Sharia wills practice note: Law Society refuses to withdraw guidance

Law Soc protest flyer

The LSS is very disappointed to learn that the Law Society has decided not to withdraw its practice note dated 13 March 2014 on “Sharia succession rules”.

The LSS had written a detailed open letter to the Law Society on 24 April 2014 with very specific questions (here). Two weeks later, on 8 May 2014, the Law Society eventually responded to that letter (here) but it failed to answer almost all of the LSS’s questions, with no explanation for this refusal.

The LSS also took part in a large public protest outside the Law Society’s offices in Chancery Lane, London on 28 April 2014, alongside human rights campaigners and women’s rights campaigners, but this appears to have had no effect on the Law Society. (You can listen to LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian’s speech here and you can read it here.)

Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, has now intervened in the debate and told the Law Society it must not “undermine” British legal principles with its guidance.

Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:

“Naturally we are very disappointed – and actually shocked – at the Law Society’s decision to keep its disturbing sharia practice note despite huge public criticism.

“It is not the Law Society’s business to offer guidance on Islamic theology, even if there is “demand” for it, because this gives sharia law the respectability and credibility of a legal discipline within our jurisdiction. And it is not the business of any organisation which claims, as the Law Society does, to have a “strong record” on equalities, and which says it aims “to help the profession to promote equalities, inclusion and diversity”, to give guidance to its members which explicitly discriminates against women, non-Muslims, “illegitimate children” and adopted children. The reality is that sharia law is anything but equality, inclusion and diversity.

“We shall pick our words carefully but we feel that the Law Society, by keeping this guidance and not even having the decency to answer our reasonable questions on a matter which is a serious human rights concern to many, has shown contempt not just for the LSS but for our fellow campaigners too, some of them seasoned human rights activists such as Peter Tatchell, who have also called for withdrawal of this guidance.

“Unfortunately the Law Society just doesn’t get it. It continues to talk about testamentary freedom even though the LSS and fellow campaigners have specifically recognised the concept of testamentary freedom and are in no way calling for a change in the law. It continues to argue that it is not promoting or endorsing discrimination even though there is a Law Society practice note dated 13 March 2014 which specifically gives its members advice on how to achieve eye-watering discrimination.

“The Law Society recognises in its letter that there is no such thing as sharia law, but the LSS will not celebrate this because it is a simple statement of fact. Indeed it begs the question even more: why give guidance on it?

“Perhaps what will be most shocking, to members of the legal profession but also the lay observer, is that the Law Society sees no problem in referring its readers at the end of its guidance to a textbook by Mohammed Al Jibaly. In our letter of 24 April 2014 we told the Law Society that Mr Al Jibaly is on record as saying: “Under the rule of Islam, a willful fornicator deserves to be whipped one hundred lashes, and a willful adulterer deserves stoning to death.”

“We told the Law Society in that same letter that Mr Al Jibaly is also on record as saying: “Command your children to pray when they are seven years old and hit them if they do not pray, or they don’t  pray right….A girl she should start hijab [wearing of headscarf] from the age of seven. By the age of ten it becomes an obligation on us to force her to wear hijab. And if she doesn’t wear hijab we hit her.”

“The Law Society justifies its decision to refer to Mr Al Jibaly’s textbook on the basis that “It is one of the few books published in English on Sharia inheritance principles.” By referring to this book in its guidance the Law Society is helping to direct money into Mr Al Jibaly’s pockets, whatever its intention. For this, if nothing else, the Law Society deserves the strongest possible condemnation.

“The LSS is pleased to finally see an intervention from the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling but we would prefer to have seen a much stronger intervention. It is however a start.

“The LSS urges anyone who is concerned at the Law Society’s decision to keep this guidance to maintain the pressure on them, by contacting the Law Society (here, here, or on Twitter @TheLawSociety), their MP, or the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling.”

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2 thoughts on “Sharia wills practice note: Law Society refuses to withdraw guidance

  1. Pingback: The Law Society declines to budge » Butterflies and Wheels

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