Rowan Williams | Sharia | Controversy

February 7, 2008 — Leave a comment

Archbishop Rowan Williams has once more caused a bit of a stir. I recently expressed some concern about Williams’ recommendations for tighter restrictions on inflammatory speech. This time Williams has commented on the suitability of British law to an increasingly diverse British public. Read the BBC article here. To see a more conservative reaction to Williams’ remarks, go here. A quick comment. The BBC article carries what I think is a misleading title: “Sharia Law in UK is ‘unavoidable.'” The article then begins by revealing that the title is not factually accurate: 

The Archbishop of Canterbury says the adoption of certain aspects of Sharia law in the UK “seems unavoidable”. 

The headline makes it sounds like the Archbishop is claiming that one day soon there will be beheadings (once more) on Bethnel Green and women in Burqas riding on the Tube as a matter of British Law. Instead it seems that Williams is suggesting that British law will have to place some limitations or exclusions on itself in order to deal with the growing Muslim population. Williams notes that there exists a parallel court (with limited subject matter jurisdiction) for Jewish Britons, the Beth Din. Why should there not be some similar system for settling a limited number of matters for British Muslims? What do you think? This would essentially be some form of what we here in the US call, Alternative Dispute Resolution. It would be an extra-judicial system that reaches decisions that are binding upon the parties and enforceable in the law courts. We already have this. Arbitration and mediation are common examples are often stipulated as the first course of action in a contractual dispute. Why not extend this to allow devout Muslims a way to settle disputes that originates from and is faithful to their faith tradition? I would suggest that such a system be limited to settling disputes between Muslims and on the basis of a voluntary contractual agreement to use this venue as a primary means to remedy. Second, it would need to be limited to a small number of matter. I would suggest primarily in the matter of contracts, perhaps also in family law. Finally, any remedy suggested by such a system would need to be reviewable by the Crown Courts and reversible in any instance in which it renders a decision irreconcilable with any fundamentally settled matter of law relating to the rights of individuals British subjects. Your thoughts?(via: RP)

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