February 11, 2008

Some columns offer to write themselves. It’s hard to imagine a juicier piece of news than a call by the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury for the British legal system to incorporate Sharia“€”the Islamic legal code.

Let’s start off with what’s startling: According to The Evening Standard, Archbishop Rowan Williams “€œsaid it could help build a better and more cohesive society if Muslims were able to choose to have marital disputes or financial matters, for example, dealt with in a sharia court. The adoption of some elements of sharia law ‘seems unavoidable,’”€ the archbishop said last week to a group of British lawyers. Indeed, the same paper reported, it has not been avoided. According to the Standard:

[A] teenage stabbing case among the Somali community in Woolwich [has] been dealt with by a sharia “trial”.

Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths were arrested by police on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager. 

The victim’s family told officers the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail. A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate the victim.

“All their uncles and their fathers were there,” said Mr Yusuf. “So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing.”

An Islamic Council in Leyton also revealed that it had dealt with more than 7,000 divorces while sharia courts in the capital have settled hundreds of financial disputes.

Indeed, the authority of the Umma is spreading throughout England, the paper reported:

Along with the Islamic Council in Leyton, there are reports of at least two other sharia courts sitting in London. There are also courts in a number of other areas of the country with high Muslim populations, including Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, Birmingham and Rotherham, South Yorkshire.

Most are understood to concentrate on divorce cases – although such judgments are not recognised in British law – as well as financial disputes.

Suhaib Hasan, a spokesman for the Islamic Sharia Council in Leyton, which was set up in 1982, said that he and his colleagues dealt with more than 200 cases a year, ranging from inheritance to marriage and divorce.
“From the beginning, people have wanted our services. More and more come back to us. Each month we deal with 20 cases,” he said.

On its website, the Islamic Sharia Council warns those who use its services that the divorces it grants cannot invalidate a union under British civil law and advises that a separate civil divorce should be obtained.

As well as giving advice on legal matters, such as inheritance, the website also gives general guidance on Muslim practices including the need for beards and the need for women to cover themselves in public.

It also covers issues such as whether women should train as doctors. It supports this as a “lesser evil”, but suggests that training should take place at an all female college and that future treatment should be given to “women only”.

At this point, my Irish half is tempted to chuckle with grim delight at the spectacle of a church founded on the principle of obeying the men with the muskets now preparing to crawl before its next set of masters. As my inner bog-stomper would say: “€œYer jumping the gun, Yer Lordship. T’won’t be for two generations, maybe, till Anglicans have to beg for a comfy dhimittude. I hope the imams grant ya somet’in better than the old Catholic Penal Laws.”€ (A query to linguists out there: Is there an Gaelic equivalent for Schadenfreude? Or does the Irish word for “€œhappiness”€ already have that connotation?)

Of course, there’s nothing to celebrate here. It’s long past time for the shrinking minority of Christians in Britain to make common cause, and agree to let Tyburns be bygones.

It’s enough to note in passing that if the mass of church-going R.C.s in Britain now outnumber the C. of E.‘s, that this is thanks not to a surge of interest among English Catholics but rather to an influx of Polish plumbers. Likewise, the Church of England’s Evangelical wing”€”the only one that in the Anglican world is still flapping”€”is kept aloft by migrants from former African colonies like Nigeria. Indeed, here in the U.S., conservative Anglicans have turned to orthodox African bishops as alternative authorities to pro-gay Episcopal clerics. Perhaps the funniest moment in the history of National Public Radio came last year in its coverage of a worldwide Anglican gathering, as a U.S. bishop spoke in defense of homosexual unions”€”and an African bishop recited the rite of exorcism over his head. No report on whether it worked.

