From National Secular Society's Newsline
A Lancashire firm of solicitors, which has launched a new Family Law service offering clients UK civil legal representation alongside advice on Sharia law, has been attacked by campaigners who say Sharia law abuses the human rights of women.
Emmetts solicitors, with offices in Preston and Longridge, is introducing the new service for Muslim clients who want advice on matters such as divorce or child custody according to both UK civil law and Sharia Law.
The Family Law service will be delivered by trainee solicitor Farah Razaq and paralegal Sidra Ghani. Farah Razaq told Asian Image magazine: "The new service will focus upon divorce in accordance with Sharia Law. Any male or female Muslim who needs a divorce in accordance to Sharia law can come to us and we're here to provide services for them. If a Muslim is married in the UK, then a divorce may require civil proceedings as well as a Sharia divorce. And we deal with both matters."
But Maryam Namazie, leader of the One Law for All campaign reacted furiously to the news, saying: "It is scandalous that lawyers meant to defend rights are now set on violating them by recognising and pandering to sharia law decisions on women.
"Under Sharia, a woman's testimony is worth half that of a man's, men can unilaterally divorce by uttering a certain phrase thrice whilst it is often difficult for women to secure divorces. Marital rape is not considered a crime and violence against a disobedient wife a husband's prerogative. With regard to child custody – under UK civil law, the welfare of the child is paramount, whilst under sharia child custody goes to the father at a preset age irrespective of the child's welfare. Sharia law and UK civil law (however imperfect) are antithetical to each other so how can both be applied? In an ideal world, lawyers applying Sharia law would be disbarred. After all, the same would happen to doctors who hurt rather than helped their patients."
In launching the new service, Emmetts say they will also draw on their experience in dealing with the consequences of arranged marriages which result in separation.
Sidra Ghani added: "We're also offering services for those clients who have unfortunately been involved in forced marriages, either here or abroad. We're very passionate about the new service. We will be dealing with very sensitive matters and real people. There aren't many solicitors who deal with this service overseeing both sharia law as well as civil proceedings. We feel that this will be an important consideration for Muslim clients when choosing a law firm that deals with family law legal advice."
Lawyer Anne Marie Waters, a spokesperson for the One Law for All campaign, commented: "As Solicitors, Emmetts should be fully aware that sharia law fails the human rights test quite spectacularly. Rather than promoting and encouraging the use of sharia, solicitors should remain true to their vow to uphold the law and to act in the best interests of their clients – including their female clients."