UK Archbishop and Sharia Law
Posted: 16 February 2008 11:08 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Archbishop backs sharia law for British Muslims

The Archbishop of Canterbury (head of the Church of England) sparked controversy last week when he said the introduction of sharia law for British Muslims was “unavoidable”. Rowan Williams told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that Muslims should be able to choose whether to have matters such as marital disputes dealt with under sharia law or the British legal system.

His comments were strongly criticised by the National Secular Society but welcomed by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), which stressed it did not back the introduction of sharia criminal law.

Source: Extract from David Batty and Fred Attewill, Thursday February 7, 2008, Guardian Unlimited

COMMENT: There has been lots of debate about this in the UK press and the blogosphere. Most of the reaction to the Archbishop has been very negative. Other senior figures in the church have criticized him, and PM Gordon Brown and members of all three major political parties distanced themselves from the remarks.

Some of the reaction to his statements has been rather hysterical from people obviously who did not read his speech in full. The Archbishop calls for Sharia courts and arbitration to resolve civil disputes as an alternative option to the British legal system.

However, I do not believe that there can be any sacrifice of core enlightenment principles in our working liberal democracies: rule of the will of the majority combined with institutions to protect minorities; separation of powers; freedom of speech; meritocracy; the ‘harm principle’ as the governing principle of our criminal code; separation of church and state; equality before the law. (Ironically, the Archbishop’s statement is a good reminder we haven’t fully separated church and state yet in England, as well as a threat to the idea of equality before the law). None of these Enlightenment principles are perfect and they all have their limitations in terms of achieving real social justice. However, no other political system seems to have anything better to offer.

The adoption of Sharia arbitration courts offers a direct threat to equality before the law. Hence many Muslims (especially women and gays) in the UK interviewed about the Archbishop’s proposals expressed their reservations about the possibility of implementing it there. Additionally, there is no unified single standard for Sharia: much like Christian teaching, there are potentially endless interpretations of the Koran and Hadith that make any kind of codification or institutionalization extremely difficult.

The Archbishop said that many Muslims ‘did not relate well to British law’ and that the introduction of Sharia courts could ‘help to build social cohesion’. On the contrary, there is a very real danger that other religious, ethnic or identity-based groups may follow suit and demand their own courts. Without the premise of universality, there would of course be no good reason to stop them. This could lead to arbitration courts for Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, and even Christians. As a gay man who grew up in a deeply conservative Christian community, I was very glad that legislation on civil matters such as marriage, the family and sexuality happened nationally according to Enlightenment principles rather than locally according to Judeo-Christian teachings. Neither the decriminalization of homosexual sex, nor the more recent approval of civil partnerships could have happened had legislative power been in the power of local religious authorities.

The Archbishop said that he wanted to open up the issue for debate. If nothing else, he seems has done that. Far from showing that Enlightenment principles are obsolete, his alarming statement is a wake-up call that they are more relevant than ever in a multicultural, twenty-first century society. He has also reminded us of how redundant his own privileged position has become in that same society.

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Posted: 17 February 2008 06:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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This is a step in a very bad direction. To take the repressive power of the capitalist state and cops, and add to it the dictates of Islam has nothing to do with ‘protecting’ the voluntary religious practices Muslim women or counteracting the effects of anti-Muslim racism and scapegoating. In fact, calls for the introduction of sharia play directly into the hands of the Muslim-bashing racists, who want nothing more than to increase the isolation and ghettoization of Muslims - Muslim women in particular - in Europe and the U.S. The same issues and dangers are raised with the call for state-funded ‘separate schools’ for religious minorities.

It is certainly true that many Muslims have reacted to anti-Muslim backlash unleashed by the so-called “War on Terror” by withdrawing into their own families and communities as much as possible. This tendency has increased the influence of the most backward-looking religious elements among Muslim populations. Nor is there is anything ‘voluntary’ - as some liberals and anti-racists argue - about the application of anti-woman sharia strictures within Muslim societies when the clerics call the shots.

