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ALL EQUAL UNDER THE LAW?

 

“We cannot sit here complacently in our red and green benches (referring to the House of Lords) while women are suffering a system which is utterly incompatible with the legal principles upon which this country is founded. If we don’t do something, we are condoning it.” Baroness Caroline Cox on Shari’a law in the UK.

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Therese Hirst - English Democrats - Bradford West Small

Therese Hirst, English Democrats prospective candidate in West Yorkshire Police & Crime Commissioner election 2016 writes:

As I indicate below, Divorce Courts in England and Wales paved the way for the legalisation of shari’a divorce law principles, contrary to our values of justice and equality, and in opposition to our stance against the oppression of women and most vulnerable in society at large.

Ironically, whilst the Government and many opposition groups were preparing to rail-road through changes to the Equality Bill to ensure the ‘rights’ of gay and lesbian couples to marry, and feminist MP’s like Harriett Harman, role their sleeves up, bang on tables, and shout from the rooftops about the imbalance of women in positions of power on the boards of many of the top UK companies, these same, so-called, champions of equal rights and the rights of women remain silent and do nothing to protect the thousands of vulnerable Muslim women who suffer, quietly forgotten, and down-trodden by male dominated – many illegal – shari’a law courts which decide on matters such as domestic violence, child custody, division of property and inheritance rights – and seemingly at the time to be completely abandoned by our civil and criminal courts – should a recent High Court ruling have left the door wide open to a two-tier legal system.

It seems that these very same people who claim to be the champions of equality and women’s rights are quite prepared to put themselves in opposition to religious beliefs and practices when it comes to those held by Christianity – a faith upon which these values owe their very foundation – but cannot find themselves extending these same principles or expressing the same ‘righteous’ indignation to minority religious groups: The legalisation of same sex marriages (which, in my opinion, discriminates against co-habiting hetero-sexual couples) – being the most recent in a string of attacks on the Christian faith.

If one is completely honest about this, the reason why this must inevitably be the case, is due to decades of brain-washing by the governing elite that multiculturalism is the only true protector of the rights of minority groups within society. Blinded by a misconceived belief that all cultures are equal and deserving of respect, they find themselves handcuffed and unable to challenge true injustice and true inequality. This is perhaps the tragedy of our times.

And of course, another reason is the simple fact that many MP’s owe their seats in Parliament to the growing force of the Muslim vote, and who would bite the hand that feeds it?

Yet Baroness Cox, a sometimes controversial and outspoken member of the House of Lords, however, is one of the few voices in public office who is prepared to speak out against the encroachment of shari’a law courts in family and criminal matters and is recently quoted as saying, “…many [Muslim] women live in fear, so intimidated by family and community that they dare not speak out or ask for help.”

In October 2012 the independent-minded, Cross Bench peer saw the second reading of her Bill – ‘The Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality Bill)’, which would have settled the debate on, what is arguably, one of the most important issues of our time – the place of Shari’a law in our legal system – “not heard due to lack of parliamentary time!”

Writing in the Spectator at the time, Douglas Murray described the debate as being the stark choice on “whether this country will make a stand on the principle of ‘one law for all’ or whether competing laws will be allowed to operate unchallenged by a timid government and weak legal system”. Regrettably, they chose the latter.

Our legislature gave its answer when the Bill was first defeated and not long afterwards our family law courts spoke with the same deafening silence. A High Court ruling opened the way for divorce matters to be settled by Shari’a and other religious courts. A family law judge decided to refer a divorce dispute to be settled under, Jewish Rabbinical law – Beth Din – making it a landmark legal decision. According to Mr Justice Baker, “the outcome was in keeping with English law, whilst achieved by a process rooted in Jewish culture”.

Speaking to The Times, a spokesperson for the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “If it leads to the eventual acceptance of Shari’a court divorces, then Muslims will be very encouraged.”

However, whilst this legal decision may well have conformed to English divorce law principles, one needs to ask the very serious question, ‘What happens when future decisions made by recognised religious courts do not conform to English law? Who will speak out for the disadvantaged and most vulnerable in our society then?’ The answer must surely, sadly, be ‘No-one!’

Baroness Cox, however, unrelenting in her pursuit to challenge this two-tier legal system re-launched her ‘Equality Bill’ and this was passed on January 20th 2016 by the House of Lords.

So, for the time being, at least – as the Bill has to go back to the House of Commons for a Second Reading – there may be some glimmer of hope and – finally, equality under the law for each and every citizen, no matter their colour or creed or ethnic background.

Not surprisingly, the pro-Shari’a lobbyists are out in force with Mohammed Amin, Chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum, voicing his opposition to the Bill:

“…the Bill will achieve next to nothing. However, it will, indeed already has, upset many Muslims. Legislating it would enable non-violent extremists to paint this as the British state “criminalising Shariah.”

My message is simple – the protection of women and the ‘paramountcy’ of children as enshrined in Child Law in this country can only be achieved through the passing of this Bill, there is no real alternative. We can no longer sit back and allow women who are divorced at whim by their husbands to lose their children, left destitute or be discriminated against in other family matters. Such matters must be determined by British courts, and not by arbitrary religious, Shari’a law courts controlled by men!

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