Muslims are generally taught many ‘laws’ since childhood – guidelines set by God. Those ‘laws’ are often ethical reminders to guide people in their daily conduct. Muslims in Britain work, marry, take care of their parents and children and confront death and tough questions in life by resorting to particular rules in Sharia. As one cannot refer to ‘the law’ in the UK (there are different set of laws in traffic, business, divorce and so forth), there is also not one ‘Sharia law’. This means it is not easy to claim what Sharia is, at least not without intellectual and contextualised discussions on classical Islamic texts, with main sources from the Holy Quran and the Prophetic sayings (in Arabic, it is known as Ahadith). Indeed, these laws reflect a development in scholar’s interpretations on a variety of norms which arguably differ in time but also space in terms of one living in a Muslim-minority or Muslim-majority country. This view is also supported by the Association of Muslim Lawyers (AML) who in their section, ‘About Us’, says:
“Based on divine revelation, Islam has always acted as a filter – which retains what is good in a society while removing what is harmful. This is an ongoing process, which like health is in need of constant attention and action. Part of this process of change and transformation is the review of existing laws and the introduction of new ones…” (AML, No Year).
This should encourage Muslims to be law-abiding wherever they reside and so while most Muslims follow all laws, there is unfortunately a minority who do not feel a sense of belonging and like other small groups of people, ‘break the rules’. Majority of Muslims however form their idea of citizenship on the legal framework of their own country and religion serves more as personal aspiration in life than ‘strict laws’. An example could be that there is no state law against being lazy in the UK, but Muslims in Britain might be reminded by this verse in the Holy Quran:
“Verily, the hypocrites seek to deceive Allah, but it is He Who deceives them. And when they stand up for As-Salat (the prayer), they stand with laziness and to be seen of men, and they do not remember Allah but little” [Al-Nisa, verse 142].
Although this verse demands a much better interpretation than is offered now – the point is that Muslims are told to refrain from laziness, especially in prayers where one is supposed to directly communicate with Allah (swt).
This section will now mention prominent Muslims lawyers and their contributions in the UK.
- Nazir Afzal
Nazir Afzal was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 2005 and served as the Chief Crown Persecutor of the Crown Persecution Service (CPS) for North West England from 2011-2015. He was the first person with a Muslim background to be given such a position and was also known to be one of the most senior lawyers within the CPS. Nazir has campaigned for women’s rights and criticised forced marriages, female genital mutilation, honour killings and recently been outspoken on why British teenagers join ISIS.
In an article from the Guardian, he says that more children are vulnerable and victims of a radicalisation he calls ‘Jihadimania’. This is because, he argues, that young people see terrorists as “pop idols” and want to join them in Syria and Iraq.
From his experience in law and policing, he believes that as terrorism has become more sophisticated, so needs the approach to counter-terrorism with the help of Muslim communities across the UK.
“Thousands of young people and professionals can be encouraged to show these potential radicals what their lives could be. They don’t want to hear from men with long beards, they don’t want to hear from faith leaders. They want to hear from women and from young professionals who can show them there is hope if they stay in education and make a contribution locally” (Bunyan, 2015).
- Aamer Anwar
Aamer Anwar is a Scottish human rights lawyer with Pakistani roots. He is known for his left-wing politics and is active in Stop the War Coalition. Some of his activism includes campaigning against the 31st G8 Summit and the closure of the Dungavel Detention Centre for failed asylum seekers.
In an article from the Sun, Aamer critically asks: “Who polices the police?” (2014). His lack of trust in the police force and the government is apparent as he continues to fight social injustice. In another article, he sarcastically comments on how benefit cuts does not mean “we are all in this together”, as millionaires lives in another ‘parallel universe’ like George Osborne (2013).
The fact that he has written blog pieces for the Sun is controversial because on one hand, Aamer goes against ‘the establishment’ and on the other, he is indirectly linked with Rupert Murdoch’s best-selling tabloid paper who is often known to demonise Muslims.
Some of the prizes he has won include the Criminal Lawyer of the Year 2005-2006 and the Scottish Muslim Awards in 2014.
- Khatun Sapnara
Khatun Sapnara is a barrister and part-time judge. In 2003, she became the first ethnic person to be elected to the Family Law Bar Association Committee. In 2004, she was appointed to the Family Justice Council. Khatun assisted in formulating and drafting the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007. In 2006, she was appointed as a Recorder of the Crown, which made her the only person of Bangladeshi origin in a senior judicial position.
About her beliefs on forced marriages; she does not think that criminalising them would work as it may ostracise victims from their families and societies. Although more should be done to combat it among youngsters; it is better to work directly with the victims to discretely find a solution (Gill and Sapnara in the Guardian, 2012).
For her work; she has been awarded the first British Bangladeshi Power and Inspiration (BBPI) person of the year in 2015 (Asian Image, 2015).
Anwar, 2013. ‘Osborne will throw millions into poverty’. Link: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/scottishnews/4688762/Osborne-will-throw-millions-into-poverty.html
Anwar, 2014. ‘Who will police the police?’ Link: http://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/scotsol/homepage/news/papercolumnists/aameranwar/5417191/Who-polices-our-police.html
Asian Image, 2015. ‘Judge Khatun Sapnara named BBPI Person od the Year’]. Link: http://www.asianimage.co.uk/news/11762660.Judge_Khatun_Sapnara_named_BBPI_Person_of_the_Year/?ref=mr
Association of Muslim Lawyers, 2015. ‘About Us’. Link: http://aml.org.uk/aboutaml/
Bunyan, 2015. ‘Senior Muslim Lawyer says British teenagers see Isis as ‘pop idols’’. Link: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/apr/05/senior-muslim-lawyer-says-british-teenagers-see-isis-as-pop-idols
Gill and Sapnara, 2012. ‘Forced marriages blight lives, but criminalising them would not work’. Link: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/apr/09/forced-marriages-criminalising
Wikipedia on Aamer Anwar. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aamer_Anwar
Wikipedia on Khatun Sapnara. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khatun_Sapnara
Wikipedia on Nazir Afzal. Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazir_Afzal