February 8, 2008

THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND AND the failure of liberal multiculturalism. It’s interesting, however, that Rowan Williams need have no fear for his personal safety after saying that Sharia is inevitable in England, while had he said bad things about Sharia the reverse would have been true. Under such circumstances, is behavior like his surprising?

UPDATE: Demands for Rowan Williams’ resignation.

ANOTHER UPDATE: More thoughts from Johnathan Pearce: “Frankly, a man of such supposed learned views as Dr Williams should know that a religion that has a legal code that applies to women in the way that it does is outrageous; doubly outrageous, considering that the Church, with all its faults, has in the past acted as a moral beacon on stirring up consciences on issues like the slave trade. I am sure there are admirable aspects of sharia: it is hard to believe that it would not have died out were it not to have contained such features. But let’s be crystal clear: if the Archbishop thinks it is right that whole groups of the UK population can choose to deal with issues like marriage, divorce and treatment of women outside the structure of the English Common law and its insistence upon treatment of women as consenting adults in matters of marriage, then he might as well hang up his cassock.”

MORE: Archbishop receives an almost universal and appalled No.

Plus this: “I’ve just been speaking with a Muslim friend who has always opposed sharia law. ‘Where does it leave me’, he asks, ‘when the Archbishop of Canterbury is calling for sharia?’ The beautifully hostile press reaction to Rowan Williams’ disgusting views is the only aspect of this story that could provide any hope. But the story is running big across the Middle East, and people there are seeing Britain’s surrender to sharia played out on a news-loop. Do we think that Islamic extremists in the Middle East and beyond will be be more demoralised or more emboldened by this news?”

STILL MORE: Williams issues a clarification of his remarks.

MORE STILL: Eugene Volokh offers a defense of Williams. I think, however, that he misses the explosive context — marked by domestic violence and a concerted campaign by some hard-core Muslims in Britain to establish sharia law for everyone, not just contractually consenting parties — that made sure that Williams’ remarks would have an explosive impact, as they have, both within Britain and in the Middle East. It’s true, of course, that decrees of religious “courts” are often enforced in the same fashion as arbitrations and other mutually-agreed-upon dispute resolution mechanisms. However, with honor killing reportedly on the rise in Britain, we may rightly wonder whether women in Muslim immigrant communities are likely to freely consent to a regime that is generally much, much less favorable than existing English law, and whether this approach makes problems of assimilation worse. As head of the Church of England, Williams’ words matter, and these words were quite unwise and damaging. Which is why he has even drawn criticism from among his own bishops: “The Rt Rev Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, who holds dual British and Pakistani citizenship, said Britain should learn from the example of Canada, where Muslim women’s groups managed to crush attempts to introduce Islamic law in matrimonial cases.”

Still more here: “The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing demands to quit last night as the row over sharia law intensified. Leading bishops publicly contradicted Dr Rowan Williams’s call for Islamic law to be brought into the British legal system.” Even Tariq Ramadan thinks he should have kept his mouth shut.

FINALLY: A reader emails:

This reminds me of a Monty Python skit called “The Bishop” in which Terry Jones played a crime fighting Anglican bishop who roared around in a right-hand drive Pontiac along with four young vicars as assistants. When they came to a locked door, three of them picked up the fourth and used him as a headfirst battering ram.

The vicars were not credited on screen, but the fourth was undoubtedly Dr. Williams.

That would explain a lot. Of course, so would this . . . .

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