This is a first even for Islamist-friendly Great Britain. The Law Society has given “guidance” to all lawyers in Great Britain that would allow solicitors to write Sharia-compliant wills. In effect, this guidance creates a two-tier system of law for the nation; one based on secular principles and one on religious principles found in the Koran.
One lawyer called it “astonishing.” Another referred to the “undermining of democratically determined human rights-compliant law in favour of religious law from another era and another culture.” However you want to look at it, it marks the ascension and codification of a body of law inimical to western values and traditions.
The Telegraph explains how:
It opens the way for non-Muslim lawyers in High Street firms to offer Sharia will drafting services. The document sets out crucial differences between Sharia inheritance laws and Western traditions.
It explains how, in Islamic custom, inheritances are divided among a set list of heirs determined by ties of kinship rather than named individuals. It acknowledges the possibility of people having multiple marriages.
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class,” the guidance says. “Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognised.
Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death. This means you should amend or delete some standard will clauses.”
It advises lawyers to draft special exclusions from the Wills Act 1837, which allows gifts to pass to the children of an heir who has died, because this is not recognised in Islamic law.
A couple of things should be pointed out. The guidance only gives lawyers the ability to write Sharia-compliant wills at the request of Muslims who want it. There is nothing in the guidance that forces lawyers to write Sharia wills for non-Muslims.
But there is little doubt that by establishing another legal philosophy at odds with traditional British law, the latter is undermined.
The guidance, quietly published this month and distributed to solicitors in England and Wales, details how wills should be drafted to fit Islamic traditions while being valid under British law.
It suggests deleting or amending standard legal terms and even words such as “children” to ensure that those deemed “illegitimate” are denied any claim over the inheritance.
It recommends that some wills include a declaration of faith in Allah which would be drafted at a local mosque, and hands responsibility for drawing up some papers to Sharia courts.
The guidance goes on to suggest that Sharia principles could potentially overrule British practices in some disputes, giving examples of areas that would need to be tested in English courts.
Currently, Sharia principles are not formally addressed by or included in Britain’s laws.
However, a network of Sharia courts has grown up in Islamic communities to deal with disputes between Muslim families.
A few are officially recognised tribunals, operating under the Arbitration Act.
They have powers to set contracts between parties, mainly in commercial disputes, but also to deal with issues such as domestic violence, family disputes and inheritance battles.
But many more unofficial Sharia courts are also in operation.
Parliament has been told of a significant network of more informal Sharia tribunals and “councils”, often based in mosques, dealing with religious divorces and even child custody matters in line with religious teaching.
They offer “mediation” rather than adjudication, although some hearings are laid out like courts with religious scholars or legal experts sitting in a manner more akin to judges than counsellors.
One study estimated that there were now around 85 Sharia bodies operating in Britain. But the new Law Society guidance represents the first time that an official legal body has recognised the legitimacy of some Sharia principles.
The road to ruin? Perhaps not, but it’s a road that leads to a dead end. Eventually, Brits are going to have to decide just how far they take this bow to diversity and multi-culturalism by allowing one part of their population to develop separate legal and cultural values and institutions. Will Muslims demand being tried for murder in a Sharia court? Or theft, where the punishment is lopping off a hand? The more authorities give, the more the Muslim minority will take.