Good news! Law Society withdraws its sharia guidance

Law Society

The Lawyers’ Secular Society has welcomed the news that the Law Society has today (24 November 2014) withdrawn its formal practice note of 13 March 2014 on “sharia succession rules”.

The LSS is pleased to see that the Law Society has now deleted the page of its website that contained the sharia guidance (at http://www.lawsociety.org.uk/advice/practice-notes/sharia-succession-rules/). The page now says “The page you are looking for cannot be found”. The LSS has preserved a PDF of the now-withdrawn guidance here.

The Law Society has sent the LSS a letter which says:

“We have reviewed our practice note on Sharia succession principles following your feedback, and that of our members and other stakeholders. Following this review, we have withdrawn the note and it will no longer be available through our website. We have no plans to amend or replace the note.”

“We are mindful of the criticism we received and we apologise.”

You can read the full letter from the Law Society here and you can see their press release here.

The sharia guidance contained provisions, at section 3.6, which explicitly discriminated against women, non-Muslims, adopted children and “illegitimate” children:

“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”

“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs”

The LSS’s objections to the practice note have been as follows:

  1. The Law Society had issued guidance on a subject outside of its remit (theology).
  2. The Law Society had given sharia, which is not only theology but which also has a very poor human rights record, the credibility and respectability of a legal discipline within our jurisdiction.
  3. The LSS had not in any way challenged the English law principle of testamentary freedom but the LSS strongly felt it was not appropriate for the Law Society to give explicit guidance on how to achieve discrimination. The Law Society would not and should not give guidance on, for example, how to achieve racist objectives in a will even though racist provisions would be lawful, and nor should it have given guidance on how to achieve sexist and religiously discriminatory objectives in a will.
  4. Anything that undermines or competes with English law, or that is perceived as undermining or competing with English law, is damaging to the principle of equality before the law and the rule of law more generally.
  5. The practice note was at odds with the Law Society’s own stated commitment to equality and diversity.

The LSS was the first organisation to raise the alarm about this guidance. The LSS strongly and publicly condemned the Law Society and sent two open letters (here and here) asking the Law Society to justify its decision, and it also submitted a formal complaint.

In April, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian spoke at a large public protest outside the Law Society’s offices in Chancery Lane, London, alongside a number of human rights campaigners. Charlie Klendjian’s speech is here (audio) and here (PDF).

The LSS was also the first organisation to report that the Solicitors Regulation Authority had endorsed the Law Society’s practice note. (The SRA is the profession’s regulatory body, whereas the Law Society is the representative body and often referred to as a trade union.)

The LSS challenged the SRA’s decision to endorse the Law Society’s practice note on the basis the SRA is a public authority for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010. Shortly afterwards the SRA confirmed in writing to the LSS its decision to withdraw that endorsement “given the concerns that have been raised”. This put pressure on the Law Society to withdraw the sharia guidance.

In August, the LSS and representatives from the National Secular Society had a frank meeting with the Law Society’s then-Chief Executive Des Hudson and the head of its equality and diversity committee (and former President of the Law Society) Lucy Scott-Moncrieff, at the end of which the Law Society said it would think carefully about whether to retain the practice note.

On 24 November 2014 the Law Society announced its decision to withdraw the practice note.

You can see a full chronology of this campaign’s key events and media coverage on this page of the LSS website.

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“Withdrawal of this guidance was the only possible way for the Law Society to retain the confidence of the profession and the public. We welcome the decision.

“We are particularly pleased that the Law Society has acknowledged the criticism and apologised.

“We are also pleased that there are no plans to amend or replace the practice note. If the Law Society had decided to reissue ostensibly “benign” or “non-discriminatory” sharia guidance it is highly likely we would have challenged that too, because it is not the Law Society’s business to issue Islamic theological guidance to its members any more than it is their business to issue any other form of theological guidance.

“In this jurisdiction sharia has the status of mere theology. Long may that continue. Sharia also has a truly dreadful human rights record, and the highest court in our land, the then House of Lords, has already held that sharia breaches the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore by issuing any sharia guidance at all the Law Society would still be legitimising and endorsing sharia more generally. Arguably, “benign” sharia guidance would be even more harmful than the discriminatory guidance we have seen because it would be highly deceptive: it is an observable fact that sharia is not benign. It is not the Law Society’s business to reform sharia or to peddle sharia.

