February 13, 2008

Archbishop of Canterbury In The Hot Seat

William Rowan has caused quite the stir by saying last week that adopting certain aspects of Sharia law into the United Kingdom cultural function is unavoidable.

Dr. Rowan is the Archbishop of Canterbury. Upon further examination of what he said, it is not as obtuse as how it is being portrayed by the news outlets but it is plenty disturbing. Williams said, referring to the 1.5 million Muslims who now reside there, the "UK has to 'face up to the fact' that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system."

According to the BBC, "Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion. For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court. He says Muslims should not have to choose between 'the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty'". Rowan also said, "An approach to law which simply said - there's one law for everybody - I think that's a bit of a danger."

If there is to be controversy and a fuss coming forth, it ought to be pertaining to that last phrase.

So what does this all mean to Jews for example, living in a country dominated by a supposedly "Christian" concept of justice. Should Jews have the right to Jewish courts where the Jewish concept of "Lex Talionis"--or the Law of Retribution holds sway? (Actually, the U.K.'s "Beth Din at Finchley in north London already handles a wide range of cases for Jewish adherents including divorce settlements, contractual disputes and tenancy disputes" according to Orthodox Jewish law.)

Should Christians for that matter, have the right to demand a Christian system of justice rather than the offensive imposition of secular law? And where does it stop? The Hindu could insist that our Western world view--grounded in an "either/or" philosophy is incompatible with the Eastern World view which is grounded in a "both/and" philosophy necessitating their own legal system to accommodate them. What I fail to see is how this--as Williams contends--"help maintain social cohesion?"

If Sharia law is brought into the U.K. as an Islamic concession, what happens when you have two parties in the same issue who need a legal ruling where one is Muslim demanding Sharia and the other is non-Muslim demanding another system?

At the end of it all, none of this promotes cohesion in the culture but polarizes it even further. I think the Archbishop needs to rethink this one for a few more years.


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