Archnutter Williams suggests some Sharia could be included in UK law
Without actually knowing anything about shariah divorce law one has to suspect that it gives the wife absolutely no say in the matter, nor any fair share in the assets. Surely this would be totally impossible to accept in Britain.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, has sparked a political storm by calling for aspects of Sharia law to
be adopted in Britain.
Williams said it seems inevitable" that elements of Islamic law, such as divorce proceedings, would be incorporated into British law.
Williams said the UK had to face up to the fact that some citizens do not relate to the British legal system, and argued that officially sanctioning Sharia law would improve community relations.
Nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that has sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states, he told the BBC's World at One programme: But there are ways of
looking at marital disputes, for example, which provide an alternative to the divorce courts as we understand them.
But his intervention put him at odds with Gordon Brown, who has repeatedly encouraged ethnic communities to integrate.
The Prime Minister's spokesman said that while certain allowances had been made for Muslims, British law would be based on British values and Sharia law was no justification for acting against national law.
Williams said people needed to look at Islamic law with a clear eye and not imagine, either, that we know exactly what we mean by Sharia and just associate it with... Saudi Arabia, or whatever....I do not think we should instantly spring to the
conclusion that the whole of that world of jurisprudence and practice is somehow monstrously incompatible with human rights just because it doesn't immediately fit with how we understand it .
Sharia law was originally more enlightened in its attitude to women than other legal systems, Williams pointed out, but did now have to be brought up to date.
Williams's comments were welcomed by Mohammed Shafiq, the director of the Ramadhan Foundation, who said: Sharia law for civil matters is something which has been introduced in some western countries with much success.
The Archnutter of Canterbury faced calls for his resignation today as bishops joined politicians in criticising his
remarks supporting the adoption of sharia law in Britain.
Dr Rowan Williams was urged to quit by angry members of the General Synod, the Church's "parliament", who claimed he was undermining the Christian faith.
To add to his woes, Lord Carey, his predecessor at Canterbury, and the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, challenged his view that aspects of Islamic law could be incorporated into the English legal system.
The strength of the backlash represents one of the most serious blows to the Archbishop's authority since his appointment five years ago, and he faces more turbulence when the Synod convenes for a five-day meeting in London on Monday.
Last night friends of the Archbishop said he was "completely overwhelmed" by the hostility of the response and in a "state of shock" at the barrage of criticism he has received.
Lord Carey said that he was wrong to believe that sharia could be accommodated into the English system because there were so many conflicting versions of it, many of which discriminated against women.
Bishop Nazir-Ali, who holds dual British and Pakistani citizenship, said sharia would be "in tension" with fundamental aspects of our current legal system, such as the rights of women.
Offsite Comment: What he wishes on us is an abomination
What Rowan Williams wishes upon us is an abomination and I write here as a modern Muslim woman. He lectures the nation on the benefits of sharia law – made by bearded men, for men – and wants the alternative legal system to be accommodated within
our democracy in the spirit of inclusion and cohesion.
Pray tell me sir, how do separate and impenetrable courts and schools and extreme female segregation promote commonalities and deep bonds between citizens of these small isles?
What he did on Thursday was to convince other Britons, white, black and brown, that Muslims want not equality but exceptionalism and their own domains. Enlightened British Muslims quail. Friends like this churchman do us more harm than our many
enemies. He passes round what he believes to be the benign libation of tolerance. It is laced with arsenic.
He would not want his own girls and women, I am sure, to "choose" to be governed by these laws he breezily endorses. And he is naive to the point of folly if he imagines it is possible to pick and choose the bits that are relatively nice
to the girls or ones that seem to dictate honourable financial transactions.
Look around the Islamic world where sharia rules and, in every single country, these ordinances reduce our human value to less than half that is accorded a male; homosexuals are imprisoned or killed, children have no free voice or autonomy,
authoritarianism rules and infantilises populations.
Offsite Comment: Williams is dangerous. He must be resisted
...Properly understood, the effect of devolving national law and national morality to local and group level is profoundly conservative. Dr Williams's ideas really represent the wilder fringes of a bigger idea: communitarianism...
There is absolutely nothing “left-wing” or woolly-liberal about empowering it. A Britain in which Muslim communities policed themselves would be more ruthlessly policed, and probably more law-abiding than today. But it would be a Britain in which
the individual Muslim - maybe female, maybe ambitious, maybe gay, maybe a religious doubter - would lose their chances of rescue from his or her family or community by the State.
The State, not family, faith or community, is the guarantor of personal liberty and intellectual freedom, and it will always be to the State, not the Church, synagogue or mosque, that the oppressed individual needs look. Some two centuries ago
Nonconformism in Britain, by offering the individual an unmediated approach to a personal God, started to liberate Christians from the Church. Dr Williams seems not to understand this. Or perhaps he does, and is on the other side.
The Archbishop of Canterbury has sought to defuse the bitter row over what he appeared to claim was the unavoidable adoption of sharia law in the UK by conceding that his controversial comments may have been unclear and "clumsily
He insisted that the Church of England had a "considerable" responsibility to other faith groups and asserted that it was not "inappropriate" to raise issues surrounding Islam or other religions – comments that were immediately
welcomed by Muslim leaders.
Islamic 'law' has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.
The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence.
Rulings issued by a network of five sharia courts are enforceable with the full power of the judicial system, through the county courts or High Court.
Previously, the rulings of sharia courts in Britain could not be enforced, and depended on voluntary compliance among Muslims.
It has now emerged that sharia courts with these powers have been set up in London, Birmingham, Bradford and Manchester with the network's headquarters in Nuneaton, Warwickshire. Two more courts are being planned for Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Sheikh Faiz-ul-Aqtab Siddiqi, whose Muslim Arbitration Tribunal runs the courts, said he had taken advantage of a clause in the Arbitration Act 1996. Under the act, the sharia courts are classified as arbitration tribunals. The rulings of
arbitration tribunals are binding in law, provided that both parties in the dispute agree to give it the power to rule on their case.
Siddiqi said: We realised that under the Arbitration Act we can make rulings which can be enforced by county and high courts. The act allows disputes to be resolved using alternatives like tribunals. This method is called alternative dispute
resolution, which for Muslims is what the sharia courts are.
Jewish Beth Din courts operate under the same provision in the Arbitration Act and resolv civil cases, ranging from divorce to business disputes. They have existed in Britain for more than 100 years, and previously operated under a precursor to
Dominic Grieve, the shadow home secretary, said: If it is true that these tribunals are passing binding decisions in the areas of family and criminal law, I would like to know which courts are enforcing them because I would consider such action
unlawful. British law is absolute and must remain so.
Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: I think it's appalling. I don't think arbitration that is done by sharia should ever be endorsed or enforced by the British state.”
There are concerns that women who agree to go to tribunal courts are getting worse deals because Islamic law favours men.
Siddiqi said that in a recent inheritance dispute handled by the court in Nuneaton, the estate of a Midlands man was divided between three daughters and two sons. The judges on the panel gave the sons twice as much as the daughters, in accordance
with sharia. Had the family gone to a normal British court, the daughters would have got equal amounts.
In the six cases of domestic violence, Siddiqi said the judges ordered the husbands to take anger management classes and mentoring from community elders. There was no further punishment. In each case, the women subsequently withdrew the complaints
they had lodged with the police and the police stopped their investigations.