Who would’ve imagined something like this?
Uproar as archbishop says sharia law inevitable in UK
The Archbishop of Canterbury drew criticism from across the political spectrum last night after he backed the introduction of sharia law in Britain and argued that adopting some aspects of it seemed “unavoidable”. Rowan Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, said that giving Islamic law official status in the UK would help to achieve social cohesion because some Muslims did not relate to the British legal system.
His comments, in a lecture on civil and religious law given at the Royal Courts of Justice, were swiftly rebutted by the prime minister’s spokesman, who insisted British law would be based on British values and that sharia law would be no justification for acting against national law.
“Our general position is that sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes. If there are specific instances, like stamp duty, where changes can be made in a way that’s consistent with British law … to accommodate the values of fundamental Muslims, that is something the government would look at.”
Williams was also criticised by the Tory peer Sayeeda Warsi, shadow minister for community cohesion and social action. “The comments may add to the confusion that already exists in our communities,” she said … “We must ensure people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law. Freedom under the law allows respect for some religious practices. But let’s be clear: all British citizens must be subject to British laws developed through parliament and the courts.”
Sharia law sets out a broad code of conduct for all aspects of life, from diet, wearing of the hijab to marriage and divorce.
British courts do not recognise Islamic marriages performed in this country unless they are registered separately with the civil authorities. The result is that some Muslims think they are protected by family law when they are not, and others can think they are properly divorced, when they are still married. However, Britain recognises Islamic marriages and divorces conducted in Muslim countries such as Pakistan or Bangladesh.
Under Islamic law polygamy is condoned, allowing a man up to four wives and giving him the primary right to call for divorce. This means he can leave his first wife, refuse her a divorce and remarry, yet still consider himself living in accordance with his faith.
Some Muslim groups supported Williams’ views. The Ramadhan Foundation, an educational and welfare body, said the speech was “testament to his attempts to understand Islam and promote tolerance and respect between our great faiths”.
More than 800 people were in the Great Hall of the Royal Courts of Justice in London for last night’s speech, while another 200 poured into the overspill marquee.
Williams said introducing sharia law would mean Muslims would no longer have to choose between two systems.
“If what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of diverse and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable,” he said.
Earlier, in a BBC interview, the archbishop was more succinct. He said it was a “matter of fact” that sharia law was already practised in Britain. “We already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land … There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law, as we already do with some kinds of aspects of other religious law.”
He did not endorse, however, the “kind of inhumanity” that was associated with sharia law in some Islamic states.
Methinks that there is a fair amount of “misunderstanding” in this article’s presentation of sharia law, as my understanding is that women have a very clear path to divorce, and that the subject of polygamy in Islam is not as cut-and-dried as this article intimates (as is the case with Mormonism). The Bible has all sorts of references to polygamy, and yet the practice is very limited in today’s Christian world — as is slavery.
The fact is, I think that the Archbishop is to be commended for saying something that, while he had to know it would bring down the wrath of orthodoxy, is nevertheless a common sense observation that honors and respects an entire people.
If a clergyman said this in America, the uproar would be deafening, and the messenger would be run out of town on a rail.