I was trying to set up a post that selectively quotes from Melanie Phillips’ articles explaining the utter insanity behind the Archbishop of Canterbury’s muddled remarks about bringing sharia law into the British legal system — but I couldn’t. Each paragraph is so information-packed and important that (a) I couldn’t pick what to quote and (b) I couldn’t bear to dilute the impact of the articles in their entirety. I therefore urge you to read the articles yourself, which you will find here and here.
I do have a few words to add, though, about parallel private legal systems. We have them here too. Religious Jews have often resolved disputes through rabbis, not civil courts, and more and more people opt for private mediation or arbitration in the hope that those methods will be cheaper than litigation. With the Jewish disputes, it goes without saying that the law applied is Jewish law. (Phillips has a good description of these tribunals in Britain, and they’re much the same here.) As for the mediations or arbitrations, people can choose their law: they can pick the law of the state in which they live, or the state most favorable to the party in the stronger bargaining position. Heck, they could even choose the law of another nation entirely, assuming all parties agree. If the ultimate outcome of the religious tribunal, arbitration or mediation pleases the participants, that’s the end of the matter, and they go away happily, without the American civil litigation system ever being the wiser.
However, if they’re not happy, they do have recourse to the American litigation system. Sometimes the judge will simply tell the disgruntled party that he agreed in advance to the arbitration, the arbitration was conducted appropriately, and that’s the end of the story. Sometimes, though, the complainant will get to have his case heard and, in that case, American law, whether it be federal or state law, applies, as it would to any other similarly situated claimant. Additionally, if someone comes in complaining that the mediation, arbitration or religious tribunal resulted in an outcome that is antithetical to American law (for example, requiring him to sell his daughter into prostitution or to place himself into slavery), the American system will bring the alternative proceedings to a screeching halt. For all that I’m no fan of judges, only those who are mentally disturbed would allow their courts to be used for those purposes.
Rowan Williams muddled proposal, however, does not contemplate a system such as the American one, in which people can circumvent Civil Courts if they so desire (opting, say, for sharia courts), but if they don’t desire, they are bound by British law in British courts. Instead, he truly states a belief that the British courts should apply sharia law. As Melanie Phillips explains:
Dr Williams for some reason abandoned nuance altogether and left no room for doubt about what he was saying. Which was, in short, that although the
sensational reporting of opinion polls
recording large numbers of British Muslims who want to live in the UK under Islamic sharia law
clouds the issue,
the adoption of sharia law in the UK seems
and indeed desirable, since Muslims should not have to choose between
the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty.
nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that’s sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states,
Muslims should be able to choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a sharia court. Such courts should therefore be
incorporated into the British legal system
There is no parallel for this in the American system or even in the British system. Both will enforce as judgments private agreements but, as I noted above, they will not do so if the outcome is inconsistent with fundamental principles of American or British jurisprudence. Woe to England if it backs down from its near universal outrage at Williams’ proposal and allows his ideas to become reality, whether actively or by default.
So, go read Melanie Phillips’ article and then say a prayer for England, for she sorely needs it. And if you’re in a reading mood about Williams, read this one too, at American Thinker.