There's been quite a bit of coverage of Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' comment to the BBC that it is "unavoidable" that the UK eventually have some of its citizens living under Sharia law. (More from the Telegraph here.)
No one really seems positive on these remarks, so giving them an additional smack-down hardly seems necessary. I'll keep my comments short:
What strikes me as interesting about his comments is that they are rooted in an idea that the law must be all encompassing. Do adherants to Islam have different mores in regards to divorce and earning interest than the rest of Britains? Well then, clearly they must have their own courts and law system to enforce those mores.
This strikes me as a flawed conception of the relationship between social and religions mores and the strong arm of the law.
KiwiNomad provided a link in the comments to the full text of Williams' speech here. I'm curious to read the rest of it (though it will take a little time) but to clarify: My issue is with the idea of giving Sharia courts legal force in the UK. In the US, there are Catholic canon law courts which settle issues such as annulments and also issues regarding religious rights/duties and church property. However, these courts do not have the force of civil law, even over Catholics. (There are some people who want them to, but I tend to think that's a bad idea.)
I have no problem with sharia panels issuing voluntary rulings on issues for those Muslims who choose to follow them. However (in part informed by my own belief that Islam is false) I don't really like the idea of Islamic British citizens actually being legally bound by those decisions, and the civil authorities enforcing them.
Lest anyone fear, Williams specifically says he is not suggesting that the extreme punishments that Sharia courts in some countries are known for handing down be allowed in Brittain. He envisions, from what I've read so far, certain contractual and family areas of law only falling under the authority of Sharia courts. Not entirely unlike, I suppose, the split we see evident in the Gospels where the Jewish courts are allowed to make certain rulings, but Roman Law must be invoked to impose certain penalties.