Well, I have also been in touch with this remarkable lady via e-mail. It is my impression that many people have sent her e-mails, and that the bulk of them have been very supportive. To be sure, I understand that, for taking a stand against militancy and extremism in the Islamic world, Gina, a Muslim, has also received her share of death threats from extremists.
Last year, I had hoped Gina would do an interview for me to post on this blog. If I am not mistaken, she was receiving so many e-mails with similar requests that she was unable to grant all the requests -- though, being a real lady, she made an effort to at least answer the e-mails she received.
During the course of this year, however, I have continued to occasionally pester Gina with questions. She has been giving my questions some thought, and has been doing some research, but does not yet have definitive answers for me. She did send me answers she had to questions she had been asked elsewhere regarding the implementation of sharia law in the West, commenting:
"One thing is for sure, I deplore the idea of sharia law being implemented in the West... so take the opportunity to put it up on your web.
Though I only know Gina through the exchange of a few e-mails, my distinct impression is that she is honest and intelligent, and that she has a great deal of common sense and integrity -- no wonder the Islamists hate her!
I am pleased and honored now to present the thoughts Gina has asked me to share with my readers regarding sharia courts:
What is the drive behind these courts?
This is the culmination of decades of activism and ideological conditioning by Islamic institutions to incorporate the principles of separate laws for Muslims in the context of British society. More generally, it is a male-led movement, disguising itself under the rhetoric of equal rights and superficial notions of 'multiculturalism', to embed reactionary religious laws in our society, and beyond that, to increase the influence and power of Islamic values interpreted by male clerics over the lives of Muslims in Britain. Even the acceptance of the most innocuous forms of arbitration is a big stick in their hands, as they can then act out control and judgment with the sanction of the state, and can use that to intimidate or bully opponents of sharia in the Muslim community into silence, as well as Muslim women or men who do not want to be governed by this system of religious law, but are unable to deny its influence over them when it is used as a tool of arbitration with the tacit acceptance of the supposedly secular state. It is also a starting point to the long term attempts to increase the range and influence of sharia in Britain even further.
How are the courts viewed by the Muslim community? How are they viewed by women?
Most Muslims go about their daily lives without thinking about such things, because their most pressing concerns are to feed their families. Amongst conservatives there is support for the idea of basic sharia arbitration, especially when the denial of them as painted by activists like Bunglawala is erroneously generalized as discrimination against Muslims. On the other hand, all sentient non-Islamist Muslim women are horrified by the long term consequences of ceding power to sharia-ist men. We need to acknowledge that most Islamists are attempting to Islamize Britain and we need to acknowledge that sharia law is being used to discredit democracy. It is apparent that sharia law is different in may Muslim countries and very complex. The question we must ask is how will sharia judges be operating? There are serious ideological issues to consider, as well as legal, as a friend pointed out to me. Remember Anjem Chowdery (of al-Mujhajiroun) and Omar Bakri, who claimed to be judges of Uk sharia law. This is the impact of Islamist propaganda. Right now it's not the BNP I fear or militant jihadists as much as I fear the 'soft' jihadism creeping into almost every area of our lives at the grassroots level. Mr Bunglawala from the MCB seems to have an issue with the Jewish arbitrations Beth Din operating but they do not impose or contravene with British laws and rights. Above all it's not Judaismm that is in crisis, in conflict with democracies or a threat to Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide. Islam has been brought to a crisis and the sharia legal system is a major issue that cannot be resolved. It's ongoing and problematic.
What do I think government policy should be?
A brilliant barrister who has written to Muslim newspapers about Muslim marriages, Neil Addison, has already shown how Muslim practice is out of step with every other religious community in Britain, including the other main minority religious communities, in refusing to submit marriage ceremonies to British law. This leaves Muslim women and men beleaguered when marriages go wrong and they do not have the same legal rights as all non-Muslims have in a similar situation, all because many parts of the Muslim establishment in Britain refuse to deny the privileging of secular British law over sharia. The British government must openly declare a long term aim of harmonizing the Muslim community with mainstream British society, and the first step to doing this is to will into action at every level of administration in our country the intent to empower Muslim individuals by denying any religiously-inspired legal sanction against them. For the long-term emancipation of British Muslims, and for the long-term harmony of British society, there must be no legal barriers to hinder national integration between groups in our society. Anything that increases the power of imams and mullahs over Muslim women and men, and embeds their judgment and power, must be denied. The government must also be wary of 'sharia creep', where sharia is accepted tacitly. An example of this is the decision to allow the wives of a polygamous Muslim man to receive welfare benefits as a spouse. In the long term, the government is going to have to tackle issues like polygamy in the Muslim community, which is perpetuated by the reluctance of the Islamic establishment in Britain to submit their marriage laws to secular British law. In fact they need to start listening to Britsh Muslim women like Shaista Gohar and Diane Nammi, and ex-Muslim women Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Maryam Nawaazi, who all strongly oppose sharia law. Plus, how are these courts going to be monitered and how can measures be taken to stop discrimination against women in these kangaroo courts, when Islamists make no scope for any kind of progress to create change within their interpretations of sharia law, in regards to family law and the rights of Muslim women? To me sharia law is medieval.
Is a failure to recognise sharia courts de facto anti-Muslim?
No. To suggest that it is anti-Muslim is a cheap rhetorical trick employed by Islamists to mask their real agenda of special privileges and social control, and to paint Muslim opponents of sharia as being in some way traitorous or complicit in mainstream society's discrimination against Islam. The fact remains that many British Muslim women and Pakistani Muslim women oppose sharia law, as it discriminates against them as women -- wives, mothers and daughters -- particuarly in cases of domestic violence, divorce, inheritance and rape/sexual abuse.
I hope we can look forward to more posts incorporating material from Gina Khan.