Monday, 24 March 2014

Islamic legal principles to be integrated into UK law for first time

I am not a legal amateur let alone a legal expert, but this news article is such alarmist bullshit that it is easy to see through.  I will keep this short because I don't want to write it, but I just cannot stand misinformation.

The news article in the Metro newspaper claims that Islamic law will be "effectively enshrined in British law for the first time".  The statement implies that Islamic law has been given a cherished/sacred/special place in British law (i.e. it is being given special privilege), and also by using the words "for the first time" gives the impression that this is something new.  The article cites another article in The Telegraph as its source, which claims "Islamic law is adopted by British legal chiefs".  This statement implies that Islamic LAW has been merged into British Law.

Now the problem I have is that I cannot see any references to any laws being removed, added, or modified within the British legal system.  So what exactly has changed?  The entirety of the story (or should I say "non-story") is summed up in the first half of sub-title of the article in The Telegraph

Solicitors told how to draw up Sharia-style wills

That's it!  But that's not enough of a story to print, so let's spice it up by attacking Shariah wills....

  1. Males inherit double that of females!
  2. Children born out of wedlock inherit nothing!
  3. Non-Muslims inherit nothing!
But really, what does that have to do with the British legal system?  My money is my own to spend as I wish, this is true in death as in life (except for inheritance tax).  Under the current British legal system I have been able to do those things for a long time, and people have been doing so too.  Some people marrying for a 2nd (or more) time come into a relationship with their own assets which they wish to protect as inheritance for their children, and so draw up a prenuptial agreement to keep their assets separate so that the spouse has no control over their wealth when they die.  This enables them to will their money to their natural offspring instead of their widow/widower.  It enables them to will their money only to their natural children rather than having to share it with the step-children of their new spouse.  It even allows them to leave their spouse and natural children absolutely nothing while willing every penny to the future care of their pet cats.

Under British law I can create a will which says I want two thirds of my estate to be equally distributed between my sons and the rest between my wife and daughters.  I can write a will which leaves nothing to my ex-wives, or to my step children, or to any illegitimate sprogs I might have from sordid experiences in alleys next to chip shops.  I can stipulate conditions such that one of my children can claim their inheritance only if they pass a drug test showing they have not taken any Class A drugs in the past month.  I can even leave nothing to anyone and give it all to the local squirrel sanctuary.

Everything a Muslim feels obliged to do under their religious beliefs can already be accomplished by the secular laws of Great Britain.  The problem is that not everyone knows what Muslims require in their wills, including the person planning for their own demise, which is why they go to people who do know; and this is where this story comes in.

There are lots of solicitor firms in the UK that are not familiar with the wishes of clients who want to comply with what they believe is a divinely ordained law.  So, should Britain leave this market only to Muslims or should some legal body advise solicitors what this group of people require so that they too can have an equal opportunity to share in an existing and legal market?  If a Muslim does go to a non-Muslim solicitor wouldn't it be better that they left with the product they actually wanted?

It's all about Jargon.  Different people use the same word to mean different things.  What you mean by "manifest" can be completely different depending on if you are a cargo shipper or a ghost hunter.  If you leave money to "your children" then a British solicitor with no knowledge of Muslim culture might assume all natural offspring and legally adopted children, whereas the same term to the Muslim client might mean only their offspring created within marriage.  A solicitor might not know that their client understands the same word in a different context (jargon domain), and it might not occur to the client that the person they are talking to doesn't understand the word in the same way they are accustomed to, or indeed the client themself might not be aware that there is a difference.

The published stories give the impression that UK law has adopted Islamic laws in order to prevent gender equality.  The reality seems to be that someone has made a booklet describing how to ask a client who might use a different jargon domain what they actually want, and how to write a legally binding will that gives it to them.

As you can see above, John Bingham is under the misapprehension that this leaflet will ensure Sharia Law in the British law system.  He's wrong.  Read the practice notes for yourself.

  1. Practice notes are not legal advice.
  2. You are not required to follow them.
  3. The British legal chiefs (whoever they are) have not adopted Sharia law on wills.
  4. Sharia laws have not been "enshrined" or in any other way ensured.
  5. No laws have been changed.
It's just a leaflet telling non-Mulsims what kind of wills some Muslims might instruct them to draw up on their behalf.

  1. No Islamic laws have been "adopted".
  2. There is no such thing as a "British legal chief" to adopt those laws, as has been claimed.
  3. The Law Society who issued this guidance has no ability to change the law or any other legal powers to punish people who do not abide by their non-mandatory advice.
  4. There is no new power to deprive women of inheritance.
  5. It is not a step on the way to a parallel law system.
  6. It does not and cannot override and British laws.
The article is deliberately feeding into anti-Muslim hysteria.  Whether or not the report should have existed or not is not my objection, my objection is that they are alienating Muslims by feeding the paranoia of others.

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