“I am very proud that the LSS was the first organisation to raise the alarm about this practice note, by way of LSS member Sadikur Rahman’s blog post of 18 March 2014, five days after the Law Society had issued its guidance. Events and media coverage snowballed from there at some pace.

“But we shall keep sentiments of victory to a minimum because we shouldn’t be celebrating the withdrawal of theological guidance, let alone fundamentally discriminatory theological guidance, issued in a liberal democracy by a key secular institution such as the Law Society. We shouldn’t be celebrating battles or asserting basic principles that – so far as we thought – had been satisfactorily settled some time ago.

“Challenging well-established and powerful institutions like the Law Society and the Solicitors Regulation Authority, never mind so publicly and never mind on a subject such as sharia, has been a hugely daunting task for a tiny organisation such as the LSS which relies purely on the goodwill and helpful assistance of its volunteer members.

“I would like to warmly thank all my LSS colleagues who have contributed in any way to this campaign, publicly or behind the scenes. I would also like to thank the many other campaigners and also supporters who have played their part, and indeed all the journalists who have raised the profile of this crucial campaign.

“Given that the LSS has been the only group of lawyers to challenge this sharia guidance publicly, and for all we know at all, we hope this campaign will alert the legal profession to the ever-present threat of unwelcome religious influences on our legal system, and especially sharia. We hope the legal profession will recognise the importance of maintaining a secular legal system no matter what.

“We see the horrific consequences of fusing Islam with law or power on an almost daily basis now, domestically and internationally. It is vital that the legal profession in this country takes a principled stance against sharia and realises that our legal system is worthy of defending against sharia. We should have immense pride in our wonderful legal system and we should be incredibly protective towards it.

“We reiterate that we welcome the Law Society’s decision to withdraw this guidance, and we are delighted that good sense has finally prevailed. We are also happy to state publicly that the LSS would welcome any opportunity to be involved in future discussions with the Law Society or the SRA concerning the appropriate approach of the profession to Islam or any other religion.”

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“Learning Jihad”: read the Sharia Watch UK report

Learning JihadSharia Watch UK (SWUK) has now published its report about student radicalisation, “Learning Jihad: Islamists in British Universities”.

You can read the full report here (PDF).

SWUK Spokesperson Anne Marie Waters was due to present the report on Wednesday 12 November 2014 at the University of West London (UWL), and LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian was also due to speak. The event had been organised by UWL’s Law Society but unfortunately, with just over 24 hours to go, UWL decided to cancel the event.

UWL’s reasons for cancelling the event were that they were concerned about bad PR and a lack of balance. UWL also claim that the UWL Law Society did not follow various administrative procedures for event booking – something strongly denied by UWL Law Society President Jay Marshall. You can read more about the cancellation of the event here.

The LSS urges people to read and share this report. In particular there are some clear conclusions from the report, including this section:

“There is endless debate about the “cause” of radicalisation. There is no shortage of theories placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of external actors and external factors. Perhaps the time is finally upon us to ask whether the “cause” of Islamic radicalisation is within Islam itself.”

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“This is an important report that Sharia Watch UK has put together, and we thank them for it.

“Reading the report is like watching a car crash. Whether the subject is extremists on campus, censorship, anti-Semitism or gender segregation, a clear picture develops of a very concerning state of affairs. And let’s remember that the National Union of Students couldn’t even bring themselves to pass a motion condemning Islamic State – on the basis it supposedly amounted to “blatant Islamophobia”.

“The LSS reiterates its disgust at UWL’s decision to cancel the event on 12 November, and we call on them again to allow the UWL Law Society to reschedule it without delay. It is clear from this report that a full and frank discussion of the relationship between Islam and universities is desperately needed.”


Image credit above: Sharia Watch UK

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Sharia Watch UK report: University of West London cancels event about student radicalisation

Learning JihadThe Lawyers’ Secular Society is appalled at the decision of the University of West London (UWL) to cancel an event which was to highlight the problem of Islamic radicalisation.

The event was planned for Wednesday 12 November and UWL decided to cancel it today, with just over 24 hours to go.

At the event, Anne Marie Waters of Sharia Watch UK (SWUK) was due to present the findings of a forthcoming SWUK report about radicalisation in universities called “Learning Jihad”, and LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian was also due to speak.

