Friday, 8 February 2008

An Archbishop Says What?

Although I have to say I wasn't entirely surprised to read the latest piece of drivel to dribble out of our friendly local primate - Are CofE types primates like the Catholics? Ah who cares, he is a primate either way. Apparently we need to adopt some aspects of sharia law in the UK in order to make our muslim friends feel at home.

You know what? No we oughtn't. In fact, we shouldn't just oughtn't, we should damn well complain, although probably in a very polite British sort of a way. After all, he is only an archbishop, and nobody really listens to him any more. Except maybe those dratted Christians, and there's quite a few of them...

Obviously, he is careful to make sure that he doesn't want any of the "extreme" elements like stonings and reductions in women's rights. What he wants is, apparently, all the good fluffy bits of sharia law that don't hurt anyone's civil liberties. Although which bits of sharia law those might be, I'm not too sure. To be honest, it's not even the extremity (or lack thereof) of the laws that matters here, it's the fact that having parallel systems of laws for different religions is a really stupid idea.

We shouldn't change our laws "to make other people feel at home here." Either they were born here or they emigrated here, and they can abide by the laws of this country - and enjoy the right to have them changed by the due democratic process. If the latter, I would suspect that some of them are escaping the brutality of sharia law as practiced in some countries. How much more at home do we make those people feel by introducing it?

Also, is it not odd to imagine a system whereby one is asked one's religious preference before going to court? It seems to me that as an atheist I might benefit from being able to unscrupulously choose whichever system is most beneficial to me at the time. They wouldn't be allowed to deny me the right after all. This country is effectively - and should be officially - a secular state. The law should not recognise religion as an excuse to be treated differently just as it should not be discriminate against people for their religion.

Finally, would it not cost the state a whole bunch more money to have multiple systems of law functioning side by side? That's not really relevant I guess as the main thing we need to do here is make sure we don't end up back in the sodding dark ages trying people on the basis of their religious beliefs.


artificialhabitat said...

Wait until you hear the fevered ravings of the Archbishop of York in the HFEB debates I've been reading.

I think one of the other Bishops managed not to come across as a deranged cretin, but it was a close call.

And yes, for those readers not of the UK, we have bishops in one of our legislative houses, not as a result of some Lords happening to be bishops, but precisely because they are bishops. The qualification which supposedly merits their inclusion in the legislature is their ascent to the highest levels of belief in imaginary nonsense.

Harespring said...

Who will rid us of this turbulent priest. I'd like to see a list of the fluffier bits of sharia law. It sounds Quite Interesting...

Stephen Bain said...

Well, I've read the basic outline of Sharia law now and I'm not sure there really are any fluffy bits...

Looking at it, I'm not really sure if any of it would actually be compatible with human rights legislation...

It does have some fun blasphemy laws and quite a lot on women having less rights than men.

pode said...

You've got the wrong end of a stick here, which is understandable given:

a) Archbishop Rowan 'Druid' Williams has a tendency to express himself rather stupidly

b) The BBC, Guardian and others have misreported this seriously and taken quotes out of context.

He was suggesting that Sharia courts be given the same legal standing that Jewish community courts have had in this country for some time. They have a legal mandate to arbitrate in family disputes and other matters that fall below the general remit / botheredness of the civil courts. They must still function within the laws of the land and their authority is limited.

Sharia courts don't have any such standing at the moment, and you need to choose between giving them the same standing as the Jewish courts (for fairness' sake) or removing any legal standing from the Jewish courts (for fairness' sake).

He is not -- as the raving loonies writing for the press these days would have us think -- advocating public floggings or the amputation of limbs for commission of petty crimes.

I don't personally see why there can't be a universal community arbitration service for those of all creeds and religions. I'd rather no religion had such powers (anglicanism anyone?), but if it keeps them happy and prevents whinging, and doesn't interfere with the higher law of the land then I'm not that bothered.

Stephen Bain said...

I know there was never any suggestion of introducing any of the extreme parts of Sharia law. It
just seems like another PR exercise from an increasingly irrelevant priest.

I don't believe that any aspect of the law should be different dependent upon a person's religion. I don't think the Jews should have their own community courts either to be honest. In a way it's just as important that smaller cases like family disputes are handled in a secular court as criminal cases are. Given that such cases will often involve children, I would rather that their segregation from those of other faiths is not reinforced by the state.

Everyone should be subject to exactly the same laws and be granted exactly the same privileges.
I'll be much happier when this country is completely secular.