February 10, 2008

Sharia Law in Britain

According to BBC News, "The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK 'seems unavoidable'. Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4's World at One that the UK has to 'face up to the fact' that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system. Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion."

What a catastrophic betrayal of the very Western values that have made Britain a free, open and egalitarian society! But let me not assume he is an idiot. Let me assume he just phrased things in a clumsy way and see if I can read some sense into what he said. He kept on repeating that Jews in Britain have a Beth Din that deals with family and other matters. He is right that we Jews may voluntarily take issues to a Beth Din and it is true that Jewish Law asks of us that we do this rather than go to civil courts. But the Beth Din only functions voluntarily and does not override or supersede the law of the land.

For example, a Beth Din will not finally issue a divorce until after the civil courts have finalized the matter. As for arbitration or settling financial matters, this can only be done by agreement. As we saw two years ago, a Dayan of the Federation ended up in the civil courts in a dispute with a Jewish businessman. Halachic courts operate purely on a voluntary basis. Now if the Archbishop was saying that Muslim courts could function in the same voluntary way, no one would argue with him. Of course, every religion has the right to worship, dress and conduct its internal affairs as it wishes so long as it does not offend the law of the land.

But he didn't say that. He said Civil Law has to accommodate to Sharia. In this charged, tense atmosphere his language was ill considered and childish at best. Such a suggestion is not only madness, but also a complete betrayal of British values. No wonder so many Christians in the UK prefer the Chief Rabbi to the Archbishop.

There is no way you can unite a country and a varied population without a single system of law. It is already a scandal that the police and the judiciary turn blind eyes to honor murders and forced marriages in flagrant opposition to English Law, for fear of offending sections of the population. It is a scandal that Social Welfare pays out large sums to multiple wives in a society where polygamy is against the law.

The problem is that many Muslims are as open, law-abiding, and religiously moderate as most Jews. Sadly, there is a significant number that come from more primitive sectors of Islam and have not yet made any concessions to modernity, other than Coca-Cola. They need to be encouraged to do so, not be pandered to, because in pandering we are abetting the betrayal of moderate Islam.

If Christianity is so weak that it has given up the fight for its values, please, I beg the government to stand firm. It was elected to serve British values, but if it concedes it will preside over the destruction of British values within a generation.

The Jews who came to Britain always knew they had to abide by the law of the land. We have always done this. Now it seems the Archbishop wants to see one law for Christians and Jews and another for Muslims. We might as well invite the Saudi Royal Family to move into Buck House.

6 Comments:

At 5:34 PM , Anonymous HS said...

But more than anything else it is a betrayal of those who came to this country to escape Sharia law. It's the equivalent of Jews fleeing Fascism only to find it condoned in the very countries they thought would provide safe haven.

 
At 9:30 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

Amen!

 
At 7:32 AM , Blogger Tony said...

Actually if you read his lecture on Islam and English Law he said very clearly that there is only one rule of law in this country, but that it can accommodate some aspects of Sharia Law, as it has accommodated halacha (for example in the realms of Shechita, Sunday trading, and married womens property rights). He stated that changes to English Law must be done so that no-one suffers any erosion of their existing civil rights or liberties.
He also argued for the extension of Sharia courts as acceptable means of arbitration where they are often better at resolving disputes than an English courts with their emphasis on confrontation.
The problem is that such is the level of Islamophobia in this country that people equate Sharia Law with amputation and beheading in the same way they equate jihad with religious wars. We all need to learn much more about the way arabic words are used, in the same way that we have had to educate the English public in the meaning of Hebrew words used for Jewish religious principles.

 
At 9:53 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

I was basing myself on his interview with Radio 4 so I can only speak to that.

As I said in my piece, if he was asking for similar accommodations to Jews, of course no one would have argued, on the contrary. The crucial issue was his statement that many Muslims do not accept English Law. No citizen should ever have the right to evade avoid or opt out of the Law of the Land.

Jews have always accepted English Law and have only asked for accommodations not replacement. voluntary mediation is one thing, imposing Sharia law on women is another. If he did not mean that, then he is a fool because his words as used on the BBC implied it. As the rabbis say, 'Wise Men Beware of your words lest people learn to lie from them.'

 
At 1:14 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but have you actually read the full text of what the Archbishop stated? I think not! It seems that Europe and North America abound with what can only be called the 'blood libel' of today: anything to do with Islam.
Nowhere in this did he mention that all Muslims must submit to Sharia. Only that there is no reason why aspects of Sharia cannot be applied to existing British law, should an individual Muslim prefer this. Nowhere does he advocate the supremacy of Sharia over British law. But, it seems that certain sections of the media would rather have you believe that British law will be overthrown and Sharia will control all aspects of British life. That not only all Muslims but all British citizens would have to submit to Sharia. And public executions will be carried out in all public squares! I can almost hear the terrified shrieks of "the Muslims are coming! Hide your daughters and silver!".
This blatant misrepresentation of the Archbishop's comments is deeply suspect. One has to wonder what is the purpose of alienating a particular section of British society.
What interests are served by not extending to British Muslims the same liberties enjoyed by British Christians and British Jews? Certainly not British interests!

 
At 7:29 AM , Blogger Rabbi Jeremy Rosen said...

I said very clearly in my piece that I was basing my article on the BBC 4 interview, as reported on the BBC website, not the lecture he gave. I had not yet seen it.
Indeed, the lecture does look very different--but as the Talmud says, 'Wise men be careful what you say', lest they get misrepresented.

 

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home