Commentary Magazine


An English Woman Defends Shari’a

In the Birmingham Mail, Maureen Messent has written a ridiculous defense of the Archbishop of Canterbury’s proposal to incorporate aspects of shari’a into British law.

From that innocuous thought was fashioned the belief that Dr Williams was advocating the practices of limb-lopping for thieves, stonings for adulterers and the whole grizzly gamut of uncivilised punishments dealt in some Islamic countries.

There are two alarming aspects to the Archbishop’s “innocuous thought.” These are the application of different laws to different citizens and the nature of shari’a itself. Ms. Messent ignores the first and plays games with the second. A noble state is in large part defined by the fair application of its laws. Citizenship means nothing if not the inclusion in a larger body of people subject to the same expectations. The kind of splintering that Williams advocates would mean the end of English unity.

Rowan Williams says Muslim citizens shouldn’t be torn between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty,” but by bending the country to meet the culture he’s addressing the problem too far downstream. Citizens should never have reached such a crossroads to begin with. It’s the fairly recent radicalization of European Islam that’s made British citizenship a cultural challenge for Muslims. It’s not the state’s job to further enable that shift, but rather to meet it with unapologetic severity.

Speaking of severity. There’s good reason for people to be concerned with the nature of shari’a, and not merely with its interpretation in “some Islamic countries.” The Independent reports that 17,000 women in Britain are victims of “honor violence” yearly. Now, would Ms. Messent and the Archbishop like to ease the pressure on the practitioners of this savagery? Or are “alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty” appropriately “stark”? Ms. Messent wrote that…

…the Archbishop is a man of peace. Only fools – a multitude of whom seemed up in arms this week – could interpret that suggestion as a return to medieval punishments. The outcry following his words, whipped up by idiots who hadn’t listened, was interesting.

Of the types of idiots one could be, I suppose interesting isn’t that bad.