The event had kindly been organised by UWL’s Law Society, whose President Jay Marshall was also scheduled to talk.

The report, which is due to be published on Thursday 13 November, covers:

•    Jihadist speakers
•    Gender segregation
•    Censorship
•    The role of student unions
•    Funding of British universities
•    Anti-Semitism
•    The Prevent Strategy

The LSS understands that UWL cancelled the event for the following reasons:

1. The university was worried about bad PR.

2. The university thought the event wasn’t balanced enough. However, it was always clear from the start that the purpose of the event was the presentation of a report and not a debate between two opposing sides arguing a motion. In addition, the event was to be two hours long with one hour devoted to questions, comments and challenges from the audience. Also, the university’s Islamic Society had specifically been invited.

UWL’s Interim University Secretary, Hugh Jones, has since outlined some further reasons for the event’s cancellation and has sent this to UWL Law Society President Jay Marshall by email, which the LSS is reproducing below. (Note that the email mentions an incorrect event date of Thursday 13 November – it was Wednesday 12 November.)

Dear All

I am writing with regard to the Sharia Watch public meeting which has been scheduled to take place at UWL on Thursday 13 November, and advertised on the Sharia Watch website.  I have discussed this with various colleagues, including Professor Kath Mitchell (DVC), Professor Nick Braisby (PVC), Professor Julia Fionda (Head of the School of Law), Josh Goddard and Ben Whittaker of the Students’ Union; Gurvir Dhillon (Lettings Manager) and Leann Lavery (Media Relations Manager).

The meeting was booked on behalf of the Student Law Society.  This society is not affiliated to the Students’ Union and therefore does not have the right to book rooms within the University.  The booking was not made through the normal and approved channels for a student society meeting – that is, via the Students’ Union.

The University has a duty under the Education (No. 2) Act 1986 s43(1) to promote freedom of speech within the law on campus for members, students, and employees and visiting speakers.  In particular (s42(2) of the Act) we have a duty to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that the use of any premises of the establishment is not denied to any individual or body of persons on any ground connected with the beliefs or views of that individual or any member of that body or the policy or objectives of that body.

We also have a duty of care to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people on the campus.  A considerable interest has been generated by the meeting, giving me cause for concern that attendance will be considerably larger than has been allowed for; that stewarding arrangements will not be sufficient; and generally that we can safely host the meeting.

For these reasons

(i) That the meeting was not properly booked through the University’s agreed procedures, giving us the opportunity to properly consider the issues involved in hosting the meeting; and

(ii) That I have real cause for concern about the safety of people using the campus because of the meeting

I have decided that the room booking should be cancelled, and that the meeting cannot therefore take place at UWL.

I have sought to contact David Barling-Gasson, the Law School tutor responsible for liaison with the Student Law Society, to discuss this, but have been unable to do so.  I have discussed this with Julia Fionda, Head of the School of Law.  I will separately be emailing David Barling-Gasson and Jay Marshall, President of the Student Law Society, to let them know.

Leann Lavery, Media Relations Manager, will be drafting a standard response which can be sent to enquirers.  As discussed, Leann, it would be great if you could liaise with the Students’ Union in this regard. Leann will share a standard response tomorrow.

This email is sent to all of those involved at UWL in the correspondence on this topic.

Hugh

Hugh Jones
Interim University Secretary
University of West London

Jay Marshall has told the LSS that his Law Society is indeed affiliated to the Students’ Union, that it does have room-booking rights, and that it did follow the process for booking rooms. The LSS also understands from Jay that many Muslims were excited about the event as they thought it was very important.

Jay told the LSS: “If booking the event has taught me one thing, it is how to draw out a university’s inner coward. Frankly, I don’t know what’s more offensive – the hypocrisy or the wasting of my time and that of the team.”

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“The LSS is very grateful to Jay Marshall and his team at the UWL Law Society for their valiant efforts. Sadly, they simply weren’t to know that a discussion of Islam in a British university in the 21st century is forbidden.

“The irony meter appears to be firmly within the red section of the dial. The forthcoming SWUK report lays out some disturbing examples of censorship that have taken place on campus, but rather than give SWUK and the LSS the opportunity to present these findings about censorship – not to mention all the other concerns in the report – the University of West London has chosen to apply more censorship. In terms of intelligence levels, this is like attempting to extinguish a fire with a gigantic bucket of petrol.

