High street lawyers are being offered formal training in Islamic Sharia Law by the professional body which represents solicitors, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
A new training course being run by the Law Society this summer is described as an âintroduction to Islamic Sharia law for small firmsâ.
Critics said the fact that the Law Society was offering training in Sharia law created the âperceptionâ that it was now âa legal disciplineâ.
It comes after the Society controversially published guidance last month to allow high street solicitors to draw up Sharia-compliant wills.
On Monday around 100 anti-Sharia law campaigners are expected to protest outside the Societyâs head office in the heart of Londonâs legal establisment.
Sharia law is Islamâs legal system. It derives from the Koran and the Hadiths, the sayings and customs attributed to the Prophet Mohammed, as well as fatwas - the rulings of Islamic scholars.
Currently, Sharia principles are not formally addressed by or included in Britainâs laws. However, a network of Sharia courts has grown up in Islamic communities to deal with disputes between Muslim families.
There are reported to be around 85 such courts in the UK â however campaigners say there could be far more.
The Sharia Law event at the Law Societyâs headquarters on Chancery Lane, central London on June 24 has already sold out.
It offers training in Sharia law covering wills and inheritance, family and children and corporate and commercial law.
The course is billed as âa forerunner to a planned future seminar series on Islamic lawâ, the Law Society said.
The Society said: âThis event will set you thinking on an important area of client service as our expert and authoritative speakers highlight some basic concepts and requirements of the Islamic Sharia applicable to these practice areas.â
Solicitors have to undertake 16 hours of Continuous Professional Development (CPD) training every year in disciplines such as competition or corporate law.
The Sharia course counts for one and a half hours of this CPD training, which critics said meant that it âcreates the perception that Sharia law is a legal disciplineâ.
Charlie Klendjian, a spokesman from the Lawyersâ Secular Society said: âIt creates an ever increasing perception to the public and also to the legal profession that Sharia law is a legal discipline.
âSharia law is not a legal discipline, it is theology and we canât constantly keep giving it this credibility and it is certainly not for the Law Society to be doing that.
âIt is damaging to the perception of the primacy of English law, and that is what the Law Society donât appreciate.â
There is increasing concern about by the use of Sharia Law in communities in the UK â last week a campaign called ShariaWatch was launched to monitor its spread.
There were unsubstantiated claims at its launch in the House of Lords that MPs and peers were afraid to speak out about Sharia Law because of the fear of reprisals.
Baroness Cox, a campaigning cross-bench peer who hosted the launch, said the Law Societyâs encouragement for Sharia law was âdisturbingâ.
She said: âWhile every citizen in this country is free to practice their religion, it is deeply disturbing that an organisation as prestigious as the Law Society appears to be encouraging the implementation of Sharia Law.â
Islamic law was âoften inherently discriminatory against womenâ, including in the way women were treated in divorce and inheritance cases, she said.
Lady Cox added: âMuslim women have claimed they feel âbetrayedâ by Britain: they came here to escape Sharia law and they find the situation worse here than in the countries they came from.â
A Law Society spokesman said: âWe hold hundreds of CPD events every year, on topics ranging from legal aid to being a happy LGB [Lesbian, Gay, Bisxexual] lawyer. That does not make these topics all legal disciplines.
âOur CPD programme is a process of continuous learning to maintain and further develop solicitorsâ competence and performance across a range of subjects. Our CPD events help lawyers better serve their clients, whatever their background.â
The Society said it had held four events on Islamic Law between 2004 and 2006, although Sharia Law was not mentioned in the titles of these events.
Â Source: TelegraphÂ