Sharia law compatible with human rights, argues leading barrister

Sharia divorce hearing in Birminghamjpg
Sharia council in Birmingham holds divorce hearing

A leading barrister has called for the UK to become more sharia-literate, while arguing that Islamic law can be compatible with the toughest human rights legislation.

Sadakat Kadri told the Guardian that so-called “sharia courts”, such as the Muslim arbitration tribunal, could serve “the community as a whole” by putting Sharia on a transparent, public footing and should be more widely accessible to those who want to use them.

Kadri said they played a role in safeguarding human rights: “It’s very important that they be acknowledged and allowed to exist. So long as they’re voluntary, which is crucial, it’s in everyone’s interests these things be transparent and publicly accessible. If you don’t have open tribunals, they’re going to happen anyway, but behind closed doors.”

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Qaradawi calls for peaceful protests against Burn a Koran Day

Qaradawi2The International Union of Islamic Scholars has urged Muslims to react peacefully to the planned burning of copies of the Holy Quran by a small church in the US on the ninth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks on Saturday.

The head of the Union, Dr Yusuf Al Qaradawi, in a statement yesterday called on fellow Muslims to protest in a peaceful manner and seek legal recourse against the group. “The man who has given the deplorable call and his group must be prosecuted,” said Dr Qaradawi. “The call is against the teachings of Christianity.”

The Doha Centre for Interfaith Dialogue has also condemned the call and said it reflected extremism and ignorance and ran contrary to the basic tenets of Christianity. “Christianity preaches peace and peaceful coexistence,” said Dr Ibrahim Al Nuaimi, the centre’s chairman.

The Peninsula, 9 September 2010

The problem with Qaradawi’s proposal that pastor Terry Jones should be prosecuted is that the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which guarantees the right to free speech, has been used to prevent the introduction of laws against incitement to hatred. Indeed, in the US it is possible to incite not only hatred but even violence against Muslims, as long as the call to violence remains generalised. So opponents of Jones’s vile behaviour do not in fact have any legal recourse.

It’s also worth considering what would happen in the UK if someone were to repeat Jones’s actions here. The reality is that a successful prosecution would be impossible under the existing religious hatred law, as it would be necessary to prove that the individual intended to incite hatred against Muslims, which they would certainly deny, and that the words and actions should be threatening, which they would not be.

On the other hand, if someone were to incite hatred against the Jewish community in the UK by erecting signs reading “Judaism is of the Devil”, burning copies of the Torah and claiming that Jews are the agents of Satan, then that individual could be successfully prosecuted – because Jews are defined as a mono-ethnic faith group and are therefore covered by the law against incitement to racial hatred, which requires neither proof of intent nor that incitement should take the form of threats.

Religious hatred law once again shown to be useless

A local Dewsbury columnist who wrote that had the Cumbria mass-murderer been carrying the Qur’an he would have been celebrated by “so-called British Muslims” will not face prosecution, Dewsbury police announced.

Almost 300 demonstrators gathered outside Dewsbury Police Station on June 6 in protest at alleged inflammatory Islamophobic comments made in the The Press the previous Friday.

Writing just three days after Derrick Bird murdered 12 people in Cumbria and before the victims’ burials, the local paper’s columnist, Danny Lockwood, wrote that had Bird been carrying a copy of the Qur’an, “he would have been celebrated as a hero by tens of thousands, possibly more, of so-called ‘British’ Muslims.”

A CPS spokesman told The Muslim News: “According the legal guidance evidence would have had to be obtained revealing that Lockwood used ‘threatening’ language ‘to stir up religious hatred’. Threatening is the operative word, not abusive or insulting.

“So using abusive or insulting behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred does not constitute an offence, nor does using threatening words likely to stir up religious hatred.”

The Muslim News, 25 June 2010

Leyton scheme to empower young Muslim women

A project aimed at helping young Muslim girls to gain confidence and skills, including those who have suffered abuse and hostility because of wearing the headscarf, has been launched.

The Young Muslim Women Professionals Project was given a grant of nearly £500,000 from the Big Lottery fund and was set up after women came forward to describe the abuse they suffered. Aimed at girls and young women aged 10 to 25, the scheme will include mentoring projects, “skills for life” such as ICT and counselling training and advice on how to deal with abuse safely.

Project director Zahir Fatima said: “We’re helping young Muslim women to build confidence regardless of whether they wear the veil. It’s about giving them skills and empowering them to become more active in the community.”

Set up by the Leyton-based Kiran Project, which has traditionally supported Asian women and children suffering domestic violence and abuse, the scheme is set to run for three years.