“The report also highlights some of the extremist speakers who have spoken on British campuses, but unfortunately it is not possible to come to a British university to talk about that.

“UWL’s hyper-sensitive approach is symptomatic of a highly dysfunctional relationship between Islam and British universities. No matter what people’s concerns are about Islam, universities seem intent on pressing a self-destruct button. They will stop at nothing to avoid an open discussion about Islam. If we can’t discuss ideas in a place of learning, where can we discuss them?

“What is particularly disturbing about this instance of censorship is that the report specifically talks about the problem of censorship on campus and how those who wish to criticise Islam or merely have an open discussion about it are being increasingly side-lined.

“The task of holding Islam to account is becoming all but impossible, just when it is becoming absolutely essential. The timing of this report, and UWL’s decision to cancel the event, could not be more salient. British Muslims, including university students, are travelling abroad to fight for ISIS, an organisation of the utmost barbarism even by the standards of jihadist groups. It is imperative that we be allowed to have these discussions otherwise we will sink deeper and deeper into an abyss.

“We hope as many people as possible will join the LSS in loudly condemning UWL’s disgraceful decision, calling on them to apologise for this cancellation, and calling on them to allow UWL’s Law Society to reschedule this event without delay. When people read the SWUK report they will see just how serious the situation on campus is, and therefore just how shameful it is to place any barriers whatsoever to discussion.”


Image credit above: Sharia Watch UK

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Sharia Watch UK: new report about radicalisation in British universities

SWUKUpdate: with less than 24 hours to go, the University of West London has cancelled this event. More details here.


On Wednesday 12 November 2014 Sharia Watch UK (SWUK) will be publishing a new report on Islamic extremism and its influence in British universities. The report will cover:

  • Jihadist speakers
  • Gender segregation
  • Censorship
  • The role of student unions
  • Funding of British universities
  • Anti-Semitism
  • The Prevent Strategy

The publication of the report will be accompanied by a discussion at the University of West London (UWL) on 12 November. Anne Marie Waters of SWUK will be presenting the report’s findings and LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian will also be speaking. The LSS is very grateful to UWL’s Law Society for kindly hosting the event.

The event is primarily for UWL students and is not open to the general public, but it will be filmed and a link to the film will appear on this page in due course. The report itself will be on SWUK’s website from 13 November, and again a link to the report will appear on this page. Update: the report is here (PDF).

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“There was already ample cause for concern about the influence of Islam on British campuses even before the stomach-churning spectacles of Islamic State’s medieval barbarism, and the deeply unsettling fact that many British Muslims are enthusiastically choosing to travel abroad to fight with them.

“To give just two examples over the last year or so, the LSS has been shocked to see the ease with which gender segregation and censorship have become features of British university life, and also that some student and university bodies have not just stood by and allowed this to unfold but have actively encouraged and enabled it.

“The rise of Islamic State, together with the ideological and even physical support it enjoys from many British Muslims, including university students, has merely raised the stakes even higher and brought into sharper focus the often highly dysfunctional relationship between British universities and Islam.

“For far too long any criticism of Islam and the harm carried out in its name, on campus and beyond – and no matter how measured or indeed factual that criticism is – has been met with instantaneous accusations of “racism” and “Islamophobia”. No doubt there will be similar accusations in the wake of this report. We can set our watches to that.

“The LSS will press on regardless. We will continue to speak out, we will continue to support organisations like Sharia Watch UK that speak out, and we will refuse to be silenced by straw-clutching playground antics such as accusations of “racism” and “Islamophobia” which are designed to shut down scrutiny and to intimidate.

“The LSS urges anyone who shares our concerns to speak out about these issues. Otherwise our predicament will only follow an already very familiar pattern: it will just get worse and worse.”

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“Islamophobia” and the legal profession

PhobiasBy LSS member Daniel Anderson

“Phobias are more pronounced than fears. They develop when a person has an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger about a situation or object.”

(NHS website; my emphases in bold.)

Having a phobia must be terrible. According to medical experts it can cause a sufferer to go to irrational lengths to avoid whatever the perceived danger is. Those unfortunate to have a phobia can suffer symptoms including dizziness, nausea, sweating, increased heart rate, trembling, and stomach problems. Treatment is often necessary and usually involves counselling or psychotherapy.

