A Scottish law firm has become the first in the country to offer clients “conventional” legal representation alongside advice on sharia law.
Hamilton Burns, based in Glasgow’s south side, has teamed up with an eminent Muslim scholar who will counsel clients on the Islamic aspect of civil law cases, while solicitors give advice under Scots law. Clients will be able to see a Muslim lawyer who is fully trained in Scots law at the same time as they consult a sharia scholar who is an expert in Islamic law. It will be the first time such a service has been offered in Scotland.
Despite public fears over what is deemed “creeping” sharia law, the firm stressed that the sharia advice was not legally binding and would mainly focus on giving Islamic guidelines on divorce or child custody based on rigorous readings of the Koran. Shaykh Amer Jamil, the Islamic scholar who will provide sharia advice, wants to make sure that Muslims have access to the correct religious ruling on matters such as divorce.
However, critics and opponents accuse sharia of being a discriminatory and sexist legal system and an “extension” of the fundamentalist laws that allow hand amputations and stonings in countries such as Saudi Arabia. Maryam Namazie, an ex-Muslim and spokesperson for One Law for All warned that Islamic law was not as innocuous as the firm claimed. She said:
“Sharia law is discriminatory. It is antithetical to laws that have been fought for and hard won by progressive social movements, particularly in areas of family matters. Laws related to family matters are the result of wrestling control from the church – now it is being handed back to sharia law to violate rights. The civil matters sharia law decides on here is an extension of the criminal matters it decides on in Islamic states, such as stoning, amputations and so on.”