Friday 4 July 2008

Sharia we go again

I was going to make the connection between the Lord Chief Justice's lamentable speech on sharia law and the case of Chorley Labour councillor Hasina Khan, who has been the victim of a hate campaign by some local Muslim men - but David T has got there first.

Just a couple of points to add. Lord Phillips may think he can make a clear distinction between what he regards as 'bad' sharia - all that nasty stoning and hand-chopping - and the 'good' sharia which he sees as an informal code of practice for sorting out family disputes. But this naively assumes that British Muslims who opt for the latter are doing so voluntarily, and on an equal basis. As Hasina Khan's case shows, it's men who wield power in many traditional Muslim families and communities. How easy would it be for a Muslim woman to refuse to participate in a sharia process, and how fairly would she be treated in such a process? It's shameful that a senior legal officer is prepared to countenance surrendering the rights of the individual in this way, rather than defending the equality of all under a universal, non-sectarian system of law.

One other point. Lord Phillips repeats the canard that poor old Rowan Williams was 'misunderstood' in his controversial comments on sharia earlier in the year. I don't want to knock the archbishop too much at this difficult time, when he's trying to hold the line against the misogynists and homophobes in his own ranks, but I don't see how you can 'misunderstand' this: 'An approach to law which simply said - there's one law for everybody - I think that's a bit of a danger'. On the contrary, it's the naive and careless attitude of national leaders, whether religious or political, to universal human rights that is the real danger.

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