This whole Rowan Williams/Sharia Law thing

Look, people (and by “people”, I mean the media and everyone else who’s going “ZOMG SHARIA LAW IS TEH EVIL AND OPPRESSIVE”), if you’re going to take issue with something somebody has said, try actually taking issue with what they really said rather than what you’ve decided they’ve said. What Rowan said was nothing to do with him wanting everyone to live under Sharia law or to have it enshrined in Britain’s legal code, and everything to do with people’s right to self-determination and the way in which a broad, overarching legal code imposed by a central authority cannot – and should not – be relevant or desirable to a society composed of a disparate variety of social, religious and cultural groups. The hatefulness or otherwise of Sharia law doesn’t enter into it – what Rowan was arguing for was the right for muslims who wish to resolve their own disputes according to Sharia law to do just that; ditto for Jews who wish to resolve disputes according to Jewish law, and secularists to resolve disputes according to secular law.

Now, if you want to attack that then you can take the “if you want to live in Britain you have to live by our laws and customs and cultures” line, at which point I’ll point out that Britain is historically a nation of immigrants anyway, ask you whose laws and customs and cultures do we mean anyway, and you can go back to reading your Daily Mail and frothing at the mouth about the Polish coming over here and doing our plumbing.

2 Responses to “This whole Rowan Williams/Sharia Law thing”

  1. I’ll have to disagree with you on this one – not about what Williams did or didn’t say, but about differing laws for different groups.

    The universal rule of law and the equality of all people before the law is absolutely essential and integral to any modern society.

    Different legal subsystems for different groups is unworkable.

    That’s not to say that Muslims could not use Sharia to resolve private disputes provided all parties agree (they can do this in law already), but national law should take precedent and those who find themselves forced to submit to Sharia against their will (see Ruth Gledhill’s column in today’s Times for an example) need to enjoy legal protection from existing law, not have Sharia enjoy full legal recognition.

    There is also the issue of community cohesion – a recognition of separate legal rights and privliges for Muslims would hardly improve public perceptions of Islam.

  2. Anon says:

    Are you seriously suggesting the Archbishop kicked up a lot of fuss by advocating something that, had he bothered to do some basic research, he’d have discovered was already possible and has been for some 40 years, under the Arbitration Act? There is no bar on people contractually agreeing to take most disputes to some other forum, indeed it is actively encouraged. Either he is ignorant of the subject on which he was speaking, which I don’t believe, or he meant something else.