I have to admit that this whole furure over the recognition of sharia law or not in the UK has me rather bemused. Giggling even.
Senior religious leaders attack multiculturalism and sharia law today, warning that they are "disastrous", socially divisive and are destroying Britain\’s culture and values.
It\’s not just the oft used comparison with aspects of Orthodox Jewish law and the Bith Den (or is it Beth Din, I can never remember?).
There was, some years ago, a case where a certain Mrs. Cohen, who was a convert to Judaism, found out that in the eyes of that religion her (long, and fruitful) marriage ws not in fact a marriage as Mr. Cohen, as a part of the tribe of Cohanim (I think I\’m getting that word correct) was not allowed to marry a convert, only one born into the religion. This of course had no effect whatsoever on whether Mrs. Cohen was married or not in English law, nor whether the Cohenettes were legitimate children or not. They had married in a ceremony legal under English law and that was that.
Lord Carey and Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O\’Connor rebut the call of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, for Islamic law to be recognised in Britain.
Lord Carey, the former archbishop of Canterbury, said: "His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation. He has overstated the case for accommodating Islamic legal codes.
"His conclusion that Britain will eventually have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share.
"There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights."
The giggles rather come from the former Archbishop of Canterbury saying such a thing. Has he never heard of Canon Law? That is, a different and discrete system of laws within our society that applies to one group and one group only: the Church of England and its priests (and sometimes its adherents)?
Our Cormac also piles in: yet while a Catholic might legally divorce the Church will not recognise that, while a Catholic may remarry after such a divorce, the Church will not recognise that. We already have a splintered legal system.
And not just for religous matters either. To sign up as a doctor puts you voluntarily under the legal system of the General Medical Council, as a solicitor under the Law Society. Many contracts insist upon arbitration clauses.
To add another system of law which people might vountarily sign up to, namely sharia law, doesn\’t seem to me to be a breach of anything at all. Indeed, such private legal systems seem to be rather the system.
With one proviso of course: that such systems are kept in their place. A subservient one. That the Catholic Church can ignore the divorce law is fine: but not that the law insist that Catholics cannot avail themselves of it. That an arbitration clause in a contract be enforced is fine, as long as there can be appeal to the courts as well. That the religious definition of a marriage be defined by the religious courts? Not a problem: as long as those requesting the legal protections of the law of the land marry in a legal ceremony. (Worth noting here that there is no difference in law between a marriage that takes place in a church, a synagogue or a registry office. The same legal process has taken place, whatever the mummery that is dressed around it. That bit where they go off to "sign the registry": that\’s the legal process, however many hymns are sung around it.)
The idea of sharia law in England simply isn\’t a problem. As long as it is, as with these other private legal systems, subservient to the main legal system itself.
I haven\’t read Rowan Williams original remarks (the man sends me to sleep, sorry) but while he is indeed a bearded leftie, he\’s also far too clever a man to have been suggesting anything else. At least I hope so.