It appears that the Anglican church now faces one of the late-stage symptoms of that incurable retrovirus called multiculturalism, which overwhelms one’s immune system, but first attacks the brain. Poor Archbishop Williams deserves a little sympathy”€”as the entire British establishment rallies to demand his resignation, simply for spilling the beans. (Reliable Islamo-lefty commentator Professor Tariq Ramadan complained about Williams’ candor: “€œThese kinds of statements just feed the fears of fellow citizens.”€ Ya think?)

Still, it won’t do to paint all British Moslems with the same camel’s hair brush. As the Standard reports, Shahid Malik, Labour MP for Dewsbury, responded to Williams this way: “I haven’t experienced any clamour or fervent desire for sharia law in this country. If there are people who prefer sharia law there are always countries where they could go and live.” And I’m one of the people who’d be happy to ferry them to the airport.

In a sense, Williams is proving a scapegoat on the model (or as the mirror image) of Enoch Powell, who decades ago warned that the results of massive demographic change would prove impossible to predict”€”or reverse. From this fact, as a good Burkean, Powell suggested that conservatives ought to oppose such a radical experiment. For telling this home truth, Powell was driven from public life. Now that Powell has been proven tragically right in every particular, Williams is simply one of the first to draw the practical conclusion. Now Williams too will be hustled off the stage, for daring to note what happens to a nation-state that is turned willy-nilly into a “€œpropositional country”€ at the behest of its elites. (For a brilliant novelistic depiction of Britain’s coming dystopia, read Anthony Burgess’ under-appreciated novel 1985, which shows Britain lurching from bankrupt socialism into a Saudi-funded Islamic state.)

Nor should we simply snicker across the ocean at the sight of pale, Spam-eating Albion preparing to muffle its churchbells, trade its pubs for shisha bars, and switch to turkey bacon. Because the same phenomenon threatens Texas. That’s right, Texas. Courtesy of Jihad Watch, I came across this report from MyPetJawa:

“Assalam aleikum, y’all!

“The Second Court of Appeals of the State of Texas has rendered a ruling on the enforceability of shari’a judgments rendered by imams. According to the Texas appeals court, it’s all good.

“You’ve heard of the Texas Courts. Ladies and gentlemen, make way for the Texas Islamic Courts!!!”

The parties will ask the courts to refer the cases for arbitration to Texas Islamic court within “Seven Days” from the establishment of the Texas Islamic Court panel of Arbitrators. The assignment must include ALL cases, including those filed against or on behalf of other family members related to the parties. Each party will notify the other party, Texas Islamic Court, and their respective attorneys, in writing of the assignment of all the above Cause Numbers from the above appropriate District Court to Texas Islamic Court.

This development points up one of the fault lines that divide conservatives from libertarians; to good Rothbardians, the rise of private arbitration and voluntary enforcement as a rival to State-imposed justice could only be a good thing. Paleolibertarians will even argue that the resolution of all conflict by a neutral, secular state tends to break down and dissolve the stronger bonds of community which would otherwise bind religious groups, For instance, liberalizing American divorce laws came to infuse with their own spirit the once stern Catholic annulment tribunals. (Indeed, one of the clerics I’m meeting here in Rome is a Lebanese canon lawyer who serves on the Roman Rota”€”the “€œsupreme court”€ that serves as final authority in such matters. For years, Rome has been fighting to resist the spread of “€œAmerican norms”€ for annulment, which have opened the floodgates and rendered nearly every sacramental union suspect.) The weaker the state, the stronger the communities within it.

But then, the Rothbardians are honest enough to call themselves anarchists. And anarchy is precisely what Enoch Powell warned was coming with the tidal wave backwash from the Empire. What worries me less than anarchy is the tyranny that usually follows in its wake. The Swiss aside, multicultural nations rarely retain a small, liberal government. The fewer common bonds of customs and morals that unite the residents of a community, the more the State must step in to resolve disputes among them, and the larger the bureaucracy required to keep the peace. Were the contrary true, we should expect newly colonized California to be turning into a land of decentralized, autonomous communities. Compared, you know, to the grim, homogeneous tyranny that is New Hampshire.


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