Abdul the bogeyman

by Richard on February 8, 2008

You’ll no doubt have heard that Archbishop Rowan Williams has stirred a hornet’s nest with his comments about Sharia Law in Britain. The best reaction I’ve seen so far comes Bishop Alan. Hard to choose a single ‘money quote’, but what about this sample:

Loyal is as loyal does. Within the overarching framework of monarchy we’re all still here, and the deep fried hysteria from 1799 (the Gordon riots) or 1685 (the Popish Plot) seems, frankly, potty. From this we learn that the English sometimes do hysterical kneejerks. Best check that the bogeymen really are bogeymen. In a country containing people who don’t know the difference between a paediatrician and a paedophile, this is particularly important.
Fast forward. Muslims, in fact, represent 3% of the UK population. In the cold light of day, fear that Bearded Ayatollahs are about to march up Whitehall and Take Power is utterly ridiculous. It’s particularly babyish when you remember 99% of actual British Muslims live decent, law abiding lives, according to rather conservative standards of family life. Forget that fact, and we make big fools of ourselves.

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }


John 02.08.08 at 12:46 pm

3% can rule 97% percent if the 97% refuse to stop the 3%.

It’s 1933. If I were British, I’d start trying to find a way to immigrate elsewhere.


Beth 02.08.08 at 12:48 pm

Yeah, because “conservative standards of family life” are really what we want, aren’t they? Let’s just forget all the work various civil rights movements have accomplished over the past century.

Yes, knee-jerk reactions are a feature of societies when they feel threatened by outside influences. But I think it entirely justifiable to be horrified by Rowan Williams’ suggestions, if indeed he has been correctly quoted and understood. Our country’s legal system does not take account of the laws of any religion, nor should it. If we are to decide things according to the religion of the involved parties, then what is to stop a court from banning a gay father from contact with his children because the mother is a fundamentalist Christian? Or refusing to allow a man to divorce his wife because she is Catholic? British family law is set up to try to ensure the protection of the weaker party in a case. Religious legal systems have no such guarantee, and this is compounded by the fact that all the Abrahamic religions are traditionally misogynistic in their actions and outlook.


Randy McRoberts 02.08.08 at 2:33 pm

Thanks for your perspective, Richard. It’s difficult to see what it is really like without being there. I’ve had a feeling the whole thing is often blown out of proportion.

I hope your perspective is the correct one. Time will tell, I suppose.


Kim 02.08.08 at 5:12 pm

It’s 2008. If I were John I’d start trying to find another brain.

Beth, please read the lecture. (So should John - if he can read.) You should know better than to give the benefit of the doubt to a media that thinks (sic) in sound bites, particularly when it comes to someone with the smarts and humility of Rowan. The “ignorant guff” (as one appreciative email I have recieved accurately describes it) that I had to put up with earlier today in a debate with Peter Hitchens on Radio Wales - yes, that Peter Hitchens - followed by a Neanderthal phone-in, was breathtaking. Rowan’s lecture was theologically driven, historically and legally informed, culturally wise, and inspired by a vision of human dignity and the common good.

The ultimate irony is that, insofar as there is an enemy here - and Rowan is at pains to steer us away from such agonistic thinking which reduces people and politics to naked assertions of will and power - it’s the voracious atheist secular state. Why else do you think that all the representatives of Leviathan are licking there chops? If you want to understand the dynmaics of this fiasco, you must take Islam not only as a scapegoat but also as a synecdoche.


John 02.08.08 at 6:08 pm

If I were John I’d start trying to find another brain.

(So should John - if he can read.)

I am humbled by the majesty of your blogging civility.


Kim 02.08.08 at 7:24 pm

John, when you start comparing 2008 Britain to 1933 Germany - Muslims to Nazis - you get a verbal clip around the earhole. I would, however, be delighted for you to eavesdrop on any of the more rational essays that I occasionally try to contribute to this blog.


John 02.08.08 at 8:07 pm

John, when you start comparing 2008 Britain to 1933 Germany - Muslims to Nazis

If the shoe fits….


malc 02.08.08 at 8:11 pm

Actually, British Law does allow for there to be religious courts. English law states that any third party can be agreed by two sides to arbitrate in a dispute, and in the Jewish Community this is often used to sort out civil disputes, such as business and divorce. Both parties have to agree to use the third party and the decision is legally binding.

Of course, the other way to look at it is that Rowan has successfully united both the liberal and conservative branches of The Church in disagreeing in what he said (and allegedly meant).


Beth 02.08.08 at 10:50 pm

Kim, you’re right, I’ll read it. Though note that I did acknowledge that I was arguing with what Rowan was supposed to have said… Yeah, that’s not a good excuse.

Mainly, though, my argument was with the idea of “conservative family values” as something we should praise rather than something from which we should run screaming. Allowing religious arbitration in issues such as divorce is utterly stupid (whatever the religion) since, as I’ve already said, the Abrahamic faiths are notoriously misogynistic. All very well to say that both parties must agree - of course, we’ve never heard of women being forced into religious observance or customs or processes against their will by families or husbands, have we? It’s an absolute joke.

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