But is it possible to have a phobia in relation to ideas? Put another way, is it possible to have an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger from mere words? I would argue that it is not possible.

When, for example, I have (often heated) political disagreements with friends I don’t suddenly blurt out that they are a Socialistophobe. I cannot also recall them retorting back and calling me a Libertarianophobe. Furthermore, has anyone ever heard of these following terms:

  • Freemarketophobia
  • Environmentalistophobia
  • Animalrightsophobia
  • Tradeunionistophobia
  • Communitarianophobia
  • Utilitarianophobia
  • Marxisimophobia
  • Feminisimophobia

I could go on indefinitely…but the point is now made. The ridiculous made-up examples above show that it is impossible to have an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger from ideas because ideas, unlike situations or objects, are flexible concepts that are open to adoption, adaptation or rejection by us all.

Despite this, there is one notion of a phobia in relation to ideas which has now entered the mainstream and gained public acceptance: Islamophobia. I am not sure exactly how this was allowed to happen. But what I do know is that the term Islamophobia – which has nothing to do with exaggerated or unrealistic senses of danger about a situation or an object – is now being used to bully and silence secular Muslims and women’s rights advocates who believe that all people deserve the same basic legal rights.

Unfortunately the legal profession has caved in to this bullying too. Worries about being accused of Islamophobia explains why the Law Society drafted its sharia practice note. And worries about being accused of Islamophobia explains why “Women in Law London”, a group recently set up with the apparent aim of “promoting and engaging the next generation of women leaders in law”, cannot raise a squeak of dissent (see here and here) against a Law Society practice note that states at section 3.6 that women are to be regarded as worth half of men (keep up with the City networking to get those six-figure salaries though ladies!)

Islamophobia is a sinister term which must be pushed back out of the mainstream and removed from the public consciousness. Islamophobia deserves as much credibility as those ridiculous terms I have made up above. We must recognise the value of all ideas being publicly challenged. Challenging the ideas of Islam is not the result of an exaggerated or unrealistic sense of danger. Instead, challenging the ideas of Islam is simply the same as rationally challenging any other ideas – be they religious, political, economical, philosophical, or scientific.

So, does being critical of the Law Society’s sharia practice note make me Islamophobic? I would say that the term is meaningless and that those supporters of the practice note had better come up with some actual ideas of their own if they want to continually defend its publication and all the discriminatory endorsements that go along with it. I haven’t heard any ideas from them yet. In fact all I continue to see is laziness and cowardice from the Law Society and others in the legal profession in not promoting the rule of law. For shame.

I started with a quote so I’m going to end with one. It’s a quote that is often incorrectly attributed to the late Christopher Hitchens but in fact it originates from a humble tweeter called Andrew Cummins who goes by the Twitter handle @Vodkaninja:

“Islamophobia. A word created by fascists, and used by cowards, to manipulate morons.”

Which one (or which ones) are you?


Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS

Image credit above: Phobics Society

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Victims like Reyhaneh Jabbari deserve protection, not punishment

ReyhanehBy LSS member Yassi Molazadeh

My school classmate Reyhaneh Jabbari, a 27 year old female, is at risk of imminent execution (by hanging) in Iran in less than 24 hours for acting in self-defence against an attempted rape by Morteza Abdolahi Sarbandi, a former member of the Iranian intelligence service.

Please share this post and protest with the hashtag #SaveReyhanehJabbari and contact me if you can offer any assistance. The international uproar will stop the Iranian authorities from taking Reyhaneh to the gallows. I have been in direct contact with her mother and it has been confirmed that she will be transferred tonight for execution to take place in the early hours of the morning of Saturday 25 October 2014.

I remember a photograph from school where we were singing together, on stage. I had written the song and organised it. The song was titled “Goodbye”. Goodbye indeed…we never found each other again after I moved to England. Recently I found the photograph and began searching on Facebook for the names on the back of it. “Reyhaneh Jabbari” only led me to group links pleading “Save Reyhaneh”. I didn’t believe it was the same Reyhaneh. It crushed me.

For the past seven years Reyhaneh has been waiting to be hanged in a high security prison in Iran whilst I have enjoyed absolute freedom and achieved my dreams. It hurts.

