The case is Molla Sali v. Greece, an inheritance dispute. Ms Molla Sali inherited the entire estate of her husband when he died, under the terms of a will he had drawn up in accordance with Greek law.
Two sisters of her husband are claiming that, since her husband was a Muslim, the inheritance should be allocated according to sharia law, adjudicated by the mufti. There are provisions for sharia law to be applied to Greek nationals who are Muslims.
Mrs Williams comments that a ruling at this level — that sharia law can have supremacy over a member state’s domestic law — could have dire effects on the Council of Europe’s 47 member states, including the UK.
The court granted Christian Concern permission to intervene in the case, with the joint expertise of the Christian Legal Centre. The organisation provided a 10-page legal brief, co-authored by several people, including Mrs Williams and Yassir Eric, professor for Islamic Studies at the European School for Culture and Theology.
The intervention highlights that a network of sharia courts in the UK will create a de facto parallel legal system, undermining the fundamental principle of one law for all. It also highlights the discriminatory nature of sharia law: for example, non-Muslims cannot inherit from Muslims, and females can only inherit half of what is due to males.
Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali commented: ‘Sharia law is based on the inequality of certain kinds of persons, whereas Western public law is based on the equality of all persons. Sharia is incompatible with Western public law and should not be given supremacy over the domestic law of Western states’.