The Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph report on the Law Society’s retraction of the legal guidance that was issued earlier this year to help the legal profession meet the needs of Muslim clients who wished for wills to be drawn up on a shari’ah compliant basis.
The guidance, which has attracted some criticism from bodies like the National Secular Society, was defended by the then President of the Law Society, Nicholas Fluck, against accusations of its ‘promoting’ shari’ah law.
With the arrival of a new President, Andrew Caplen, it would seem the leadership has responded to critics by withdrawing the guidance. In a statement Caplen said: “We reviewed the note in the light of criticism.
“We have withdrawn the note and we are sorry.”
There is no mention in the statement by the new President of whom or how many the critics are. It would certainly be an odd move to retract guidance on the basis of a vocal minority and without disclosure of what criticisms have actually been levelled against the guidance note it is difficult to determine whether the guidance was revoked under pressure from an Islamophobic lobby or out of genuine regard for the note’s impact on legal professionals.
Introducing the guidance note earlier this year, ex-President Nicholas Fluck explained, “The Law Society responded to requests from its members for guidance on how to help clients asking for wills that distribute their assets in accordance with Sharia practice. Our practice note focuses on how to do that, where it is allowed under English law.
“The Law of England and Wales will give effect to wishes clearly expressed in a valid will in so far as those wishes are compliant with the law of England.”
Given the sometimes hysterical reception to the mere mention of shari’ah law in legal debates, it is not entirely implausible that the guidance note is just the latest casualty of excitable Islamophobic groups.
Indeed, as barrister Neil Addison wrote in a letter to The Sunday Times newspaper at the time:
“The critics of the Law Society have in fact got a lot in common with extremist supporters of Sharia. Both want to impose their views on others rather than allowing individuals to make their own choices including choices as to how to dispose of their own property after their death.”