SAPPHO, LONDON: In order to mark the International Women’s Day, British opponents of Sharia law organized a demonstration in London on 7 March followed by a seminar on Sharia law and women’s rights. The campaign was initiated by Maryam Namazie and widely supported by individuals and organisations, among others Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Naser Khader, Anthony Clifford Grayling, the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain, the European Humanist Federation, the Lawyers' Secular Society and the Iranian Secular Society.
The event followed the launch of a “One law for all” petition and a campaign against Sharia law in Britain at the House of Lords on International Human Rights Day, 10 December 2008. The petition calls on the UK government to abolish Sharia courts and religious tribunals as they work against human rights, freedom and equality.
Segmentation of society
The two-hour demonstration on Trafalgar Square attracted hundreds of supporters from different backgrounds and ethnicities and there were several speeches by the organizers as well as guests – a number of whom have had to flee oppressive Islamic regimes. They warned against the dangers of a segmentation of society caused by the activities of religious tribunals, the cruel and discriminatory nature of Sharia law and the spread of political Islam, which has been supported by such prominent figures as the Archbishop of Canterbury in the name of diversity.
After the speeches, demonstrators marched in a relaxed atmosphere to Conway Hall, escorted by the police. Several onlookers expressed their approval or joined the march spontaneously. Speakers at the public seminar included Naser Khader from Denmark, founder of Democratic Muslims; Fariborz Pooya of the Iranian Secular Society and chair of the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain; Carla Revere, chair of the Lawyers’ Secular Society; Sargul Ahmad from Canada, head of the International Campaign against Civil Law in Iraqi Kurdistan; and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist and Chair of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. Following the speeches, the floor was opened to questions and comments from the public.
Maryam Namazie, main organiser of the campaign concluded the seminar by noting the success of the day, and encouraging participants to support future efforts to ban Sharia tribunals in Britain and ensure that one secular law for all is maintained. Due to international networking, similar events are expected in other countries, including Denmark.
Daniella Csizmadia is a freelance journalist based in Copenhagen