Barnabas Fund Response to the Archbishop of Canterbury`s recommendation to apply Islamic law in the UK:
Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, argued in a lunchtime radio interview on Thursday 7th February that the adoption of Islamic law, shari`a, in Britain is unavoidable. In the evening he gave a lecture at the Royal Courts of Justice (organised by the Temple Church and the Centre of Islamic and Middle East Law at London University`s School of Oriental and African Studies) in which his main argument seemed to be that in a plural multi-faith society the concept of one universal law for all citizens must be adapted to accommodate the reality of other law traditions in minority communities. He elaborated especially on the Muslim community in the UK and on Islamic law, and argued for an accommodation between English law and Islamic law so that either law system could be used for dispute resolution and for marriage, divorce, inheritance and other matters.
The fact is that Britain has already come a long way along the Islamisation road. Many informal shari`a courts are operating in the Muslim community; there is a parallel shari`a compliant financial system; shari`a regulations such as those to do with halal food, Islamic dress and gender segregation in physical exercises are complied with in schools and educational institutions. Some of these regulations also operate in public services such as the police, the NHS and the prison system.
The addition of shari`a courts whose sentences are binding and enforceable by the civil legal system will take Britain much further along the Islamisation track, which is the long-term goal of many Muslim organisations. Contrary to the Archbishop`s expectations, it will narrow the space for free discussion and legitimate criticism, limit the freedoms and rights available to individual Muslims, and empower the more traditional, Islamist and radical tendencies in the Muslim community.
Furthermore for the many Anglicans and other Christians living in contexts where shari`a is being applied and causing untold misery and suffering, for example in parts of Nigeria and parts of Sudan, the Archbishop of Canterbury`s suggestions are not just unwise, but insensitive to the point of callousness.
Dr Patrick Sookhdeo
1) Barnabas Fund Response to the Archbishop of Canterbury`s recommendation to apply Islamic law in the UK