Advocates of multi-culturalism demand not only that we should accept sweeping changes to our cultural landscape, but also that we should be far more welcoming of some of the medieval customs, traditions, and religious laws it has taken much of the world -- often at great cost in the irrevocable currency of life as well as treasure -- centuries to get rid of. Pictured: Anjem Choudary (center), a British radical Islamist, leads a demonstration demanding the imposition of Islamic sharia law, on January 12, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
If there is one "woke" issue that has caused more division and anger in the UK than any other, it is that of the "multi-culturalism experience" that has been incrementally dumped on us – here and in Europe -- since the end of the Second World War.
These practices have been introduced via the ever-expanding British Muslim community, which this writer was born into, and with which he therefore shares a certain understanding and affinity.
Advocates of multi-culturalism demand not only that we should accept sweeping changes to our cultural landscape, but also that we should be far more welcoming of some of the medieval customs, traditions, and religious laws it has taken much of the world -- often at great cost in the irrevocable currency of life as well as treasure -- centuries to get rid of.
Nowhere is an odd sense of entitlement -- and a hostile reaction against it -- more epitomised than with Sharia law, which, since the early 1980s, has been allowed to flourish in the UK. According to a BBC report from 2012, which quoted Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, a representative of the Islamic Sharia Council:
An estimated 85 Sharia councils could be operating in Britain, according to a 2009 report by the think tank Civitas.
Several bodies like the Islamic Sharia Council have seen a large increase in their cases in the past five years.
"Our cases have easily more than tripled over the past three to five years," says Sheikh al-Haddad.
"On average, every month we can deal with anything from 200 to 300 cases. A few years ago it was just a small fraction of that."
"Muslims are becoming more aligned with their faith and more aware of what we are offering them," he explained.
The introduction into Britain of a separate judicial system for Muslims has inevitably provoked a bitter reaction from non-Muslims, who see no reason for tailoring separate systems of jurisprudence based upon religion. This importation of Muslim laws and customs, which often sit at odds with the British way of life, is seen as yet another example of a "preferential treatment" that minority groups receive over and above the indigenous population. That Christians, and people of other faiths, are guiltlessly persecuted in a majority of Muslim nations only serves to increase this resentment.
Despite the fact that Sharia law -- and its association with wife-beating, child abuse, polygamy, inequality under the law and female genital mutilation (FGM), from rules for circumcision in the Sunna ("habitual practice"), intolerance for homosexuality -- and the potential of death sentences for blasphemy, apostacy, and even for being raped -- has been widely condemned, there has been no attempt made to stem the trend. The outcry from human rights groups, who see the medieval practice of FGM as unjustifiable and barbaric, appears to have done little to prevent its widespread practise.
Because of the controversy surrounding the practice of FGM, the wider implications of Sharia law -- such as permission to beat women, child marriage, polygamy, inequality under the law and blasphemy laws that curtail freedom of speech -- become a topic of debate, even in the House of Lords.
The spread of Sharia law itself has been continuing unabated.
Takeaways from the discussions include items such as: that out of the 80 or so Sharia councils operating in the UK, none of its practitioners is a trained lawyer. There is no proper record keeping. "Judgements" are made on a merely ad-hoc basis, and as Baroness Shreela Flather highlighted, "Sharia is discriminatory against women, not only in relation to marriage and children, but in most aspects".
Arguing for Sharia councils, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the daughter of Pakistani Muslim immigrants, and a former Conservative party minister, protested,
"... arguing that there was a difference between 'Sharia and Sharia law' and that 'Sharia exists in the United Kingdom in our multicultural society.' Lady Warsi raised the example of Sharia-compliant financial bonds and student loans, as well as halal food and circumcision."
Defending accusations of women being stripped of their rights in unrecognised "nikah" (Islamic) marriages, Warsi, somewhat ambiguously, put forward the notion that the government should formally recognise Islamic marriages as a way to curtail the outlawing of bigamy and polygamy. In Pakistan, it is not unusual for men to have multiple wives. Although bigamy is illegal in the United Kingdom, a polygamous marriage will be recognised if the marriage took place in countries where the practise is legal. At present there are as many as 20,000 such marriages in the UK amongst the Muslim community.
