Lawyers retrained for Sharia-compliant wills
Invitations are currently being sent out to lawyers and other legal professionals to re-train them in how existing wills drawn up under the law of England and Wales should be amended in the light of Sharia. His Grace has absolutely no problem with this: most conservatives would agree that it is for individuals to order their private affairs and to determine the beneficiaries of their estates.
But when one religious group becomes exempt from legal precedent, it is apparent that the Law of England and Wales does not apply to all citizens equally.
This training seminar refers specifically to the 'automatic substitution clauses for grandchildren' and 'spouse exemption' as being two areas where the law of the land conflicts with the precepts of Sharia. Insofar as MBL Seminars list succession, IHT and trusts as further areas of focus, one may infer that lawyers are being trained to amend their practices for Muslim clients to ensure that Sharia inheritance provisions and taxation consequences take precedence over the Law of England and Wales.
Despite the Qur'an manifestly permitting women to inherit, we are likely to see developments in certain households of Muslim women not being able to draw up their own wills independently, or Muslim daughters being prohibited 'by the community' from disputing their parents' wills which have bequeathed an entire estate to her brothers. There are manifest gender and generational differences in Sharia inheritance which are antithetical to human rights and equality. And there are many more areas where the Islamic jurists and Quranic jurisprudence are 'in tension' with England's legal traditions and precedents, including issues of intestate, testamentary freedom, joint tenancy, superannuation benefits, etc., etc.
It is not clear from this seminar invitation which particular school of Sharia jurisprudence is being expounded. The main Sunni schools are the Maliki, Hanafi, Shafi’i and Hanbali schools. The main Shi’a school is the Ja’fari school, although the Zaidi, Ismaili and Abadi have their followers. His Grace is minded to assert that those who deliver the seminar won't have a clue.
The (soon-to-be-ex-)Archbishop of Canterbury predicted back in 2008 that ‘Shari’a law in Britain is unavoidable’, and we have seen a steady growth in Sharia courts and the the Government recognising polygamy in the benefits system.
Bishop Michael Nazir Ali has warned of the consequences of this. The Prime Minister pledged to oppose it: not only is it antithetical to many notions of British values, but the Sharia is opposed by many Muslim women.
But here we are, brazenly retraining the solicitors of England and Wales in how they must comply with Sharia inheritance law. This is an insidious attempt to reverse centuries-old legal precedents which hitherto have applied to all citizens equaly. It should be resisted with the greatest possible vigour.