Australia must fight calls for sharia law

ATTENTION has again been focused on sharia law in Australia since the flogging of a convert in Sydney for drinking alcohol.

Sharia law is fundamentally the demand of Islamic states to limit citizens’ rights.

My organisation, One Law for All, has been campaigning against sharia and religious laws in Britain and its resulting ever-shrinking secular spaces and brutal and discriminatory laws, particularly against women, for nearly three years now. The same must be done in Australia and everywhere.

While the far-Right blames, and scapegoats, Muslim immigration for the rise in sharia law in order to further its racist and inhuman agenda, it is the people living under Islamic laws, or the many, who have fled sharia and sought refuge in Australia and elsewhere who are the principal victims of Islamism, and at the forefront of the struggle against it.

Nowhere is opposition to sharia and Islamism greater than in countries ruled by Islamic laws.

Islamic groups and Islamists will often feign representation of Muslims, while in fact Muslims, or those labelled as such, are not a homogeneous group like any other. There are rights activists, freethinkers, socialists, secularists, humanists and atheists among them. Sharia law is not the culture of Muslims but Islamist culture. The claim of representation by Islamists is in fact shared by far-Right groups (which by the way have more in common with the Islamists than not); they too wrongly assert that sharia is the consequence of an increase in the Muslim population. The call by proponents for the accommodation of sharia law in Australia does a great disservice to the many that have resisted, fled, and sought refuge in Australia even if it is primarily regarding sharia’s civil code.

As one supporter of the One Law for All campaign in Britain has said: “It is supported precisely because it is limited to denying women’s rights in the family. No hands are being cut off, so there’s no problem.”

In fact, sharia family law is a pillar of women’s oppression in countries under Islamic laws. And it often exists even when the penal code no longer applies.

Under sharia law’s civil code, child custody reverts to the father at a preset age, even if the father is abusive. Women who remarry lose custody of their children even if the child has not reached the preset age and sons are entitled to inherit twice the share of daughters.

Also a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s. A woman’s marriage contract is between her male guardian and her husband, and a Muslim woman is not permitted to marry a non-Muslim. A man can have four wives and divorce his wife by simple repudiation, whereas a woman must give justifications for requesting a divorce, some of which are extremely difficult to prove.

The Islamic Sharia Council in Britain explains why this is so: With regards to women’s testimony, if one forgets, the other can remind her. It’s the difference between a man and a woman’s brain. A woman’s character is not so good for a case where testimony requires attention and concentration.

And this also applies to divorce. Women are governed by emotion; men by their minds, so he will think twice before uttering talaq (divorce). It goes on to say it is not derogatory, but the secret of women’s nature.

While there is an obvious difference between stoning a woman to death and denying her the right to divorce and child custody, the fundamentals and misogyny behind sharia’s civil and penal codes are the same, it is just a matter of degree. It is deceptive, or at best a mistake, not to see the civil aspects of sharia law as part of, and an extension of, its penal code.

Despite the discrimination, proponents of sharia law argue that adult women have a right to choose sharia courts. But the use of the terms “choice” and “rights” are highly deceptive.

Firstly, many are pressured into going to these courts. In one study in Britain, a staggering four out of 10 women attending the sharia court were party to civil injunctions issued against their husbands on the grounds of violence and threatening behaviour. They were not even meant to be in the same vicinity with them — let alone be, as they were, in a Sharia Council mediating civil matters.

In this way, these privatised legal processes were ignoring not only state law intervention and due process, but providing little protection and safety for the women in question. Further, the interviews and observation data revealed that husbands used this opportunity to negotiate reconciliation, financial settlements for divorce, and in many cases access to children.

Also, there is very little choice when living under an Islamic inquisition. Islamists don’t let you pick and choose, but will threaten or intimidate anyone who transgresses their medieval norms. They say so openly.

An Islamic sharia judge in Britain has said, “in the sharia, there is no exception; you have to accept it”. They’ve also said very clearly, “belittling (sharia law) or calling (it) out-of-date constitutes disbelief as Allah says and we know what the penalty for disbelief is”.

Using terms such as “rights” and “choice” are merely public relations ploys by Islamists and their supporters. It’s absurd when Islamists talk of choice. There is no choice when they are in power. And it’s deceptive. One can justify anything by saying it’s a choice. The hadith on stoning comes to mind. It is said that a woman begged Mohammad thrice before he reluctantly agreed to stone her to death.

These are not choices. To say it is so is to say that Muslim women are sub-human. They don’t want custody of their children; they want to remain in violent situations and face marital rape or unhappy marriages, they want their testimony to be half that of a man’s. By using the terminology of choice, proponents hope to dupe the public into ignoring the institutionalised violence and misogyny in sharia law.

Rights, justice, inclusion, equality and respect are for people, not for beliefs and certainly not for inhumane parallel legal systems. Sharia law contravenes human rights. In order to safeguard the rights and freedoms of all those living in Australia, there must be one secular law for all and no religious courts.

Maryam Namazie is the Spokesperson of the One Law for All campaign: www. For more information, read Sharia Law in Britain: A Threat to One Law for All and Equal Rights.

August 12, 2011 |  Maryam Namazie | The Australian | Source: "Australia must fight calls for sharia law"

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pseudonym: Ball-peen Hammer Green

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