Give Us Shari’a, UK Muslim Leaders Tell Gov’t

Daily News Article   —   Posted on August 16, 2006

(by Patrick
– British Muslim leaders
meeting with government representatives to discuss ways of combating extremism
are calling for the establishment of Islamic law (shari’a) to govern Muslims’
family life.

“We told her if you give
us religious rights, we will be in a better position to convince [Muslim] young
people that they are being treated equally along with other citizens,” said Syed
Aziz Pasha, secretary general of the Union of Muslim Organizations of the U.K.
and Ireland.

Pasha was among some 30
Muslim leaders, described as moderates, who met with Ruth Kelly, the minister
responsible for communities, amid raging debate in the country over what to do
about the terror threat.

The government is
appealing to Muslim figures to work harder to prevent extremist views from
taking root in their communities, particularly among young people.

The campaign was
accelerated after the July 2005 London bombings, and given new urgency in recent
days after police discovered what they said was a conspiracy to blow up
U.S.-bound aircraft, killing thousands of air passengers and crew.

As of Tuesday, police were
holding 24 suspects, all reported to be Muslims.

Pasha stressed that he was
calling for the introduction of shari’a codes covering marriage and family life,
and not for criminal offenses.

Shari’a is controversial
because it provides for punishments including limb amputation for theft and
death for apostasy. The legal code is applied in varying degrees in countries
including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria, Pakistan and

Shari’a in family affairs
deals with issues such as dowry, inheritance and sharing of assets. In some
traditions it also allows men to beat wives who refuse to obey them and won’t
submit to non-physical admonition, and to end a marriage by declaring “I divorce
you” three times.

Pasha said Muslim leaders
were ready to cooperate with the government, but wanted a partnership.”They
should understand our problems then we will understand their

Other Muslim leaders,
however, disagreed. Khalid Mahmood, one of four Muslim lawmakers in the House of
Commons, said shari’a could not apply in Britain because it was not an Islamic

An ICM poll of British
Muslims earlier this year found 40 percent of respondents supported the
introduction of shari’a in predominantly Muslim areas of Britain, while 41
percent were opposed to the idea.

About 2.7 percent of
Britain’s 60 million people are Muslims. In another opinion survey of Muslims
this year, by polling company NOP, 22 percent of respondents agreed that the
London bombings, which killed 52 people, were justified because of Britain’s
foreign policies. Among Muslims aged under 45, the figure rose to 31

Exposure of the airline
bomb plot led to the introduction of unprecedented security measures at British
airports, causing major disruption.

Media reports say the
government is considering introducing a system of “profiling,” to ensure
security staff focus attention on those considered more likely to be suspect —
because of behavior or ethnic/religious background — and so ease congestion at
airports over the longer term. The government has not confirmed the

Muslim Council of Britain
General Secretary Muhammad Abdul Bari said the proposal could have the effect of
discouraging Muslims from cooperating with police. If profiling was based on
race or religion, it would be wrong, he told Sky News.

In another meeting this
week, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott met with Muslim lawmakers who earlier
had put their names to an open letter saying the government’s foreign policies
were providing “ammunition to extremists.”

The letter, whose
signatories included representatives of all major mainstream Muslim
organizations, sparked a strong backlash from ministers, who said foreign policy
could not be dictated by terrorists.

Heritage Foundation
scholar Nile Gardiner called the letter a wake-up call to the

“It shatters any illusions
that the government’s policy of engagement with leading ‘moderate’ Muslim groups
since the 2005 London bombings has reaped any benefits,” he said in a

Gardiner urged the British
government to “reject the message of appeasement” and for inquiries to be made
into links between leading Muslim groups and radical organizations and

“Britain needs a new
generation of Muslim leaders who are untainted by association with, or sympathy
for, Islamic extremism and who are proud of their British identity,” he

“They must be willing to
condemn terrorism unequivocally and help root out extremists from Muslim

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