What role for Sharia in the West?

Posted on February 10, 2008

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Feb 9th 2008

From Economist.com

STEEPED in a culture of emollience, gentility and the avoidance of hard arguments, England¹s established Church has little knowledge of how to handle public opinion when it suddenly finds itself in the eye of a gigantic storm. And, for better or worse, the country¹s politically-active Muslims are capable of showing much greater deftness and sophistication.

That is one conclusion from the furore that has followed a series of controversial statements about Islam and the law by Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In a lecture, he suggested that the British authorities would inevitably have to make some accommodation with sharia, the Muslim legal system; he also noted, in a radio interview, that certain provisions of sharia are already recognised in British society and under British law.

³What a burkha² declared the Sun newspaper, alongside a picture of a head-covered figure making a rude gesture. To judge by the tone of the British press (and not only the tabloid press), the Archbishop‹who is also the leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion, numbering 80m people‹might have been advocating the mandatory covering of every female British head, plus the instant introduction of amputation, whipping and stoning for the most trivial misdemeanours.

In fact, of course, he said nothing of the kind. But what he did advocate was not uncontroversial: he suggested there could be a ³plural jurisdiction² in which Muslims could freely decide whether disputes (in which only co-religionists were involved) were resolved in secular courts or by Islamic institutions which offer an alternative forum for arbitration. [more]

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