Learning to Coexist

The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Right Reverend Rowan Williams, has kicked up a bit of a storm with his very public suggestion that Sharia law should be made more legitimate in the UK, in civil matters. This is a difficult position for the head of the world-wide Anglican Church to take when much of British law has been intentionally built on Christian principles, and many Christians are being harshly treated because of (as they understand it) Sharia law.There is a fascinating article by Prof. Mona Siddiqui, in the March edition of Third Way magazine, criticising the way in which the Qur'an has been used to propagate oppression.

It is interesting that so many comments have been extreme, and that Muslims in Britain are not united in their support of his ideas – some saying for example “Which Sharia?” Likewise much newspaper coverage has been biased, and I have been impressed with the very balanced one-pager on Sharia Law in the latest edition of The Week.

I perceive that, for example, many of the difficulties that Muslim women face in Britain (for example to do with forced marriages and “honour crimes”) stem from attempts to implement Sharia Law – or at least Islamic culture – so I find it difficult to see how extending an Islamic legal system will improve matters. Would women's testimony be given the same weight as that of men? Would women be the judges?

Commenting on the response of politicians, one journalist commented that when politicians are “running scared” of debate it is a sure sign that a debate is needed. Since I too believe in the need for issues to be discussed openly, I have hope that the Archbishop's courage will bear good fruit. We'll have to wait to see what kind of fruit they are.