But there is also another side to this coin, which is more pertinent here. My guess is that many secularists - including leading elements in CFI - who claim to support the voluntary integration and secularization of religious and ethnic minorities in UK, Europe, North America etc., will take this as another opportunity to join forces with various ‘War on Terror’ bigots, zionists and islamophobes (often under a thin veneer of championing ‘secular’ values) and end up using opposition to sharia as yet another stick for the scapegoating of Muslims.

To understand how this works, and where it leads, you need only look to those ‘secularlists’ and ‘leftists’ who swallowed the neo-con marketing campaign after 9/11 hook, line and sinker, and championed the criminal Iraq War as a means to bring Enlightenment via clusterbombs, and set up a bastion of ‘pluralism, secularism and democracy’  the Islamic world. How brilliantly that’s turned out!

I fully expect the same sleazy Muslim-bashers that made hay over the ‘Mohammed cartoons’ controversy to come crawling out of the woodwork now in the U.K. leading howling racist mobs under the banner of ‘secularlism’ against the contamination of ‘our pristeen British Justice System’ by the ‘islamofascist menace in our midst’.  So the sharia issue sets up a win-win situation for the racist ruling class - with one hand they can champion sharia in the name ‘pluralism’, tolerance and multi-culturalism, while the other hand stokes backward, anti-immigrant prejudice at the base, and opens the door for further religious balkanization of society in general.

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Posted: 17 February 2008 08:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Yes, he was asked to step down, but he’s not budging and doesn’t seem to understand why people are reacting as they are.  I think he is a demented old fool who needs to give it for someone more sane- if that’s possible.  Under Sharia Law, he can’t say the Virgin Birth story was a myth, he’d have to believe every word of the Quran, but obviously he doesn’t know anything he’s saying.

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“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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Posted: 17 February 2008 08:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Balak,

Hmm… I’m getting the feeling no one can win here for you. I mean, you don’t seem to support sharia in principle, particularly it’s misogynistic aspects, yet anyone who agrees with you is suspect as an anti-Muslim bigot. As a secularist, of course I oppose government enforcement of any religion’s laws. Does this mean I’ve “joined forces with ‘War on Terror’ bigots, zionists [always a favorite to blame for almost anything] and islamophobes?” Is my secularist principle a “thin veneer?” I certainly don’t deny that there is plenty of general anti-Muslim prejudice, and that the acts of Islamic extremists often generate support for this, but you sound like you’re convinced both your ideological opponents and allies have suspect motives. A bit of a siege mentality there which, even is somewhat justified under current circumstances, seems guaranteed to isolate you from everyone.

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Posted: 17 February 2008 11:14 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Balak,

What on earth does protesting against Sharia law have to do with racism?

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Posted: 17 February 2008 08:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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“What on earth does protesting against Sharia law have to do with racism?”

In the best of all possible worlds - nothing.

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Posted: 17 February 2008 09:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Personally, I think if we have anyone to fear, it is the Archbishop of Cantabury.  IMHO he needs to step down and he was asked to, but refused to do so.  His ideas are dangerous and I think he is a fool.  No, that’s not prejudice at all.  I am a former Episcopalian, but even when I was an Episcopalian, I didn’t respect all the clergy.  Even now, I respect some, but not others- but it’s based on what they say and do.  Williams does not have my respect and I don’t know if he ever did.

On the UK Times Online, he was questioned by a bunch of attornies:  http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/faith/article3376741.ece  Hopefully they don’t listen to him or the UK will never be the same again.  He also criticizes secularism too: ‘Sorry for any confusion but it is my right and duty to talk about religion and the law’  and The intellectual arrogance that pervades the heart of Lambeth Palace wisdom  Now I realize I was born and raised in the U.S., but the two just do not mix without dangerous consequences.

Of course, this gets more to the point on his Attacks on Secularism  And it is titled just that.  I have more from this past week too, if anyone is interested.

[ Edited: 17 February 2008 09:07 PM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 17 February 2008 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This may interest all of you:  Hitchen’s on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Dangerous Claptrap  One of four horsemen speak and he ain’t happy.

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Mriana
“Sometimes in order to see the light, you have to risk the dark.” ~ Iris Hineman (Lois Smith) The Minority Report

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