Fiaz Akhtar, who works for Kiran as a project co-ordinator and wears a head scarf, said: “I’ve experienced it myself on two or three occasions. After 7/7, I was in my car with my daughter and a guy came up behind me. He came out of his car and started swearing and saying ‘get back to your country’. It came to the point where I was petrified.”

Mrs Akhtar also had a lit cigarette thrown at her and said many women have been spat at, verbally abused in the street and even had their veils pulled off in the years following 9/11 and 7/7. She said: “My clothes almost caught fire – luckily I was sitting forward. I cried a lot – it’s something that could have been harmful to me.”

She described how her 12-year-old daughter, who also wears the veil, had been verbally abused in Walthamstow market because of the way she was dressed. Mrs Akhtar added that a number of young women had come forward to say they had suffered similar problems and the project grew from there, as a way to rebuild their self-confidence.”

Waltham Forest Guardian, 28 August 2009

Former BNP candidate faces religious hatred charge

BNP heroin leaflet

A former British National Party election candidate was charged yesterday in connection with the distribution of leaflets which alleged Muslims were responsible for the heroin trade. Anthony Bamber, 53, of Greenbank Street, Preston, Lancashire, is accused of incitement to commit religious hatred, police said.

The leaflet was distributed in Burnley and reportedly circulated in other parts of Lancashire, Cumbria and Yorkshire. It urged people to “heap condemnation” on Muslims and said it was time to “apologise” over its claims they were responsible for 95 per cent of the world’s heroin trade.

Yorkshire Post, 10 August 2009

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Prosecutors press for action against BNP leaflets

BNP changing face of london leafletSenior prosecutors are calling for the laws on race hate crimes to be strengthened to counter the threat posed by the British National party.

The threshold for securing a conviction is so high that far-right activists are able to evade prosecution for material that many people would consider to be threatening and racist, according to sources at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Several BNP leaflets have been referred to the CPS over the last five years – some by senior police officers and one by a judge – but no further action has been taken.

Peter Herbert, the chairman of the Society of Black Lawyers and a part-time judge, submitted a complaint last year over a leaflet called The Changing Face of London that had two pictures, one depicting an all-white street party from the 1950s, the other showing three Muslim women wearing a niqab, one of whom is making a V-sign towards the camera.

Under the law, it has been extremely difficult to mount a prosecution against extremism and hate speech,” said Herbert. “But with the rise of the BNP, and the subsequent rise in racist attacks and the fear the party’s leaflets can provoke, it is essential we are given the tools to deal effectively with this threat.”

Guardian, 29 June 2009

Of course, the main obstacle to a successful prosecution of the BNP over its incitement of Islamophobic hatred is that Muslims are legally defined as a multi-ethnic faith group. They are therefore covered not by the racial hatred laws but by the 2006 Act dealing with incitement to religious hatred. The latter requires not only that the offending material should be explicitly “threatening” but that the prosecution should prove subjective intent, which in practice means that the religious hatred law is completely useless as a means of combating the BNP.

Another defence of ‘Enlightenment values’

Writing at Comment is Free, Faisal Gazi (aka “Sid”, David Toube’s alter ego who posts at Pickled Politics) reviews From Fatwa to Jihad by Kenan Malik (a supporter of the former ultraleftists turned right-wing libertarians who once traded under the name of the Revolutionary Communist Party). Gazi writes:

“… the grievance culture of radical Islam is winning the battle against Enlightenment values, helped along, Malik believes, by multicultural policy and laws like the Racial and Religious Hatred Act (2006), which has made it an offence to incite hatred against a person on grounds of their religion. Its aim was to protect the faith and dignity of minority communities. But the paradox is that these laws are now exploited to undermine the civil liberties of those very same communities they were meant to protect.”

Well, we haven’t read Malik’s book, so we can’t comment on the accuracy of this summary of his argument. But if Gazi thinks that the Racial and Religious Hatred Act set a precedent for undermining civil liberties he obviously hasn’t bothered to study the subject. The legislation was in fact sabotaged by the “Lester amendment”, which produced a completely toothless law that can never be used to mount a successful prosecution of anyone.

As those who have had the misfortune to read his incoherent Harry’s-Place-inspired posts at Pickled Politics will have observed, Gazi combines an endorsement of “Enlightenment values” with a total inability to respect empirical evidence or rational argument.

British First Party leader denies race hate charges

Kevin QuinnThe leader of the British First Party set up a stall with the Union flag and launched a tirade of offensive racist abuse, a court heard. Kevin Quinn, 44, was charged with a religiously aggravated public order offence, after police were called to the shopping precinct in St Andrews Road, South Oxhey, on December 1, 2007.

