The association that serves United Kingdom solicitors worldwide has reversed course on its accommodation of Islamic law, or Shariah, withdrawing an advisory that effectively implemented Muslim inheritance restrictions in the British legal system.
Andrew Caplen, the president, said: “Our practice note was intended to support members to better serve their clients as far as is allowed by the law of England and Wales. We reviewed the note in the light of criticism. We have withdrawn the note and we are sorry.”
WND reported earlier this year when the Law Society issued the advisory, which focused on drawing up “Shariah complaint” wills. The guidance allowed solicitors to write Islamic wills that denied women an equal share of inheritances and excluded non-Muslims, children born out of wedlock and even adopted children.
A search of the Law Society’s website Wednesday showed the documents still listed but no longer accessible.
At the Volokh Conspiracy blog, constitutional expert Eugene Volokh wrote that the language that caused a backlash was: “Certain principles of Shariah are different to English succession laws. For example, it is not possible to inherit under Sharia rules via a deceased relative. No distinction is made between children of different marriages, but illegitimate and adopted children are not Shariah heirs.”
The advisory also explained: “The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class. Non-Muslims may not inherit at all, and only Muslim marriages are recognized. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Shariah heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.”
It then said solicitors should modify a standard will to make it compliant to Islam.
Volokh acknowledged people are generally “free to discriminate based on sex and religion in deciding how to leave their property, and lawyers should indeed seek to implement their clients’ desires.”
“Still, I take it that much of the question was whether the bar association, as an organization, should counsel their members as to how to implement such discriminatory preferences.”
Christian Institute Director Colin Hart said removal of the advisory was a good move.
“The Law Society has made the right decision to listen to criticism and drop this controversial guidance about Shariah-compliant wills,” he said. “The Society was complicit in promoting and legitimizing Shariah law in the UK by issuing this advice, at a time when we are already concerned about the increasing Islamization of this country.”
According to a Christian Institute report, National Secular Society Executive Director Keith Porteous Wood said: “This is an important reversal for what had seemed to be the relentless march of Shariah to becoming de facto British law. Until now, politicians and the legal establishment either encouraged this process or spinelessly recoiled from acknowledging what was happening.”
Baroness Cox, who is fighting Shariah’s influences in Britain, said: “To have an organization such as The Law Society seeming to promote or encourage a policy which is inherently gender discriminatory in a way which will have very serious implications for women and possibly for children is a matter of deep concern.”