Public Stupidity, Misplaced Self-Righteousness, and Obvious Cowardice

Roger Kimball on the Archbishop of Canterbury’s moronic call for Britain to accommodate its law to that of Islamic sharia:

…In a widely reported lecture on BBC radio 4 the Archbishop called for a “constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law” and said that Britons must “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not “relate” to the British legal system. “Constructive accommodation”: let’s see, I guess that is British English for “spineless capitulation”?

And what is all this about Muslim Brits not “relating” to the law? The rule of law is is not a lifestyle choice: it is not something you can opt out of if you happen to have alternative inclinations. “Gee, in my religion, we stone adulteresses to death, so would you mind stepping aside and handing me that pile of rocks?”

The proper answer to such gambits was formulated in the 19th century by General Charles Napier when dealing with sutte, the Indian custom of burning a widow on her husband’s funeral pyre: “You say that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”

Napier flourished in an age of cultural confidence. He was unassailed by the paralyzing multicultural thought that, after all, British civilization was just another civilization and that it only stood to reason that the Indians had their way of dealing with things. He knew that suttee was a disgusting, barbaric practice and he was in India to stamp out such barbarisms and bring the Indians into the modern world. Archbishop Williams seeks instead a “constructive accommodation” with practices that, if they proceed, would destroy everything he, as chief prelate of the Church of England, stands for. Public stupidity is always disagreeable to witness. Public stupidity fired by misplaced self-righteousness and underwritten by obvious cowardice is a positively emetic combination. Henry II may have erred when he raged against Thomas à Becket, Rowan Williams’s illustrious predecessor as Archbishop of Canterbury. I certainly would not wish to have the question “Who will rid us of this troublesome priest?” answered as Henry’s question was answered. But where Becket faithfully served his church and was savagely punished for it, Rowan Williams loses no opportunity to besmirch his Church and is lavishly praised for his perfidy. As I say, for the moment there is nothing at all “unavoidable” about the institution of Sharia law in Britain. All that is necessary to countermand it is a little self-assertion on the part of the British people. Surely the instinct for self-preservation has not been totally eradicated in Britain by the enervating imperatives of political correctness—do I end that sentence with a period or a question mark? It is a mark of how serious things have become come that I am no longer certain. The triumph of Islam in Britain is eminently avoidable. But the triumph of civilizational Quislings like Rowan Williams might just change that.

And MelaniePhillips comments on the Archbishop’s equating sharia law with so-called Jewish law in Britain:

…What we are now facing is a push by certain British Muslims, backed up by Islamist violence and intimidation, to change the rules of the national cultural game. There is only one proper response to that: to say that not one inch of leeway will be given to sharia law, that British society will not dilute the legal principles which govern all its citizens, and that Muslims must observe the same rules that govern every other minority in this country.

But then, Dr Williams purports not to understand that this indeed the case. For he used Britain’s Jewish community to underpin his claim that there was nothing particularly untoward about multiple jurisdictions — but in the process significantly misrepresented Jewish practice to imply, entirely falsely, that British Jews aren’t bound by the law of the land but get an exemption. He drew an analogy between Islamic sharia courts and Jewish religious courts. But there is an absolutely crucial difference between them.

Yes, Jewish religious courts, like sharia courts, deal with such issues as dispute arbitration, family issues, marriage and divorce. But the Jewish courts have never sought official recognition of their rulings, and these are not recognised under English law. Their dispute resolution is informal and voluntary. Their religious marriage and divorce rituals have no status in English law (with the exception of one tiny wrinkle designed to help resolve an anomaly in Jewish divorce law which causes otherwise unavoidable distress); for the state to recognise their marriages or divorces, Jews have to marry or be divorced according to English law just like everyone else. If sharia courts were to operate in this way, there would be no problem. Why should anyone care, after all, what minorities are doing in the private sphere as long as it doesn’t break the law? But the crucial difference is that such Muslims want their rulings to be accepted by the state as having the same legal authority as English law — and Dr Williams is endorsing this. But it breaks the fundamental precept that Jews have always acknowledged — that as a minority they live under the law of the land and do not seek to change it to accommodate them.

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