Witnesses told St Albans Crown Court how they were offended by the racist and foul language used by Quinn with the aid of a megaphone. The first of the prosecution witnesses, Valerie Gay, was on the way to work in Woolworths when she saw the demonstration with a man on a megaphone and people handing out leaflets.

Asked by Isabel Delamere, for the prosecution, what she noticed first, Mrs Gay said: “It was the bad language being used to be honest. He was going on about a young lass that went to Sudan and he was using F and B words saying it was unfair she should be executed for naming a Teddy Bear Mohamed.” She added: “He was saying it was unfair she went out there to teach those retards and for that she was being executed.”

Mrs Gay said Quinn “definitely” used the word retard as it hit hard because she has a family member that is disabled. “He said we should execute the f****** Bs in this country and send them back home and before much longer it won’t be our country. I was shocked. I couldn’t understand why people have to be so racist. I believe in letting people lead their own lives,” she said.

The owner of an electrical store in the precinct, Ken Shah, who fled Uganda 30 years ago, heard a man shouting that Tony Blair should be called Tony Mohamed, the court heard. Mr Shah said: “They were shouting about Tony Blair should be Tony Mohamed because of all the immigrants coming in, and what is wrong with this country and about immigration and schools full of immigrant children.”

Quinn of Ousland Road, Queens Park, Bedford, denies intending to cause harassment, alarm or distress and using insulting words or behaviour, motivated by hostility towards members of a religious group.

The trial continues.

Watford Observer, 3 March 2009

You’ll note, by the way, that contrary to the Watford Observer headline Quinn has in fact been charged with religiously aggravated harassment and not with incitement to racial hatred – a much more serious offence which carries a sentence of up to seven years in prison – as he undoubtedly would have been if his abuse had been directed against the Jewish rather than the Muslim community. The reason is that Muslims are legally defined as a multi-ethnic faith group and so, unlike Jews or Sikhs, are not covered by the racial hatred law.

Nor is Quinn being charged with incitement to religious hatred. The reason is that the religious hatred bill was sabotaged by the “Lester amendment” which rendered the Racial and Religious Hatred Act almost completely useless when it comes to prosecuting far-right racists like Quinn who direct their hatred against the Muslim community.

Don’t prosecute fascist anti-Muslim hatemongers says ‘libertarian Marxist’

BNP Islam Out of Britain“As one who exchanged blows rather than opinions with the National Front in the 1980s, it gives me no pleasure to say this. But we ought to uphold the right of the British National Party to express its views, however vile, after Merseyside Police arrested 13 of its members for distributing leaflets. I’m afraid that free speech means freedom for fools and scumbags, too.

“The BNP pamphlet doled out in Liverpool was called Racism Cuts Both Ways. You can see it on its website. It argues that everybody knows racial hatred is wrong, but that few realise that ‘the vast majority of the real racism that scars Britain involves white victims from the indigenous community’.

“It lays the blame for much of this on ‘relentless’ discrimination against British natives by ‘an institutionally hostile ruling class’ but also claims that ‘our people are the silent victims of an epidemic of racist violence, sexual exploitation and murder’ by Muslims and blacks.

“… racism is not a crime. And while police chiefs may judge ‘racist content’ to be offensive, that does not make it a criminal offence. It should not be the job of the police or the courts to outlaw any ‘ism’, idea or ideology.

“Incitement to racial or religious hatred is a crime, but difficult to prove (the BNP’s leader, Nick Griffin, was found not guilty in 2006). And rightly so. We should draw a clear line between words and violent deeds. The old playground saw about sticks and stones seems a more grown-up guide than current policy. That leaflet is arguably guilty of incitement to elect BNP councillors….

“For this old libertarian Marxist, state action against a political party, however odious, is nothing to cheer.”

Mick Hume in the Times, 25 November 2008

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Prosecute BNP says Bruce Kent

Bruce Kent“I have received, unsolicited, from the leader of the British National Party, a 12-page document supposedly setting out details of crimes against whites committed by other ethnic groups.

“One intended effect will be to increase racism in general and Islamophobia, in particular. When the document describes gang rape and teenage grooming, it says: ‘One community, however, is different. Wherever there are large numbers of young Muslim men, groups of them team up to lure girls – often as young as twelve or thirteen – into a nightmare world of sexual abuse, rape, beatings, drug addiction and prostitution … the Muslim sex gangs … never target girls from their own community.’ The pamphlet also claims that there is a refusal by ‘Muslim leaders to condemn what is going on’.

“To suggest that gang rape is a normal feature of Muslim male life and that Muslim leaders tolerate it, is not only untrue, but is designed to fan the flames of racial and religious hatred. It is certainly immoral and ought to merit criminal prosecution as well.”

Letter from Bruce Kent in the Times, 21 November 2008