The Archbishop of Canterbury has today said that the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidable” and that it would help maintain social cohesion.
Rowan Williams told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system. He says that Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court. He says Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.
Dr Williams said there was a place for finding a “constructive accommodation” in areas such as marriage - allowing Muslim women to avoid western divorce proceedings. Other religions enjoyed such tolerance of their own laws, he pointed out, but stressed that it could never be allowed to take precedence over an individual’s rights as a citizen. He said it would also require a change in perception of what Sharia involved beyond the “inhumanity” of extreme punishments and attitudes to women seen in some Islamic states.
Dr Williams said: “It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system.
“We already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justifying conscientious objections in certain circumstances.”
He added: “There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law as we already do with aspects of other kinds of religious law.
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