Introduction to Sharia Watch
With Anne Marie Waters being a candidate in the UKIP leadership election, the media and people generally have taken an interest in Sharia Watch UK Ltd.(of which Anne Marie is a director) and Islam-sharia as that has been a key focus of her work in the last few years. This is my personal view of her campaign and an introduction to Sharia Watch for those unfamiliar with its work. I need to stress that Sharia Watch is only a small part of her campaign, her full manifesto is here and her economic policy is here. The primary focus will still be on BREXIT until that is successfully and fully achieved.
I have written this article to address 3 issues:
** What is Sharia Watch
** We must only challenge specific aspects of Islam-sharia, we cannot take on a complete religion.
** My take on various remarks Anne Marie has made on twitter about Islam being “evil” and a “killing machine”
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What is Sharia Watch?
The primary purpose of Sharia Watch UK Ltd. is to monitor sharia law and how it affects the UK and might affect the UK in the future as the number of Muslims grows in the UK. The first point to recognise is that there is no unique UK version of either sharia or Islam . Events abroad within the Islamic world are likely to have an influence here and Islamic societies abroad provide a view of the possible future development of Islam-sharia in the UK and Europe as the Muslim demographic increases. That view with vigilante killings of people whom Muslims claim have ‘blasphemed’ or insulted Islam isn’t a pleasant picture.
As sharia covers all aspects of society and Islamic life, most aspects of Islam are covered on the site. It should also be noted that sharia law is derived from and rest on the Quran, Sira (biography of Muhammad) and hadiths(accepted accounts of Muhammad’s words and deeds). As most Muslims view the Quran as timeless and Muhammad as the example of a good Islamic life(the Quran praises him/his character 91 times in various ways), this means that sharia cannot be easily changed. This is a point we will return to later.
The ultimate aim of Sharia Watch UK is to get sharia law banned in the UK and that dovetails with the UKIP proposal in their GE2017 manifesto:
“The growth of sharia councils is of great concern to the public, as is the apparent unwillingness of the political class to prevent them proliferating. UKIP will take action: we will establish a legal commission to draw up proposals to disband sharia councils.”
In making the case for this policy against sharia law, Sharia Watch can provide a useful evidence base when debating the policy and arguing for it on the doorstep if this policy is part of the next manifesto as I hope it will be. That evidence base consists of links to news articles, opinions, publications and videos plus articles written for Sharia Watch.
Key Points Relating To Sharia
Relationship of Sharia Law to Jihad
Firstly is that the ultimate objective of the many jihad groups around around the world is to
establish sharia law as the basis for Islamic rule and as such sharia does present a threat to the UK and our values.
Legal Precedents Secondly, this European Court of Human Rights judgement provides crucial opinion on the nature of sharia law:
ECHR Judgement Summary:
“sharia law is incompatible with democracy and human rights”
Source: “Annual Report 2003 of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe”
Noting that the Welfare Party had pledged to set up a regime based on sharia law, the Court found that sharia was incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy as set forth in the Convention. It considered that “sharia, which faithfully reflects the dogmas and divine rules laid down by religion, is stable and invariable. Principles such as pluralism in the political sphere or the constant evolution of public freedoms have no place in it”. According to the Court, it was difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverged from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervened in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.
A copy of the original source document can be found on the ECHR website: http://www.echr.coe.int/Documents/Annual_report_2003_ENG.pdf
In particular, these individual elements of this concise summary are worth highlighting:
* is stable and invariable (meaning relatively unchangeable)
* pluralism in the political sphere/the constant evolution of public freedoms have no place in it
* its criminal law and criminal procedure
* its rules on the legal status of women
* the way it intervened in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts
Each of those points alone is a damning commentary on sharia, taken together they form, in my opinion, an overwhelming case that sharia law should not be practiced or taught in the UK.
