Southall Black Sisters
November 1st, 2016
Director, Southall Black Sisters
“Just had a horrible, bruising experience on BBC Asia Network whilst debating the problem of religious arbitration bodies, especially Sharia Councils, and their rulings on family and personal matters.
I was pitted against two Islamic ‘judges’ who call themselves ‘scholars’ who defended the existence of Sharia ‘Courts’: They argued that these bodies were set up for women and run on principles of compassion and justice. (Try telling that to the many Muslim women and women of other faiths who approach SBS on a daily basis with horrific stories of domestic violence and religious abuse of power; including those who contacted us today as a result of the debate on the Victoria Derbyshire Show!)
I was forced to walk out of the debate because it was clear that the two Islamist women (Khola Hasan and Amra Bone) from Birmingham and Leytonstone Sharia Councils were being allowed to dictate the terms of the debate with support from the facilitator who appeared completely out of her depth.
The facilitator invited me to respond to Khola Hasan’s view that Sharia Councils were set up for women and then cut me off as I tried to explain that Sharia Councils were set up to control women, not support them. I said that these bodies are in fact, part of an Islamist project and was about to cite evidence in support of this assertion but the facilitator jumped in and attempted to shut me up by saying that she did not want to get into a discussion about ‘ideology’ for which there was no proof! Instead, cutting me off in mid flow, she conveniently decided that she wanted to ‘hear from listeners’ as this was a ‘live radio talk show’.
It was a crude and ignorant response lacking in any insight into the seriousness of the situation that faces minority women whose rights are being discussed with reference to a patriarchal, theological framework rather than human rights.
A really sad day for BBC Asia Network whose journalistic inadequacies are all too evident and an even sadder day for feminists who are branded as unrepresentative of ‘Muslim’ women because they dare to talk in terms of secular universal human rights and to challenge religious power. How and why have black and minority women in the UK, who have achieved so much in terms of advancing our rights, arrived at this point of political bankruptcy?”