Friday, February 08, 2008

religion and politics redux:
Rowan Williams is a nut

You know, for a while there, I thought the (relatively) new Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, was a swell guy. But then he goes and advocates the official recognition of Shari'a in the UK.

The Archbishop of Canterbury caused consternation yesterday by calling for Islamic law to be recognised in Britain.

He declared that sharia and Parliamentary law should be given equal legal status so the people could choose which governs their lives.

This raised the prospect of Islamic courts in Britain with full legal powers to approve polygamous marriages, grant easy divorce for men and prevent finance firms from charging interest.

His comments in a BBC interview and a lecture to lawyers were condemned at a time when government ministers are striving to encourage integration and stop the nation from "sleepwalking to segregation".

The Prime Minister rapidly distanced himself from Dr Williams's view. Gordon Brown's spokesman said: "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.

"The Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values."

Damn straight, Mr. Spokesman.

One problem with allowing Shari'a equal legal status should be obvious: you'd have a raft of "bridge" cases where, say, a non-Muslim has somehow offended a Muslim and now finds himself in the crosshairs of Muslim jurisprudence. Perhaps the offense would be as simple as the drawing of a satirical cartoon-- a deed that, by Western standards, should merit little more than a scathing reply in kind (assuming the target of the satire has no sense of humor). Who's to say where Shari'a's reach would end if Williams's proposal were adopted? I don't mean that as a slippery slope argument-- quite the contrary, I'm assuming that the implementation of Williams's proposal would mean the instantaneous expansion of Muslim religious authority into quotidian British existence. There would be no slope; it'd be more like a cliff.

It's when boundary issues arise that people usually discover the limits of their tolerance and the extent of their convictions. What line do you refuse to go beyond? Well, for me, as for quite a few Westerners, crossing the line from secularism to full-blown theocracy is impossible-- dare I say, intolerable.

I wrote a brief meditation on the question of religious jurisprudence in secular society in 2006.


1 comment:

Malcolm Pollack said...

This is insane. Does Dennis Mangan know about this?