Thursday, February 07, 2008

BACK TO WORK SPECIAL: Sharia law in the UK?

Yep, back to blogging, I guess.

No doubt queasy after a car bomb hitting an airport and a crazy cleric now being extradited to the US for inciting violence, the Archbishop of Canterbury has now suggested that the UK would benefit from having a rudimentary Sharia law system by which Muslims could abide. Theoretically, a Muslim could petition for divorce in a Sharia court in the UK if his or her spouse hasn't been faithful, or custody could be granted as per the religion of the parents.

I admire the decision — but it's a step in the wrong direction. The only ones who would benefit from the existence of an Islamic legal system to sit side-by-side with a universal law system would be the extremists.

Even in Islamic countries, Sharia law is nearing its shelf life; the only ones benefiting from such systems are the politicians, clerics, and radicals. In Iran, where homosexuality is a capital crime, there has been legislation to insure sex change surgery. In Jordan, even the queen doesn't wear a headscarf. And the presidential administration of Abdullah Gül and his AKP party has thus far yielded none of the religious reform in Turkey that the military feared would happen. Even among Muslims I have met here in the US, religion is a private matter and nothing to shove down the hatch. For most civilian Muslims, it seems that even Sharia law would not work out very well, and for the rest it would only be a show of bigotry no matter who looks at it.

And what is the point of having two legal systems in a country? It could be easy to switch affiliation if you're homophobic and want your gay son cut off from the rest of the family, even if you're not Muslim; you could (at risk of being charged with fraud) take it out in a Sharia court without anybody batting an eye. Most of the Muslims who enter the UK (or the US) and apply for citizenship know that everything will fall apart for them at first, as the laws in their home country, no doubt bearing the remnants of religion, will probably no longer apply. If you immigrate, you follow the rules of your new home. If it's something that borders on humanitarian question, you might have a case, but if it is a religion that you believe supersedes the law of the land, you will have to adapt. (This isn't exclusively for immigrants, for that matter; I still have my eye on the holy-rollers.)

Not bad for a few months of being away from the blog, but damn it, it's good to be back.