UPDATE – On 2014-11-24, news broke of the Law Society’s u-turn on this matter:
- Women’s rights campaigners welcome withdrawal of the Law Society’s sharia wills practice note
- Good news! Law Society withdraws its sharia guidance
- July 2013 – Nicholas Fluck becomes Law Society president
- March 2014 – “Sharia succession rules” practice note emerges
- April 2014 – Protest outside the Law Society office on Chancery Lane – (I was there!)
- July 2014 – Nicholas Fluck’s term as president ends
- November 2014 – Law Society withdraws the practice note
Below follows my original post of 2014-08-01 …
The Law Society refuses to end its policy of making things much easier for those Muslims who wish to write a will that directly discriminates against women and non-Muslims (solely on the basis of their inferior female / non-Muslim status). This is despite the best efforts of the Lawyers’ Secular Society.
And of course, by doing so, they make life harder for the many Muslims who don’t accept the particular interpretation of Sharia that the Law Society has endorsed.
The Law Society tells solicitors:
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. … This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses. …
It’s worth emphasizing that the Law Society isn’t just some random trade union or NGO. It has a special status conferred to it by Parliament, and is mentioned by name in legislation. So their “Sharia Succession Rules Practice Note” clearly constitutes a degree of official recognition of one particular interpretation of Sharia in the legal system of England and Wales.
One minor aspect that puzzles me (an outsider with no understanding of the legal profession) is that the Law Society’s ‘practice note’ doesn’t seem to consider the issue of how you define a Muslim. I for one have been told by a Sunni that Shias are not proper Muslims (IIRC). Now, that view is unlikely to take hold in the legal system here. But one thing many Shias and Sunnis agree on is that Ahmadi Muslims are not actually Muslims – a view legally enforced in Pakistan, for example, and endorsed (a little closer to home) by the Luton On Sunday newspaper after they were paid a friendly visit by these gentlemen.
Background reading: 1 – Islamic schools and branches, 2 – Briton jailed in Pakistan for ‘posing as Muslim’ tells of ordeal
So does all this mean that one day an English court will have to rule on whether or not someone who claims to be a Muslim really is an ‘authentic’ Muslim?
Perhaps by the time I’m older can I look forward to there being nice body of case law sorting out all these issues, so that I can more easily write a discriminatory will of my own? Thanks Law Society! (Yes, I’m joking. Yes, I know it’s a bit of a sick joke. Much like the Law Society’s guidance.)