Reyhaneh, an interior designer, was in a coffee shop speaking on the phone about her work, a conversation which was coincidentally overheard by Morteza, who approached her for professional advice about renovating his office. They then set a date to meet at his office in order to see and discuss Morteza’s renovation project.

On the day of the meeting, Morteza picked up Reyhaneh in his car. On the way to his office, Morteza stopped at a pharmacy, purchased an item which is stated to be a condom (while Reyhaneh waited in the car), got into the car again and drove to his office. After arriving at their destination Reyhaneh realized that the place did not look like a work place at it was just a rundown house. Inside the house, Reyhaneh saw two drinks on the table. Morteza went inside and quickly locked the door from the inside, put his arms around Reyhaneh’s waist and told her that she had “no way of escaping”. A struggle soon ensued. Reyhaneh, trying to defend herself, stabbed Morteza in the shoulder and escaped. Morteza died from bleeding.

Lab analysis showed the drinks Morteza intended to serve to Reyhaneh contained sedatives. Regardless, Reyhaneh was arrested. She was told by the authorities that the murder had been set up [by them] and was “politically motivated”.  Nevertheless, Reyhaneh was tortured until she confessed to the murder, and afterwards she was given the death penalty which was upheld by the Supreme Court. As a result she is to be executed at any moment.

Under Islamic Law (Sharia law), only the family of the deceased victim has the power to stop the execution of the accused by forgiving them. Sadly, this was not the conclusion of all the meetings and negotiations, attended by prominent Iranian artists, athletes, writers and intellectuals.

There are still many questions to be answered such as: is it a fact that a large, strong man died of only one stab wound to his shoulder from a blow delivered by Reyhaneh, who fled the scene immediately? What needs to be asked from the judges is: who and what really killed Mr. Sarbandi and what was the evidence at the scene of the crime? What happened to the CD that had all the collected evidence in the case and why did the Islamic Republic of Iran’s prosecutor, Shamloo, destroy it? Is Reyhaneh a scapegoat for a politically motivated murder by the regime? After all, did the victim not introduce himself as working for the Intelligence Service as well as being a physician? Is it possible that the regime needs to kill Reyhaneh to cover up a political murder that it committed?

Her mother, Shole Pakravan, has posted stating “Please let everyone know. Reyhaneh just rang. She said the pressure is mounting up. They had woken her up. Her friends did not let them take her away. I told her resist going as much as you can and if you end up being taken, where ever you are, we will be with you! Whenever you can, call me. She said goodbye again. My legs are shaking again” .

Shole sent another post: “They just called from the prison head office. They told us to an address for the final visit. They will be transferring her tonight. Damn lies and my trust. As soon as I have more news I will update you via my friend and my brother. I’m off to see my ill and feverish daughter”.

Please save my childhood friend.

For further information and updates please see:

Thank you.

Yassi Molazadeh

ymolazadeh@hotmail.com

Update: unfortunately Reyhaneh was executed by the Islamic regime on Saturday 25 October 2014

Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS

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Laziness and cowardice: what Immanuel Kant would think of the Law Society’s Sharia guidance

Law SocietyBy LSS member Daniel Anderson

Reading (and rereading) the Law Society’s “Sharia Succession Rules” Practice Note, a question suddenly occurred to me: what would one of our greatest moral philosophers, Immanuel Kant, think of it? I think it is fair to say that he would look at the Practice Note with scorn and contempt.

In one of his most famous essays, An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’, Kant proposes that, as human beings, we should all be prepared to think for ourselves:

“Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without guidance of another. This immaturity is self-incurred when its cause is not lack of understanding, but lack of resolution and courage to use it without guidance of another. The motto of the enlightenment is therefore: Sapere Aude! [dare to know]. Have courage to use your own understanding!”

Kant goes on to further state that the failure to think for ourselves, as human beings, will lead to the rights of fellow human beings to be trampled upon. The failure to think for ourselves will lead us to distrust others and so hand over complete control to a select few:

“The guardians who have kindly taken upon themselves the work of supervision will soon see to it that by far the largest part of mankind (including the entire fair sex) should consider the step forward to maturity not only as difficult but also as highly dangerous”.

Kant wrote his essay An Answer to the Question: ‘What is Enlightenment?’  in 1784.

