Islam, Britain; Shariah Law to Be Avoided at All Costs

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), February 13, 2008 | Go to article overview

Islam, Britain; Shariah Law to Be Avoided at All Costs


Byline: Helle Dale, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

With all the elegance of a bull in a china shop, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, last week made a foray into the difficult subject of how Muslims fit into Western societies. The ensuing crashing and banging is still going on in Britain and can be heard across the pond.

We might possibly thank the venerable gentleman for bringing the subject out into the open. How Muslims fit into Western societies is certainly one subject that deserves intensive reflection and debate, as Muslim populations continue to grow - particularly in Europe, but also in the United States, Canada and Russia.

However, the conclusions the archbishop drew in an interview on the BBC were startling - to wit that Britain had to "face up to the fact" that some citizens do not relate to the UK legal system and that the introduction of Shariah law seems "unavoidable." Shariah law is the legal system that governs social and cultural aspects of Muslim lives. It is often controversial because of the severity of its punishments and its lack of rights for women. Introducing it, the archbishop said, could help social cohesion in Britain because Muslims could choose, for instance, to have marital disputes of financial matters dealt with in a Shariah court.

Interestingly enough, social cohesion is exactly what the Rev. Williams' remarks have produced as the British started contemplating the demise of their legal system. Sometimes, appreciation for your own institutions and values does not come until you find them under threat. In this case, the threat is not Muslims living in British society as much as it is those who advocate their presence as a reason to abandon the cultural, legal and political structures that have made Britain what it is over the centuries.

The same can be said for other Western societies under strain from growing Muslim populations. These societies may not be perfect. In fact, sometimes they veer toward decadence, excessive tolerance verging on spinelessness and a mass culture that caters to the absolutely lowest denominator. Yet they have also produced the bedrock universal liberal (in the original sense of the word) principles of democracy: equality before the law, respect for human dignity, political rights and religious liberty.

Meanwhile, in Britain, the archbishop is said to have been taken aback by the fierceness of the response to his cogitations. …

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