Friday, February 08, 2008

Camel's Nose

Telegraph reported Archbishop of Canterbury said Sharia law in Britain unavoidable and 40% of Muslims want it, but he was quickly shut down by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and a senior Church of England clergyman called today for the resignation of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Eugene Volokh says I read the Archbishop's speech, and as best I can tell, the Archbishop is arguing for an analog to something quite familiar: arbitration agreements, including prenuptial agreements. If you and I enter into a contract (such as one related to "financial transactions") in the U.S., we could agree to having our disputes resolved by an arbitrator (usually secular, but nothing stops us from choosing a religious arbitrator).

That is true, however remember the story of the camel's nose in the tent. It is one thing if they allow both parties to willingly agree to be bound by Sharia Law, but what if one of the parties (like a battered spouse) is intimidated into taking a dispute to Sharia Court, and they decide to stone her? As Robert Spencer pointed out Many have pointed out that Orthodox Jews have private arbitration courts for marriage and family issues, and that's all that Williams was saying Muslims should have in Britain. But there are key differences: Islamic law is a program for the governance of the state, and there is no easy sundering of that program from family and marriage law, so it is certain that if Islamic law is instituted even in part in the UK, some Muslims will press for the rest to follow, including the institutionalized subjugation of non-Muslims.
Ragnar Danneskjold notes The Second Court of Appeals of the State of Texas has rendered a ruling permitting the enforceability of shari'a judgments rendered by imams.
Even if that ruling involves lashes, stoning to death, or beheading? In Texas?????
Eugene Volokh blogged Now maybe Sharia law is more likely to be unfair than other systems in certain circumstances; and doubtless some people feel strong social pressure to enter into contracts endorsed by their cultural group. But people feel various kinds of pressure to enter into various kinds of contracts. American law usually enforces the contracts despite talk of pressure and unfairness. There are exceptions, but they are indeed exceptions, and the rule is enforcing contracts. Yet the skies haven't fallen, nor do they seem likely to fall even if more contracts end up being arbitrated or otherwise evaluated under Sharia law.

Crossroads Arabia, World and Global Politics Blog, and John Burgess blogged The issue is not actually whether Saudi law applies in Texas (or other states as the article notes), but whether people can, in the course of making contracts, require that Sharia law be applied as the rule for arbitration. It’s a bit complicated, but the courts’ decisions are worth reading. And certainly read the entirety of the Volokh post. The comments, particularly about how Jewish laws can be enforced through arbitration in US courts are also worth while.

Ali Eteraz does not like the idea.

Hugh Fitzgerald blogged As for that touchingly transparent attempt to liken the recognition of the imposition of parts of the Shari'a as "unavoidable" to the existence of Beth Din courts, for a handful of Jews, in a handful of matters, where not a single element contradicts, in spirit or letter, the prevailing English law -- practically on the level, in this particular discussion, of Rowan Williams telling us that "some of my friends are Jews" or "I really enjoyed 'Fiddler on the Roof,’” that won't wash. It won't justify his original endorsement -- not a mere discussion, as he now attempts to reinterpret his own words -- of parts of the Shari'a being recognized as a parallel system, in the interests of "social cohesion."

There are calls for his resignation

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