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Event Summary: Choosing Sharia?
By Daniel Tuhrim
On the 12th December, George Howarth MP hosted The Henry Jackson Society’s ‘Choosing Sharia’ featuring Dr Rumy Hasan, Senior Lecturer, Science Policy Research Unit, Sussex Centre for Migration Research Dr Machteld Zee, Author of ‘Choosing Sharia?’ and Dutch political scientist and legal scholar Dr David Suurland, Lecturer in International Law, terrorism analyst at Leiden University.
Machteld Zee began by stating the four basic points usually discussed within academic debate: Sharia is portrayed as something that should be demonised, Sharia as a body of thought that frames Islamic principles, accommodating Islamic laws in Western society, and finally that Sharia may not be detrimental to women.
BUT these models of theocracy and multiculturalism are flawed – because there is a general lack of curiosity in academia as to what actually happens in Sharia Councils. Dr Zee, who has attended and seen the proceedings of Sharia councils, explained that 95% of such cases are women wanting divorces.
Women go to Sharia Councils for arbitration and mediation in order to secure their freedom, she said, often being caught up in ‘marital captivity’ where they are unable to get a religious divorce. Dr Zee disagrees that Sharia Councils are needed to free women – and went as far as to say ‘martial captivity’ should be made a criminal offence and called for Muslim women seeking arbitration with a civil judge.
Dr David Suurland opened by explaining that he has researched and compared the ideologies of Bolshevism, Nazism and the Islamist movement. He gave the example of the Netherlands where it was found that Jihadism was an extremely broad concept that reached into Salafist ideology which promotes anti-Semitism and discriminates against women. However laws can’t reach these groups because of freedom of speech, belief and right to association.
Dr Suurland stated a laissez faire attitude to Muslim communities had allowed for Salafist and Islamist dialogues to operate beneath the criminal court which can have an adverse effect. Holland’s solution to this has been monitoring all Salafi organisations, moderate or radical, in particular how the building of new mosques were being funded with any funds coming from outside of Holland being subjected to various checks. He concluded that attention is now going towards banning what is beneath Jihadists organisations however this can be controversial as it addresses religious foundations.
Dr. Rumy Hassan next explained that the Islamic Sharia Council is not undeterred by that the fact it is essentially an undemocratic body that discriminates. He argued that there are good reasons as to why Sharia breaches equality of the law as the two sources of Islamic legal code, the Koran and the Hadith are full of systematic discrimination.
Dr Hassan then focused on the problems of multiculturalism and the laissez faire attitude that has surrounded it. Dr Hassan argued that communities are allowed to live life as if it were their own countries of origin. This he labels as ‘psychiatric detachment’ which is amongst all religious and ethnic minorities. Dr Hassan warned that as a result of this, ‘social detachment’ occurs as the minority community doesn’t mix. The shared identity with the host nation is lost and this leads to the rejection of the home society.
Dr Hassan argued that multiculturalism is causing issues. There is a current attitude that all cultures have equal weight, however cultural and moral relativism is harming the country and that there should be one rule of law for all instead of religious arbitration having any power.
The panel took audience questions and heard from a Dutch Muslim woman who had lived under ‘marital captivity’ before being granted a divorce.