Monday, 24 March 2014

What Sharia says about leaving your wealth to the cats home


It's OK folks I'm not channelling some Muslim scholar or even Karl Sharro. But I am bothered by the kneejerk reaction to the Law Society's guidance on sharia wills:

The Law Society was accused of giving its stamp of approval to discriminatory practices after it published advice on writing wills which deny women an equal share and exclude “illegitimate” children or unbelievers. 

My problem is that wills are intended to be discriminatory and, more to the point, it's the testator's wealth not society's. This means that the person making the will can do so on whatever basis he or she wants. We do not need the permission of parliament to write a will in which:

“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 recognised. Similarly, a divorced spouse is no longer a Sharia heir, as the entitlement depends on a valid Muslim marriage existing at the date of death.” 

This may offend you - it certainly offended ex-Conservative MP, Lousie Mensch - but there is nothing in English law to prevent people from ordering their affairs in this way.

By way of comparison, why no faux-offence at the regular decisions made by worshippers of Bast:

When the much-loved British actress Beryl Reid died, she left her £1 million home to her four cats, all of which had been strays that she had rescued.

Hamish, Coco, Boon, Tuffnel and Eileen continued to live in luxury even after their besotted owner’s death.

Is this not as egregious a decision as deciding that the strictures of an ancient religion will determine who gets what?

As a society we have two choices here: we either believe that people can decide how their wealth is distributed after they die or else we don't. And in the latter case (which those so agitated by Sharia wills seem to have adopted) we would have to accept some intervention of the state to determine how the money is divided. Tell me folks, do you want parliament to decide how you organise your estate?

If you believe in a free society where we may order our affairs as we wish then you have to accept that some people wish to live according to the rules set by their faith. And for a devout Muslim this means Sharia. This doesn't mean that we can require people to order their affairs in this way merely that, if this is what a person chooses, they've every right - in England have always had every right - to do that unhindered by the intervention of the state.

And for those who adhere to other faiths, criticising the rules set by Sharia is, to put it mildly, monumental hypocrisy.

I am still unsure though what Sharia says about leaving your wealth to the cats home?


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, it's entirely up to the testator to leave their assets to whoever they wish.

But what if this is the thin end of a wedge and the principles of Sharia are then extended into the UK's Intestacy Rules, rules which do not currently discriminate on the grounds of gender, religion etc. ? That's when the fight should start.