UK Parliament

Public Seminar at UK Parliament on Sharia Law, Legal Pluralism and Access to Justice

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Date: 7 November 2016

Time: 7-9 pm

Venue: Committee Room 9

House of Commons, Westminster

London SW1A 0AA

Sharia Law, Legal Pluralism and Access to Justice is hosted by several organisations and activists to debate and express their concerns about the increasing state recognition and promotion of religious-based arbitration and mediation forums such as Sharia councils in the UK. These councils operate as parallel legal systems in which women are treated unfairly, including when seeking divorce or custody over children. The seminar will examine the range of injustices faced by women who engage with all forms of religious arbitration forums and sets out the reasons behind a growing campaign to end state legitimization of legal pluralism in the UK.


Maryam Namazie: Sharia Councils and the transnational Islamist links

Dr. Savin Bapir: Why we need to understand ‘sharia courts as a form of violence against women and girls

Houzan Mahmoud: Muslim women between “choice” and “agency”

Gina Khan: Sharia courts: A personal testimony.

Pragna Patel: Religious Fundamentalism and the Law: Facilitating Access to Justice?’

Gita Sahgal: ‘Can parallel courts be regulated?’

The Seminar will be chaired by Ms Raife Aytek, Director of the Centre for Kurdish Progress

To RSVP, please email Houzan Mahmoud at  & Kurdish Progress at

Speakers Biographies:

Maryam Namazie is Co-Spokesperson for One Law for All and the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain. She hosts a weekly television programme called Bread and Roses broadcast in Iran via New Channel TV. She is on the International Advisory Board of the Raif Badawi Foundation for Freedom; Central Committee member of the Worker-communist Party of Iran; National Secular Society Honorary Associate; Honorary Associate of Rationalist International; Emeritus Member of the Secular Humanist League of Brazil; a Patron of London Black Atheists and Pink Triangle Trust and a member of the International Advisory Board of Feminist Dissent. She was awarded Atheist of the Year by Kazimierz Lyszczynski (2014); Journalist of the Year at the Dods Women in Public Life Awards (2013); selected one of the top 45 women of the year by Elle magazine Quebec (2007); one of 2006′s most intriguing people by DNA, awarded the National Secular Society’s Secularist of the Year Award (2005), amongst others.

Gina Khan was born in Birmingham to Pakistani Muslim parents. Gina is a Human Rights activist and researcher. Personal experiences prompted Gina to break her silence in 2005 by speaking out in radio debates and writing to local Birmingham newspapers following a traumatic divorce and experience of living as a lone woman and parent in Birmingham. Gina focuses on two main subjects; the rise of pro-jihad ideologies within Muslim communities and the position and status of women within those communities. Gina believes these two twin phenomena to be symptomatic of deeper problems. After speaking out against Jihadism in Birmingham, Gina and her children were forced to leave her home after it was attacked. She is currently the co-Spokesperson of One Law for All.

Houzan Mahmoud is a women’s rights campaigner, public lecturer and co-founder of Culture Project, a UK based transnational project formed recently to raise awareness about feminism and gender in Kurdistan and diaspora. She has an MA in Gender Studies from SOAS-London University. She worked as representative of the Organisation of Women’s Freedom in Iraq for many years. She was born in Iraqi Kurdistan in 1973 and currently residing and working in London. Her articles were published in UK publications including The Independent and The Guardian, The Tribune, The New Statesman and others. Houzan led many campaigns internationally, including campaigns against the rape and abduction of women in Iraq, and against the imposition of Islamic sharia law in Kurdistan and Iraqi constitution. She led many other campaigns around the world against so called honour killings, and against violation of freedom of expression.

Dr Savin Bapir-Tardy: Lecturer in Psychology at the University of West London, Savin is a Counselling Psychologist and conducted her doctoral research at City University into the experience of traumatic events. Savin has worked with adolescents, adults and older adults in a variety of mental health settings. Savin is currently working as a counselling psychologist within a women’s right charity (IKWRO) with victims of domestic violence, ‘honour’ based violence, forced marriage and female genital mutilation.

Pragna Patel: Pragna Patel is a founding member of the Southall Black Sisters and Women Against Fundamentalism. She worked as a co-ordinator and senior case worker for SBS from 1982 to 1993 when she left to train and practice as a solicitor. In 2009 she returned to SBS as its Director. She has been centrally involved in some of SBS’ most important cases and campaigns around domestic violence, immigration and religious fundamentalism. She has also written extensively on race, gender and religion.

Gita Sahgal is a writer, journalist, film-maker and rights activist. She is currently Founder and Director of Centre for Secular Space. She was formerly Head of the Gender Unit at Amnesty International; she was suspended in 2010 after she was quoted criticizing Amnesty for its high-profile associations with the Islamist Moazzam Begg, the director of a campaign group called Cageprisoners. For many years she served on the board of Southall Black Sisters and was a founder of Women Against Fundamentalism and Awaaz: South Asia Watch. With Nira Yival Davis, she edited Refusing Holy Orders: Women and Fundamentalism in Britain ( London, 1992). Among her articles are ‘Legislating Utopia? Violence Against Women, Identities and Interventions’ in ‘The Situated Politics of Belonging. During the 1980s, she worked for a Black current affairs programme called ‘Bandung File’ on Channel 4 TV. She made two films about the Rushdie affair, ‘Hullaballoo Over Satanic Verses’ and ‘Struggle or Submission’. She has also made two programmes for Dispatches Channel 4, ‘The Provoked Wife’ on the case of Kiranjit Ahluwalia and ‘The War Crimes File’ an investigation into allegations of war crimes committed by members of the Jamaat I Islami in Bangladesh in 1971.