‘To ask us to fundamentally change the rule of law and to adopt Sharia law, I think, is fundamentally wrong.’
– Tony McNulty Home Office Minister
Archbishop Rowan Williams shows a considerable lack of tact in declaring the adoption on Islamic or Sharia law ‘unavoidable’. He clearly needs to develop a better understanding of how the likes of Daily Mail pervert such comments. And yet there is a little sense in what he says, particularly with regard to marriage.
Not being superstitious my wife and I married in a civil ceremony with no regard to what any supernatural being(s) might think. We were motivated by the excuse for a party in celebration of our partnership and (to a lesser extent) the legal advantages that come with having a partnership recognised; we may have preferred a civil partnership to a marriage.
While others marry in churches, synagogues, mosques or whatever, all these unions are entered into the same register. So I can understand that someone who’s married in conformity to a particular religious tradition might seek to obtain a divorce in much the same way, with the secular authority simply informed of the outcome.
Jewish courts already rule on civil matters and successive governments have encouraged a wide range of methods for Alternative Dispute Resolution to relieve pressure on the courts. None of these things removes anybody’s right to go to court, but they do tend to offer speedier alternatives. A Jewish court presumably offers the chance to sort things out in a manner informed by the traditions of that faith and other methods of dispute resolution might be informed by other values to which all parties subscribe.
However, while Sharia courts might have a role in civil disputes, and possibly marriage and divorce, there is clearly no role for them in the criminal justice system.
Just last month nine men and two women were waiting to be stoned to death in Iran, a method of execution that takes around twenty minutes as the crowd can’t use stones big enough to kill in just one or two strikes.
These atrocities, which are systemic rather than occasional events perpetrated by the odd nutter, rightly make many of us suspicious of any mention of Sharia and of Islam generally; which is why our politicians are running away from the Archbishop of Canterbury so quickly. Only Islamic community itself can tackle such issues effectively; something it must do if it wishes to enjoy the privilege of civil Sharia courts.