and not to accept.”
Campaign website: http://www.nosharia.org.uk