By Maryam Namazie*
I am writing to raise serious concerns over the Home Affairs Select Committee hearing on 1 November 2016 at which I gave oral testimony and to provide further and new evidence on the matter at hand, particularly with regards the transnational Islamist links with Sharia courts as well as the discriminatory content and intent of the courts, which violate the UK’s gender equality obligations and commitments to freedom of religion and expression. Please treat this letter as a submission to the inquiry.
“Islam’s Non-Believers“, a recent ITV documentary by award-winning filmmaker Deeyah Khan reveals that shunning, discrimination and violence against apostates is pervasive. The film highlights incitement to violence against those deemed “anti-Islam” from Muslim backgrounds here in Britain linked to the transnational Islamist movement, including via leafleting at mosques and by “community leaders” such as Shah Sadruddin. In the long term, vilification and shunning also amounts to psychological torture according to Savin Bapir-Tardy, counselling psychologist at the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation.
The threats of violence are not limited to ex-Muslims and atheists from Muslim backgrounds but all those who are seen to transgress Islamist norms of the “authentic Muslim”. For example, Usama Hasan, an Imam (whose father and sister are key figures in the Leyton Islamic Sharia Council), was threatened in Pakistan AND in Britain for his views on evolution and women’s rights. Secular Muslim activists like Yasmin Rehman have been branded “apostates” and “anti-faith” for speaking out against Sharia courts; Rehman has received threats of death and sexual violence as a result.
Hate crimes against those deemed “apostates” are on the rise, including against Christian convert 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. Far from being harmless labels, Ms Shah’s allegations feed into a climate of insecurity for dissenters.
Within a global context where apostasy is punishable by death in 13 countries and a prosecutable offence along with blasphemy in many more, accusations of “anti-faith” are dangerous. Our research shows that Sharia judges in Britain promote this climate of hate and violence. The existence of Sharia courts is not just a matter for “Islamic feminists” like the Muslim Women’s Network that supports their continuation; Muslims are not a homogeneous group. Also, the courts have real and negative implications for apostates and the wider society. For example, in a ruling (now deleted; screens hot available here) on whether Muslims can marry Ahmadiyyas amongst others, the Islamic Sharia Council replied:
“The three names Ahamdies, Qadianies and Mirzai are all used for one group. They follow Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian. This group is not a Muslim group so they claim to be so Islamic Scholars of the Muslim World have declared them as non-Muslims and therefore it not only a sin but an act of heresy to marry such a person. The difference between Muslims and this group is that while all the Muslims believe in the finality of the prophet hood of Muhammed (pbuh), this group believes otherwise, therefore going against one of the basic cardinal principles of belief in Islam.”
Sharia judges have promoted the death penalty for apostasy. For example, Haitham al Haddad (who has submitted written evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee and 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 (and father of Khola Hasan who gave oral evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee), 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 gathered by the One Law for All coalition (which includes Southall Black Sisters, Iranian Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation, British Muslims for Secular Democracy, Centre for Secular Space, Culture Project and Nari Diganta), 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, another woman who has submitted a testimony, went to a Sharia court judged by Anjem Choudary who defends the death penalty for apostasy and stoning to death for adultery.
Even questioning the competency or relevance of Sharia courts is equated with “disbelief”, a form of kufr, which has serious penalties include 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”.
In a Channel 4 documentary, Suhaib Hasan of the Islamic Sharia Council says to a woman who questions his unfair ruling: “there is no exception to this rule; in the Sharia there is no exception, you have to accept it”. The promotion of the Sharia that cannot be questioned or challenged is a calling card of the Islamist movement despite the fact that “Sharia is not the 6th pillar of Islam” according to Muslim secularist and Trustee of Centre for Secular Space Yasmin Rehman.
As Karima Bennoune, author of “Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here” and the current UN Rapporteur on Culture says:
“Muslim fundamentalism… stands out… by dint of its transnational nature, the ubiquity of its adherents, and the sophistication and reach of its armed groups. Muslim fundamentalists believe in the imposition of “God’s law” or sharia – and only their version of it. Beyond the law, Bennoune says, fundamentalists denounce secularists and seek to bring politicised religion to all spheres”.
*Spokesperson, One Law for All. Excerpt from the supplementary written evidence submitted (click HERE to read) by Maryam Namazie to the Home Affairs Select Committee Inquiry into Sharia Councils