Matthew Sinclair has a close analysis of the Evil Old GoatTM's proposals—including more extensive quotes from the actual interview and his Temple speech [PDF]—and doesn't tremendously approve. You should go and read the whole thing, but here are some choice quotes.
This is going to be a long post and I'll touch on a number of problems but what is interesting is that I've actually become more, not less, angry. The fact is that Williams isn't just another tranzi trying to undermine the British nation. He is also an idiot who cynically substitutes an excess of terminology and a quiet voice for a coherent and consistent argument.
Williams' idea is a hideous one and expressed in terms that are insulting to those who believe in the highest Western principles. He is abusing his position in the British establishment to normalise an agenda deeply hostile to our most important values. He is not fit to be Archbishop of Canterbury.
This is the measured Mr Sinclair's equivalent of calling someone "a fucking evil little cunt" so suffice to say that Matthew's not happy; not happy at all.
UPDATE: here's Ruth Gledhill in the Times.
The Archbishop has staked everything on trying to maintain unity in his own Anglican Communion. At the same time, he is advocating a policy that could only fragment the society around him.
If you doubt me, watch this, above.
Or this, below.
I am particularly anamoured of the guys in the second video shouting "UK, you will burn! Burn, burn, UK, burn!" Naturally, of course, those starting this chanting—and every single one of those who join in—are just random extremists and definitely not, in any way, representative of Muslims in this country.
A few weeks ago, I was chatting to a woman who works in an advocacy role for Muslim women in an area that, quite independently of the Bishop of Rochester, she described as a 'no-go area' for non-Muslims. Her clients were women in the process of being sectioned into mental health units in the NHS. This woman, who for obvious reasons begged not to be identified, told me: "The men get tired of their wives. Or bored. Or maybe the wife objects to her daughter being forced into a marriage she doesn't want. Or maybe she starts wearing western clothes.There can be many reasons. The women are sent for asssessment to a hospital. The GP referring them is Muslim. The psychiatrist assessing them is Muslim and male. I have sat in these assessments where the psychiatrist will not look the woman patient in the eye because she is a woman. Can you imagine! A psychiatrist refusing to look his patient in the eye? The woman speaks little or no English. She is sectioned. She is divorced. There are lots of these women in there, locked up in these hospitals. Why don't you people write about this?"
My interlocuter went very red and almost started to cry. Instead, she began shouting at me. I was a member of the press. "You must write about this," she begged.
"I can't," I said. "Not unless you become a whistle-blower. Or give me some evidence. Or something."
She shook her head. "I can't be identified," she said. "I would be killed. And so would the women."
So there you have it. After weeks of wondering what to do, inspired by the Archbishop, I've taken her word that she is telling the truth, respected her anonymity, and written it anyway.
And this, I imagine, is what the Archbishop wants for the whole of England.
It is the role of women in Shari'a that particularly offends me. It also rather gives the lie to the idea that people could choose what law they live under: Muslim women already face considerable danger, in some areas, if they throw themselves upon the mercy of Engish law; to validate Shari'a would be a terrible betrayal of these people.
Matthew Sinclair also points to a couple of legal opinions, which put in context what the Archbishop was proposing. The first is from Michael Roffen (Word Doc) and which I reproduce below.
English law and the Shari'a
English law is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and, in particular, our notions of human freedoms derive from that tradition. In my view, it would be simply impossible to introduce a tradition, like Shari'a, into this Corpus without fundamentally affecting its integrity.
The Shari'a is not a generalised collection of dispositions. It is articulated in highly concrete codes called fiqh. It would have to be one or the other, or all, of these which would have to be recognised. All of these schools would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence. This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy.
We should learn from the debate on this question which recently took place in Canada. Here it was mainly Muslim women’s groups that succeeded in preventing the application of Islamic law in matrimonial matters. The importance of a single law for all was strongly re-affirmed.
As with the Beth-din of the Jewish community, it is perfectly possible for religious communities to rule on personal, family and financial matters as long as this does not interfere with the workings of the law of the land. People can use such rulings to inform their conscience and to submit to them voluntarily. Conscientious objection, on religious grounds, should be recognised by the law of the land, as far as possible, but this is quite different from a parallel system of law operating alongside it.
