The BBC flagship current affairs documentary Panorama revealed in April 2013 what the secularist community had long feared. That access to legal address from marriage, child custody and even domestic violence was being undermined by the Sharia Councils. That it encouraged the flouting of court judgements in place to protect victims.
A memory stirred today that these fears were first mentioned on this blog in 2008 when criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury’s public support for Sharia Law to exist alongside secular law.
One quote to see in light of the above documentary:
[Archbishop Williams]: “The problem here is that recognising the authority of a communal religious court to decide finally and authoritatively about such a question would in effect not merely allow an additional layer of legal routes for resolving conflicts and ordering behaviour but would actually deprive members of the minority community of rights and liberties that they were entitled to enjoy as citizens; and while a legal system might properly admit structures or protocols that embody the diversity of moral reasoning in a plural society by allowing scope for a minority group to administer its affairs according to its own convictions, it can hardly admit or ‘license’ protocols that effectively take away the rights it acknowledges as generally valid.”
The answer is simple my Lord Bishop – do not give religious law legal force. There is a reason why the law book of England is not the Bible. The law has developed based on tradition, culture, legal practise and Parliamentary Democracy within a liberal pluralist political system. Because a sub group feel passionate in their way of living does not make them a special case when it comes to temporal matters.His answer however is that the believer would have the right of appeal based on secular rights – that the jurisdiction of British law would trump Sharia law. The question then becomes why give legal weight to Sharia Law which under certain circumstances could be superseded? It becomes not only a recipe for conflict and legal wrangling but is ceding the rule of law to a religious body. It is a step back to the dark ages.
Rather than helping believers and none to live together in harmony this is something that would if enacted like Williams suggests tear the nation apart. The rule of law would not apply equally. Under what circumstances would someone accept less than their full rights that secular law gives them? Do we imagine such circumstances are done out of respect for the law of Allah, or fear of the community that they live in? What Williams promotes for harden the lines that already separate towns and cities across this nation. Many Muslims are in this country because their descendants were secularists fleeing the cruel imposition of religious law. He may not be advocating it, but the principle is the same – the law of the land applies to one and all, and is not based on supposed divine text and bodies with authority to interpret the mind of God.
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Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog