Lawyers are threatening the Law Society with possible legal action after it issued new guidance on drafting Sharia law-compliant wills. The Lawyers’ Secular Society (LSS) criticised the solicitors’ representation body for being “incredibly naive” and caving into religious lobbying groups. VoR's Tim Ecott spoke to Chris Moos, from the Lawyers' Secular Society.
The Law Society has reecently issued a practice note aimed at helping solicitors “with the intricacies of Sharia succession rules, which is the code of law derived from the Quran and from the teachings and example of Mohammed”.
A Chancery Lane statement said clients in England and Wales “can legally choose to bequeath their assets according to Sharia rules, providing the will isSharia rules are not identical in every Muslim country".
The Law Society said the practice note is intended to assist solicitors who have been instructed to prepare a valid will, which follows Sharia succession rules.
There are differences between Sunni and Shia rules, and different interpretations of Sunni law.
Under Sharia succession rules, the cost of the burial and any debts are paid first, the a third of the estate may be given to charities or individuals who are not obligatory heirs and finally, the remainder is given to a defined set of 'primary' and then 'residual' heirs.
The Lawyers’ Secular Society says it opposes any faith-based arbitration or mediation which is not compatible with the fundamental principles of UK law, such as gender equality and equality of bargaining power.
It says it fully supports the One Law For All campaign to end Sharia law and all religious laws so that equal citizenship rights can be guaranteed for all.
Chris Moos told VoR: “The problem is mainly that not only is this guidance based on discriminatory theology. It specifically says that women would receive the half the share that non-Muslims would mostly receive nothing at all. And that illegitimate and adopted children would also receive nothing at all. And that’s highly discriminatory and very worrying [from] a secular body that should give neutral guidance on matter of belief or faith in general.
“What they have chosen to do is pick an extreme and narrow interpretation of Sharia Law – that is contested by many Muslims here in the UK and have set this as a standard by solicitors. And this could lead to a situation where a Muslim might come to us and say ‘I want to draw up my will’ and the solicitor says ‘well we have this guidance and it says that you should give half to your daughter than you give to your son and this will have very dangerous effects.
“My problem isn’t with Islam. My problem is with a secular body that should represent all and not take sides, issuing a guidance which does take sides, and not the side of British Muslims, but the side of a very reactionary interpretation of British Muslims.”
Source: Voice of Russia