Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice

Anglican readers of this blog may recall the furor earlier this year when the Archbishop of Canterbury got himself in trouble for musing in public the inevitability of sharia law in Great Britain. This piece from today's New York Times reminded me of that debate and of how difficult the question of religious accomodation can be in a liberal society, and, if you believe conservative commentators like Mark Steyn, how dangerous it can be. As a friend of mine on my current chaplain course saiid, pluralism works fine as long as the numbers favour the dominant group in a society. Here's an excerpt from the Times article:

November 19, 2008
Britain Grapples With Role for Islamic Justice
LONDON — The woman in black wanted an Islamic divorce. She told the religious judge that her husband hit her, cursed her and wanted her dead.

But her husband was opposed, and the Islamic scholar adjudicating the case seemed determined to keep the couple together. So, sensing defeat, she brought our her secret weapon: her father.

In walked a bearded man in long robes who described his son-in-law as a hot-tempered man who had duped his daughter, evaded the police and humiliated his family.

The judge promptly reversed himself and recommended divorce.

This is Islamic justice, British style. Despite a raucous national debate over the limits of religious tolerance and the pre-eminence of British law, the tenets of Shariah, or Islamic law, are increasingly being applied to everyday life in cities across the country.

The Church of England has its own ecclesiastical courts. British Jews have had their own “beth din” courts for more than a century.

But ever since the archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, called in February for aspects of Islamic Shariah to be embraced alongside the traditional legal system, the government has been grappling with a public furor over the issue, assuaging critics while trying to reassure a wary and at times disaffected Muslim population that its traditions have a place in British society.

Boxed between the two, the government has taken a stance both cautious and confusing, a sign of how volatile almost any discussion of the role of Britain’s nearly two million Muslims can become.

Read the whole article

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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