A recent poll for a Channel 4 documentary found that 61% of Muslim couples participating in nikah weddings have not had a separate civil ceremony that would legalise the marriage under British law. This means that officially, 6 out of 10 women in the UK who have had a traditional Islamic wedding ceremony are not legally married. They are therefore deprived of both legal rights and any safeguarded protection. That almost 100% of married Muslim women have had a nikah marriage, but fewer than 40% of them, under British law, are legally married, is an alarming statistic. Should the marriage break down, 61% of married Muslim women have no other option but to defer to Sharia law, rather than British common law, and are therefore deprived of rights that might have been more favourable to them in a British court, especially in terms of potential alimony and custody rights.
They have, by default, effectively forfeited any rights.
With no access to a family court to seek a division of assets, whether the family home or their spouse's pension, they are left extremely vulnerable. When, for instance, my mother sued my father for divorce in 1973, it was the first case in Britain of a nikah wedding coming to light -- and being challenged. To my family's surprise, it was discovered that under British law, my parents had never actually been legally married. The "talak" (Islamic divorce) my father had obtained two years prior in the United Arab Emirates Consulate in London (there were no Sharia courts in the UK at the time), by declaring three times in front of a male (Muslim) witness, that he "renounced" her -- was also invalid under UK law.
Another Sharia import -- the halal meat industry -- now subserviently adopted by most fast-food outlets, has animal rights activists up in arms against what they see as an unnecessarily cruel method of slaughter, by not stunning the animal first. The tone of this BBC piece on Sharia law is perfectly in tandem with the Islamic approach. By paying lip service to the halal method of cutting the throat of an unstunned animal before despatching it -- the BBC seems more concerned with upsetting the sensibilities of Muslims than those of animal rights activists:
"Many people, including Muslims, misunderstand Sharia. It's often associated with the amputation of limbs, death by stoning, lashes and other medieval punishments. Because of this, it is sometimes thought of as draconian. Some people in the West view Sharia as archaic and unfair social idea that has been imposed upon people who live in Sharia-controlled countries. Many Muslims, however, hold a different view. In the Islamic tradition Sharia is seen as something that nurtures humanity. They see Sharia, not in the light of something primitive, but as something divinely revealed. In a society where social problems are endemic, Sharia frees humanity to realise its individual potential."
Most Brits, I assume, could not care less about the religious practices of other nations. Objections arise, however, when laws that seem archaic in the United Kingdom are imported wholesale. Whether the BBC -- and the rest of the submissive media -- appreciate this or not, their apologetic stance is bound to infuriate the public, who might well view their centuries-old traditions -- honed by the Magna Carta, John Locke and the Enlightenment -- as effectively being bulldozed into a ditch. Their apparent lack of understanding that Sharia -- and its perpetuation of the non-integration into British life -- are damaging to our society, is more than astonishingly tone-deaf. To suggest that we should condone the rights of those who have come here of their own free will but who are now seeking solutions through seventh century religious laws that have no place in the lives of the non-Muslim majority of Britain might seem a bit presumptuous.
"Sharia-controlled countries" -- or "Islamic States" to be specific -- are notorious for what we in the West would regard as barbaric and wanting in human rights. Slavery, for instance, although perhaps not officially permitted, still exists in parts of North Africa and the Middle East. It is also considered permissible for a Muslim man to take a non-Muslim woman as he pleases -- as witnessed by the more than 19,000 victims of grooming gangs in Britain. Importing such contentious practices not only entails taking a step backwards, but is a sure-fire catalyst for divisiveness.
When it comes to multi-culturalism, it appears that levelling the landscape to accommodate such traditions can be a useful device in the minds of those who would advocate diversity, even if they sow the seeds of division. The advocates of diversity then claim that those who would disagree with what seem to them outdated practices that should remain outdated, are called "racist", "xenophobic" or "Islamophobes," when actually they might just be opposed to the beating of women, child marriage, female genital mutilation or a whole host of abuses they mistakenly thought had been left behind ages ago.
Andrew Ash, born in Great Britain to Anglo-Egyptian, Muslim parents, is based in London, England.