Religion and Legal Rights
Updated: Oct 7, 2019
MALA was delighted to collaborate with St Philips Chambers Employment Team in an interesting and lively event looking at the conflict between religious and secular rights. In an evening seminar in the middle of the week, we were grateful so many people came to join in this fascinating look at the issues which have given rise to protests and much discourse this year.
Professor Colin Diamond CBE, an renowned educationalist, shared his experience of both the Trojan horse scandal and the recent protests over the teaching of relationship education and homosexuality in primary schools, offering suggestions as to how government and schools may bridge the gap between schools policy and discontent parents. Sophie Garner gave an erstwhile summary of the views of opposing groups like Parent Power and looked at their competing claims of the law.
Looking at this issue in the context of family law, Nazim Akhtar shared her experiences of women being denied their religious rights, which largely were consistent with their legal rights, by a patriarchal or misogynistic application of religious rules by Shariah councils, which are unregulated arbitral bodies in the UK. Finally, Mark Hands shared his experience of pursuing financial relief for a client who had been married according to the law of her religion, which was disputed as being valid in England; it culminated in a declaration that there was a valid marriage and a multi-million pound settlement. However, surprisingly, the woman having won her case and obtaining a lump sum payment, returned it to her former husband as she only ever wanted recognition of her religious marriage.
MALA President, Judge Afzal shared his experience of customary laws and how they interact with and inform cultural practices; an issue often featuring in cases before him. He also shared creative approaches adopted by English judges to endure that religious divorces are granted as a condition of a decree absolute. This was followed by drinks, nibbles and questions from the audience.
MALA again thanks St Philips Chambers and those who attended this evening.