We welcome progressive views on the development of Shari'a. These will enable Muslims to relate better to the contemporary world and will ease the situation of non-Muslims in many Muslim countries. They are not, however, an argument for disturbing the integrity of a legal tradition which is rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible.
7 February 2008
The second is from Dr James Behrens (RTF) and further cocerns the interpretation of foreign law within our English law.
To what extent is is permissible for Sharia law to be part of English law?
Sharia law is not part of English law. Sharia law is treated by English law as a foreign law. The courts sometimes need evidence of what foreign law is on a particular matter, in order to decide rights in accordance with English law. Foreign law is a matter of evidence to be brought before the English Court.
For example, if the question arises in an English Court as to the validity of a will made by a Muslim in Pakistan, evidence will be admitted as to the law which would be applied in Pakistan. The English courts would then apply English law to determine whether, if the will was validly made in Pakistan, it should be treated as a valid will in English law. The answer in fact is yes – see the Wills Act 1963, a part of English law.
Similarly, if the question arises in an English Court as to whether two persons were validly married in a Muslim country, the court would receive evidence of the marriage laws of that country, and then decide, as a matter of English law, whether or not the couple are validly married. See the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 s. 14 and the Foreign Marriage Act 1892.
Although the English Courts may thus have to enquire what the foreign law is on a matter, this is a matter of evidence, a matter of fact. They will determine that as a matter of fact the foreign law says such and such. Then, applying English law to this fact, the court reaches its conclusion as a matter of English law on the issue it has to decide.
There is no question of the English Court applying Sharia law in this process. The English Court applies English law, and would not consider itself competent to apply any other law. In the same way, the English Court would be incompetent to apply French law to a dispute about a French property. Instead the English Court would receive evidence as to French property law, and apply that to the issue the English Court had to decide.
The foundations of English law include of course Acts of Parliament and the common law. Ecclesiastical law (the law of the Church of England) is part of the law of English Law, partly because the Church of England is the Established Church. The law of other Christian denominations is not part of English Law, but is treated as a foreign law. So, too, is Jewish and Muslim law. If the question arises as to the validity of a Jewish or a Muslim divorce, the court will hear evidence on the matter and decide as a matter of English law the answer.
An example of the English Court ascertaining Sharia law but applying English law is Basma Sulaiman Al Sulaiman v Walid Ahmed Al Juffali reported (2002) 1 FLR 479 and The Times, November 28, 2001. In this case the court heard and accepted the evidence of two experts on Sharia law that a Muslim talaq pronounced in England and Wales had the effect under Sharia Law of dissolving a marriage as soon as it was pronounced. However the court held that as a matter of English law a Muslim talaq was an informal divorce obtained otherwise than through a court and therefore could not be recognised in English law as validly dissolving the marriage.
The whole of England and Wales is under the jurisdiction of the Courts. The only way Sharia law could apply directly to a particular area would be for the jurisdiction of the Courts over that area to be removed, and for a Sharia court system to replace it. That would require an Act of Parliament to create a separate jurisdiction (from the Latin ius, iuris meaning "law" and dicere meaning "to speak") in which the Queen's rule no longer applied. The constitutional and political implications of this are immense.
Dr James Behrens, Barrister
Both of these articles address the comparisons that many have been making between the Shari'a and the Jewish Beth-Din.
I must admit that I know little about the Beth-Din, and would be happy to be enlightened. However from what I know of Shari'a, some of the central tenets upon which it rests—especially its attitude to women—are entirely unacceptable under our English law.
Further, I am afraid that I have no wish to give the slightest encouragement to those Islamists who would wish to spread Shari'a throughout the world. And, just to be even-handed, this applies not simply to Muslims and Shari'a, but to any bunch of lunatics who believe that a sky-fairy has told them precisely how they should live their everyday lives and who would force me—a person who does not share their lunatic beliefs—to live in that way too.
Fuck them and fuck their sky-fairies.