There's been a loud, steady outcry from around the world criticizing Anglican Archbishop Rowan William, who recently said that "adopting some aspects of sharia law for Muslims is 'unavoidable' in England" and that it could lead to "improved social cohesion." The strongest critics were Muslim women and ex-Muslims, who know what sharia law looks like and how it's implemented in many countries. The major criticisms are that 1) England already has one set of laws for all people, 2) sharia law is discriminatory against women and non-Muslims, and 3) many Muslim women, dissidents and gays immigrated to England to escape sharia law. The ultimate goal is Islamists is implemeting sharia law to govern all aspects of life for everyone. Give 'em an inch, they'll take a mile. This is only the beginning. Here's what Yasmin Alibhai (Muslim), Johann Hari (staunch liberal) Dr. Patrick Sookhedo (former Muslim), Mona Eltahawy (Muslim) and the dumpster-diving Iowahawk had to say:
"What Rowan Williams wishes upon us is an abomination and I write here as a modern Muslim woman. He lectures the nation on the benefits of sharia law – made by bearded men, for men – and wants the alternative legal system to be accommodated within our democracy in the spirit of inclusion and cohesion."
"Pray tell me sir, how do separate and impenetrable courts and schools and extreme female segregation promote commonalities and deep bonds between citizens of these small isles?"
"...Enlightened British Muslims quail. Friends like this churchman do us more harm than our many enemies. He passes round what he believes to be the benign libation of tolerance. It is laced with arsenic."
"....Rowan Williams has shown us why the doctrine of multiculturalism needs to abandoned."
"...We don't need to speculate about what these British sharia courts would look like. They already exist in some mosques across Britain, as voluntary enterprises. Last month, a plain, unsensationalist documentary called Divorce: Sharia Style looked at the judgements they hand down."
"If a man wants a divorce, he simply has to say to his wife, "I divorce you" three times over three months. The wife has no right of appeal, and no right to ask for a reason. If a woman wants a divorce, by contrast, she has to humbly ask her husband. If he refuses, she must turn to a sharia court, and convince three Mullahs that her husband has behaved 'unreasonably' – according to the rules laid out in a pre-modern text that recommends domestic violence if your wife gets uppity."
"Irum Shazad, a 26-year-old British woman, travels from her battered women's refuge to a sharia court in East London. She explains that her husband was so abusive she slashed her wrists with a carving knife. The court tells her this was a sin, making her as bad as him. They tell her to go back to her husband. (They grant a divorce half a year later, after a dozen more 'last chances' for him to abuse her.)"
"Then we meet Nasirin Iqbal, a 27-year-old Pakistani woman who was shipped to Britain five years ago to marry. Her husband, Imran, has kept her isolated, and she does not speak a word of English. 'I came here thinking he'd treat me well,' she says. 'But he keeps hurting me. He brought me here to use me. I'm not an object.... Do I not have a heart?... He tells me I'm stuck with him, and under Islam he can treat me however he wants...."
"These are the courts that Rowan Williams would give the stamp of British law....The argument that women will only have to enter these courts if they freely choose to shows a near-total disconnection from the reality of Muslim women's lives."
"....Multiculturalism was formed with good intentions as a counter-reaction. But it has become a mirror-image of this old racism, treating Muslim women – and others – as so different that they do not deserve the same rights as the rest of us."
Dr. Patrick Sookhedo (former Muslim, founder of the Barnabas Fund)
"While the Archbishop has the best of intentions in wanting to create greater cohesion and harmony in British society, his suggestions seem sure to result in the exact opposite. He seems to be taking multiculturalism to an extreme, extending it to the legal system of the state, and thus creating new arenas for conflict and hostility."
"His view of shari`a is utopian and naïve. He has claimed that shari`a is not the monolithic system of detailed rules which most Muslims consider it to be, but rather an expression of universal principles being implemented flexibly according to context by means of ijtihad (individual effort at interpretation). While this expresses what liberal Muslim reformists would like to see happen, the reality is that for the vast majority of Muslims shari`a is still viewed as God`s immutable divine law regulating all areas of life. Furthermore, it discriminates against women (for example, in divorce and inheritance) and against non-Muslims. It lays down a multitude of penalties, including imprisonment, beating, annulment of marriage, disinheritance and death, for Muslims who leave their faith."
"...The Archbishop excludes hudud punishments from the areas of shari`a which he recommends to be practised in the UK. However, had he a fuller understanding of shari`a, he would realise that no hard and fast line can be drawn between these two areas of shari`a because of Islam`s apostasy law. The array of punishments for leaving Islam include not only death, but also matters of family law, the very part of shari`a which the Archbishop wants to see applied in the UK, such as annulment of marriage, loss of access to children, and loss of inheritance."
"....Wherever shari`a has been given expanded space in the legal systems of Muslim states, it has inevitably led to infringements of the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children, non-Muslims, converts from Islam to other religions, and non-orthodox Muslim communities such as the Ahmadiyya and the Bahai. It has also negatively affected the intellectual debate, narrowing the limits of freedom and threatening dissenters with shari`a sanctions."
"...Embedding shari`a in British law will negatively impact many vulnerable members of the Muslim community: women, children as well as secularists and liberals. They will all face increasing pressure to comply with traditional shari`a norms. Once shari`a is in place, community and religious pressure will make it exceedingly difficult for them to opt to be judged by English law. The Archbishop also ignores the many Muslims who have fled repressive shari`a states to find refuge in a free and democratic British society. The empowerment of shari`a courts will endanger their newly found liberties."
"....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."
In Europe, not only are the secular folks post-Christian, apparently the Christian leaders are post-Christian too!
"When it comes to Islamic law, or Shariah, words certainly do come easy if you're a man. You can marry four wives, receive double the inheritance a woman gets and you can end your marriage simply by saying "I divorce you" three times. So why not pontificate?"
"...Witness the archbishop's insistence that he wasn't advocating the 'inhumanity' of Shariah à la Saudi Arabia or Iran, where adulterers are stoned and thieves have hands amputated. No, he told us, he was just referring to the use of Shariah to resolve marital disputes."
"But that is precisely where the 'inhumanity' of Shariah lies for women. As a Muslim woman - born in Egypt, raised in Saudi Arabia - I can only laugh at the archbishop's naïveté. In Egypt, as in many Muslim countries, the legal system has been completely modernized, with the exception of one area that remains caught in the web of edicts issued by Muslim scholars who lived centuries ago - family law. Shariah is used only to govern the lives of women and children."
"....We must resist selling out women's rights and pandering to fundamentalist religionists. That was exactly the point that Bassam Tibi, a Syrian-born German political scientist, made at a conference on Shariah I attended in Copenhagen in 2005. While lamenting European governments' habit of turning to the most conservative in the Muslim community to speak on its behalf, he vowed, 'In the name of multiculturalism I will not accept cultural rights as a cover for Shariah.' "
Finally, you must must must read the Chaucer-inspired poetry of the dumpster-diving Iowahawk, Heere Bigynneth the Tale of the Asse-Hatte - Archbishop of Canterbury Tale, it's amazing and hilarious. It's too damn good, I couldn't decide which lines to excerpt. Get yourself some stout ale and read it aloud with your friends. I wonder if any group is thinking about performing and taping this. It deserves to be put on stage, in full costume, with an archestra!