Saturday, February 9, 2008

More On The Mad Archbishop's Call for Introducing Sharia Law In The UK

I blogged on the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan William's call for officially recognizing aspects of Sharia law in Britain. In the wake of that, there have been calls by many for the resignation of the Archbishop. The BBC, on the other hand, asked whether this reaction is "Islamophobia?" There have also been several good articles out as to Sharia law and why it has no place whatsoever in the West - even though, it has apparently been reconized as a means of dispute resolution in Texas and Minnesotta.


If one questions how deeply the socialist multicultural mindset has poisoned Britain, one need only look to the BBC, which, on the evening the news broke about the Archbishop's call for Sharia law in the UK, ran their "Newsnight Programme" on the issue of "Has the reaction to the Archbishop's Sharia law comments been Islamophobic?" To question anything about another culture is racism in the socialist world of identity politics and multiculturalism.

This article from the Daily Times covers most of the issues that have arisen in the wake of the Archbishop's call:

The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing demands to quit last night as the row over sharia law intensified.

Leading bishops publicly contradicted Dr Rowan Williams's call for Islamic law to be brought into the British legal system.

With the Church of England plunged into crisis, senior figures were said to be discussing the archbishop's future.

. . . Officials at Lambeth Palace told the BBC Dr Williams was in a "state of shock" and "completely overwhelmed" by the scale of the row.

It was said that he could not believe the fury of the reaction. The most damaging attack came from the Pakistan-born Bishop of Rochester, the Right Reverend Michael Nazir-Ali.

He said it would be "simply impossible" to bring sharia law into British law "without fundamentally affecting its integrity".

Sharia "would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence.

"This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy

. . . Politicians joined the chorus of condemnation, with Downing Street saying British law should be based on British values. Tory and LibDem leaders also voiced strong criticism.

Even prominent Muslims were rounding on Dr Williams. Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, said: "I haven't experienced any clamour or fervent desire for sharia law in this country.

"If there are people who prefer sharia law there are always countries where they could go and live."

Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, rejected the idea that British law forces Muslims to choose between their religion and their society.

He said: "This will alienate people from other communities because they will think it is what Muslims want - and it is not."

The Muslim Council of Britain came to Dr Williams's aid, however, describing his comments in a lecture to lawyers and a BBC interview as "thoughtful".

But Oxford University Islamic scholar Professor Tariq Ramadan admitted: "These kinds of statements just feed the fears of fellow citizens. I really think we, as Muslims, need to come up with something that we abide by the common law and within these latitudes there are possibilities for us to be faithful to Islamic principles."

. . . Liberal and feminist critics have been appalled by the thought of sharia law while evangelical opponents believe Dr Williams has failed to defend Christianity.

. . . He was more blunt in a circular to clergy in his diocese, saying he had yet to be convinced of the feasibility of incorporating any non-Christian religious law into the English legal system. . . .

Read the article.There are several major points in the above article worthy of further highlighting. One, Sharia law is substantively different from the laws and customs of the West, as Bishop Nazir-Ali noted. You can find a good explanation of Sharia law here. It should be noted that Sharia law is fundamentally different even on issues of family law, where, for example, the male is favored, polygamy and paedophilia is allowed, and a woman's testimony carries less weight than a man's.

Further, as one commentor in the Telegraph noted, just because we allow some religious courts to function, does not mean that Sharia courts should be afforded the same rights:

. . . Archbishop Williams looks, in a similar spirit, at the realm of law. He sees law as deriving ultimately from religious, not rationalist, principles. He notes how orthodox Judaism has its own Beth Din courts which do not quarrel with the secular law. His own Church of England, too, has its courts, he pointed out. Because we have an Established Church, their decisions have the force of secular law. They settle things like the rights of parochial church councils. Few people see them as instruments of clerical oppression.

So, says the archbishop, we in Britain clearly do not have "a monopolistic understanding of jurisdiction". Why not extend this plurality to Muslims? Why not allow sharia in some areas, such as marriage disputes?

Many people, surely, would want to follow the broad arguments of president and archbishop, but then stop before they do. Most people with any understanding of European culture will disagree with the militant secularists such as Richard Dawkins, who want any trace of Christianity expunged from our institutions and public life.

In the British context, many non-believers would recognise that, for instance, the state funding of Church schools has done much more good than harm. It would be crazy to cut the schools off now, in the abstract interests of neutrality.

And yes, most of us, believers or not, surely agree that one must permit Muslims to worship freely, and encourage all their genuine charitable and educational activities.

Yet there is a dreadful sense of unreality about the assertion, made both by Mr Sarkozy and by Dr Williams, that whatever applies to Christianity and to Judaism in the West can be applied, just like that, to Islam.

As a post-Vatican II Catholic myself, I share the ecumenical beliefs of most modern Christians. One of these is that Islam, being one of the three "Abrahamic" religions, has a great deal in common with Christianity, and that these common roots should be cultivated. It contains truth, and wisdom, and has built civilisations.

But it is also blindingly obvious that the current state of Islam is quite different from that of Christianity. Western societies are hosts to large numbers of Muslims, who quarrel fiercely among themselves and include extreme, sometimes violent minorities. Goodness knows, the history of Christianity is scarred with such things, but at the moment, in the West, Christian violence is not a big problem. Muslim violence is. If we incorporated sharia in our legal system, whom would we accept as its authentic interpreters?