On the back of this ruling, the ECHR upheld a ban by a Turkish constitutional court in the 1990s on a political party campaigning to introduce sharia law there. This provides a strong legal precedent for banning sharia law in the UK. If a Muslim majority country can ban a political party for wanting to introduce sharia law then the UK should be able to ban sharia law itself. Further the Council of Europe are now examining the compatibility of a state being a member of the ECHR and also a signatory to the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights which was signed by 57 Islamic countries and essentially subordinates human rights to sharia law. This provides more legal precedent for a ban on sharia law in the UK.
Personal Experiences/Views of Ex-Muslims
Sharia Watch has a small number of human aspect stories, mostly from individuals of Muslim heritage which can be found in these links. They represent a variety of differing experiences:
We cannot take on a complete religion
The nuances of presentation here are crucial but when UKIP proposed a policy of banning sharia councils in the UK, it did, in essence, challenge Islam as a whole. This is because for most Islamic sects representing circa 99% of Muslims, sharia law is a central tenet of Islam and not bolt-on extra.
Further, as I have said previously sharia law derives from Islamic texts and is viewed as “god’s law” by many Muslims. Challenging sharia law and making the case as to why it should be banned in the UK means challenging the base Islamic texts from which sharia law is derived.
Yes, the message must be nuanced and I believe, focussed on sharia councils and what is taught to children in madrassa but no one should be under any illusion, challenging sharia law means challenging the foundational Islamic texts from which it is derived.
Remarks About Islam
With the above in mind, I will address my understanding of two widely quoted tweets By Anne Marie. These are “Islam is evil” and “Islam is a killing machine”. I believe there is good evidence to substantiate both comments which I will briefly summarise:
** Tariq Ramadan(Professor of Contemporary Islamic Studies; Research Fellow of St Antony’s College Oxford) is quoted as saying in an article that “many Muslims consider hudud punishments(amputation, stoning etc.) as barbaric” but that he could only call for a moratorium not a ban on such punishments because on the whole most Islamic scholars consider them Islamic due to textual references but that the conditions under which they should be implemented are nearly impossible to re-establish. From the news reports below, it is obvious that several Islamic countries disagree that conditions for implementation aren’t established.
** Hudud Punishments: These are stoning, amputation of limbs, crucifixion, flogging and execution. Some people wrongly believe that these are only carried by ‘extremists’. If that view is true then there are many extremist governments in Islamic countries. It is far from being ‘only’ Saudi Arabia which is a common misconception as this small sample shows:
Indonesia: Several instances of flogging
Nigeria: Women face death by stoning over sex
Brunei: Adopts sharia law amid international outcry (2014)
Malaysia: Amputations & stoning: Malaysia govt backs Islamic penal law (introduced 2016)
These are far from being the only instances or the only states but the geographical spread and recent adoption of these barbaric laws by Islamic states where they were previously not applied shows the claims of apologists to be false.
** Fatwa: The proof of the necessity of killing anyone who curses the Prophet or finds fault with him This is hosted on a website with a “.uk” domain name and it is possible the owner of that website is resident in the UK. This thinking is a clear threat to free speech which is the cornerstone of our democracy and it is clear from the text that it is based on Quranic verses.
** Some scholars have estimated that there may have been as many as 270m deaths of non_muslims due to jihad. http://www.shariawatch.org.uk/?q=tags/genocide
** Slavery is still legal under sharia law and it is estimated that between 140m and 180m people have been victims of Islamic slavery since Islam was founded.
In summary, the above I believe clearly vindicate Anne Marie Water’s statements. The acid test here is a simple question I have asked many people: “Do you agree with the ECHR ruling above on the nature of sharia law? Yes or No with reasons if you wish please?”. Too many people either simply don’t answer or avoid the real question with a response like ‘sharia law has no place in the UK’. This is true but it avoids addressing the nature of sharia law and the Islamic texts from which it is derived.
It may well be that the media and the government in the UK plus a goodly number of our own people wish to politely avert their eyes from the truth but eventually these are going to be issues that we cannot ignore.