Turning back to the 21st century, does the Law Society’s Sharia Succession Rules Practice Note enable us all, as human beings, to think for ourselves? It is submitted that it emphatically does not. In the Practice Note is extremely detailed prescriptive guidance on how the estate of a deceased person must be divided. We all should be familiar by now as to what this detailed prescriptive guidance is. Nevertheless, it is worth reiterating again what is actually in the Practice Note (at section 3.6):

“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. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”

“…illegitimate and adopted children are not Sharia heirs.”

This highly detailed prescriptive guidance wouldn’t look out of place coming from a fundamentalist Wahhabi school. And yet the Law Society has simply accepted such guidance uncritically without any apparent thoughts of its own.

What are the reasons for not allowing one to think for him or herself? Kant, in his essay, states that it is laziness and cowardice:

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a proportion of men, even when nature has long emancipated them from alien guidance (naturaliter maiorennes), nevertheless gladly remain immature for life. For the same reasons, it is all too easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. It is so convenient to be immature!”

The Law Society, by unequivocally adopting and endorsing Sharia, is showing the exact laziness and cowardice that Kant warns against. Furthermore, by stating that solicitors should follow the Practice Note the Law Society is actually asking the profession to follow in its laziness and cowardice.

So a further question now arises as to whether the Law Society will use any resolution and courage it has and withdraw the Practice Note? Or will the Law Society continue to not think for itself and simply hope in its current self-incurred immaturity that all the well-raised concerns will go away?

I hope that the Law Society, like us all, learns to think for itself. This is what Kant would have expected.

Views expressed are not necessarily those of the LSS

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Controversial Judges’ Service to go ahead

Judges walk from Westminster Abbey to the Houses of Parliament

The 2014 Judges’ Service is to go ahead on 1 October, despite requests both to government ministers and to senior judges to end it. The LSS is campaigning for the abolishment of this service.

On behalf of the LSS, our members Peter Fisher MBE and John Butcher, who both launched this campaign, pose a number of important questions which arise from the Judges’ Service.


Lord Chief Justice claims judges are secular now – but still gets cosy with Bishops

On 5 November 2013 Lord Chief Justice Thomas confirmed that judges are secular – their ancient role of upholding ethical rules as defined by the Church is no more.  They are independent and impartial. Great. So why is he going to attend an official “Judges’ Service” on 1 October in his full regalia? And to listen to a sermon by a bishop?

Why are the media excluded? Why the secrecy?

Members of the public and the media are excluded from the Judges’ Service in Westminster Abbey on 1 October.  Ordinary services are open to the public. Even very special events like royal weddings and funerals are covered by the media. So why the secrecy just for this occasion? What is it that the bishops tell the judges which they don’t want the rest of us to know about? If the bishops are persuading the judges in private how to decide cases, shouldn’t we know about it? Could it be they have something to hide?

Are judges independent – or in the pocket of the Church?

Judges are supposed to be independent, impartial, and unprejudiced. Neutral, not taking sides. They are warned not to side publicly with any political party, or a cause, or a commercial organisation. And quite right, too. But when it comes to religions, apparently it is fine for judges to commit publicly and visibly to one particular denomination. The next time a religious-based dispute comes up in court, how are those judges going to deal with it? Where will their neutrality be then?

Bishops get to harangue the judges – and no answering back

Judges always get to hear both sides of an argument – it’s a basic rule of law. But not when what they’re hearing is a sermon delivered by a bishop. The bishop lays down the law, as he sees it, and everybody else listens. No arguing, no other points of view. Last year it was the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, telling judges how to judge. Which bishop will it be this year? What will he (and it is always a he, so far) be telling the judges? And why are they still willing to listen?

Justice Secretary wants judges tied to the Church

The Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is not content to invite judges to a meeting with politicians in Westminster on 1 October, to discuss their mutual concerns. He insists on combining it with a religious service on the same morning, in Westminster Abbey. Some judges are Jews, some are Roman Catholics, some are atheists, and at least one is a Sikh – but he cares nothing for that. All are invited and expected to sit through a Church of England service regardless. Attendance is voluntary, supposedly, but will any of them be brave enough and honest enough to decline the invite? Or maybe send a sick note?


For any media enquiries on this campaign, please contact LSS member Peter Fisher MBE on 07504 306379. You can read more about Peter here.

For more information on the history and background to the Judges’ Service (as well as a chronology of the campaign to date), see this page of our website.

(Image credit above: The Guardian)

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