In his lecture, Archbishop Williams tiptoes round the question, in sharia, of apostasy. He says it is unacceptable that people are punished for leaving the Muslim faith. But he cannot bring himself to say, which he knows to be true, that all the Muslim schools of law agree that the punishment for abandoning the Muslim religion is death. Some people, even in this country, live in hiding because they fear this.

"Sharia," says Dr Williams, "is not intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim domination over non-Muslims." Actually, under sharia, Jews and Christians have only what is called "dhimmi" status, a sort of protected, but second-class citizenship.

But in a way, he is right. Sharia does not "demand" domination; it assumes it. The law of Islam is radically different from the law of Judaism, which is the law of a minority that accepts the authority of the majority, non-Jewish state. Islam, like Christianity, is a religion of conversion. Its sharia, unlike the teachings of Christianity, is a programme of law to be turned into a political reality, if possible everywhere.

Poor, dear Dr Williams mutters into his beard about a "market element" of taking a bit of sharia, and a bit of this and a bit of that, as if these things were herbs to spice our multicultural soup. People who want sharia do not see it like that. For them, it must be the only dish on the table.

And if I were French, even though I would agree with President Sarkozy's rejection of doctrinaire secularism, I would not accept that building lots more mosques is the same as building more churches. More than these leaders wish to admit, this is a zero-sum game.

I am surprised that Dr Williams did not, apparently, consider a rather important moment in the history of his own faith. When Jesus was tried, the Roman civil power could find no fault with him. But because it was under such pressure from the religious authorities of Judaea, who said that Jesus was a blasphemer, it handed him over to them.

So Pontius Pilate, you could argue, let Dr Williams's "market element" into the rule of law, with fatal results. Jesus was crucified.

Read the entire article. And it cannot be emphasized enough that all evidence is that the majority of Muslims in Britain want nothing to do with Sharia law.

That said, the truth is that the Labour has allowed Muslim Courts to assert dominance and, indeed, tolerates "Sharia" courts that solve not only family law issues, but also, in some cases, criminal matters:

The extent to which sharia law already operates in Britain was the subject of concern yesterday after it emerged that at least 10 Islamic "courts" are sitting across the country.

The existence of the courts, in towns and cities including London and Birmingham, heightened anxiety following the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks that the introduction of some elements of Islamic law was "unavoidable".

The majority of cases heard in the courts involve divorce or financial disputes, but one reported case involved a gang of Somali youths who were allowed to go free after paying compensation to a teenager they had stabbed.

Extremists were said to have used the spread of sharia courts to justify calls for Islamic law to be adopted "wholesale" for Muslims living in Britain.

Anjem Choudary, a solicitor and former senior figure in the banned organisation Al-Muhajiroun, said: "Some element of family law or social and economic law will not work. It has to be adopted wholesale. It will not happen tomorrow but it is inevitable because sharia is superior and better for mankind."

Despite grave warnings from lawyers about the dangers of a dual legal system, criminal cases are already being dealt with by some of the unofficial courts.

In 2006 an Islamic Council sitting in Woolwich, south-east London, heard the case of the Somali gang, who had been accused of stabbing another Somali teenager and were reportedly arrested by the police.

Aydarus Yusuf, a youth worker, told Radio 4's Law in Action programme that the suspects were released on bail after the victim's family said the matter would be dealt with by the Islamic community. "All their uncles and fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf.

"So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing." The Metropolitan Police said it was unaware of the case, but admitted that officers sometimes did not proceed with assault cases if the victim decided not to press charges.

Mr Yusuf told the programme that he felt more bound by sharia law than by the laws of his adopted country.

"Us Somalis, wherever we are in the world, we have our own law,'' he said. "It's not sharia, it's not religious, it's just a cultural thing.''

. . . The first sharia court in the UK started in Birmingham in 1982, and others have followed in London, Rotherham and Dewsbury, West Yorks.

Although their rulings are not recognised by English law, participants often agree to abide by the court's decision in the same way that Jewish civil disputes are often settled in their own court, the Beth Din.

. . . Omar Bakri Mohammed, the former leader of Al-Muhajiroun, who is banned from entering the UK, said: "If sharia law were introduced it would have all kinds of benefits. It would get rid of drinking, night clubs, casual sex, homosexuality, prostitution, gambling and usury."

David Pannick QC, a leading human rights barrister, said that if criminal law and marriages were dealt with by sharia courts "it would lead to the breakdown of society, if some groups could just ignore laws that applied to others".

Read the entire article. My own belief is that the Sharia courts, even operating unofficially on matters of family law, should be declared illegal and Britain should enforce its status as the sole authority to grant marriage or divorce. I base this on the degree of coercion of women in the Muslim community and how it all plays into honor violence. You can read the very recent report on that issue here.

I also blogged yesterday that we are seeing some allowance in our own courts in Texas and Minnesotta for the application of Sharia law iarbitration agreements. The way our legal system works, you can decide in advance which law shall govern your contractual obligations. The courts will enforce those obligations under the chosen law so long as it does not contravene public policy - i.e., fair and equal treatment of women, etc. I have not seen the cases in which it has been applied in America, but I have confidence that they involve discreet matters and would, in no case, approach the degree and dimension of allowing Sharia courts to function as a legal body under their own laws, such as the Archbishop suggested. Further, I would hope our courts refuse to enforce even discrete agreements when it involves people of different sexes, given the misogony and coercion systemic in Islam.

See another update here that includes discussion of a court case in the UK asking to rule on the legality of forced marriages.

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