Realm Of Randomness

February 8, 2008

Right answer, wrong argument

Filed under: Controversial,Current events,Opinion,Religion — Randomizer @ 1:51 am

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(source)

By now, I’m sure most of you have caught up on the latest ‘sensational news headline’ from the UK, that of the Arch Bishop saying that Sharia law in Britain is unavoidable. For those who are not familiar with it, here’s the gist of it: He claimed in a BBC interview that Sharia law, or Islamic law, is inevitable in the UK. He went on to say that it will help muslims feel more at home, and help them integrate better. Obviously, if you know some of the unpopular aspects of this law, you will know why the entire nation is now up in arms, and I seriously wonder how many days this bishop has left as bishop.

Having lived in Saudi Arabia for four years, I have seen this law in place first hand, though it never really affected me much, as I was too young then. But yes, I have seen the power of the religious priests, the enforcers of this law, and have very often heard of very strict punishment for crimes that in modern day, would not even be defined crimes – like a woman being in the presence of a man who is not her husband or relative.

Should Sharia law be applicable in the UK for muslims if they want it? Read this article that appeared in the times online, a UK paper’s website, and it is important because that is the premise for this post. The same writer had earlier written this article when talking about why mosques should not use loudspeakers to call for prayer in Britain.

The writer for the most part has the right idea, and the answer I would go with – No, there shouldn’t be Sharia law in place. But the argument that he uses is something like this, ( which I have summed up from both his articles ):

Our history is and has been that of a Christian nation, and our laws have been influenced by Christianity. There are other places in the world where Islam is the rule of the land, where you can your way. But this place is Christian, so respect the majority and live by our rules.

While the above does make sense, his argument is far from ideal, and does not accomplish much, save for pandering to public sentiment. The reason I believe that Sharia law should not be put in place is NOT because the UK is/has been a Christian nation, but because religion should have no place in government at all. The minute you say that followers of religion A will be guided by so-and-so laws, and religion B by others, you are setting yourself up for very blurry legislation. These religious laws, whether derived from the Bible or the Quran, were written 2000 or more years ago under drastically different circumstances, and should have no place in modern day society, least of all, the government. Now that is the argument that should be used, not ‘We derived our rules from the bible, and we form 90% of this nation, so tough luck, but you need to suck it up, wiseguys!’.

One only has to look at the dozens of new religions popping up in the US and around the world every year to see where this could be going. Followers of organizations like Scientology that parade as religions, which we discussed before cannot be given one set of rules because their founder Ron Hubbard wrote a book with some set of rules that he thought apt at the time. How can we be governed by laws that are written by these people, merely because they have a huge following?

I do know that the UK is not explicitly a secular country, and hence these arguments like the writer I linked to, can fly where he comes from. It only brings me to admire the creators of the Indian and American constitutions a whole lot more, who explicitly call for separation of church and state. Though both these countries are far from ideal in their implementation, and politics is very badly skewed towards religions, at least we have our goals right.

To sum up this post, no, no religion should ever guide the law of the land, whether Christian, or Sharia, or Hindu. And no, nothing good can ever come out of a ” don’t-like it? then-get-out ” attitude either. The muslims are there to stay, so impress upon them the need for one rule for everyone, if you ever want to make any progress with the communal tensions.

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9 Comments »

  1. Ah yes, separation of Church and State. You’d think it should be obvious to everyone, right? But it doesn’t happen anywhere. Not in India, and not in the US, where a Presidential candidate has just stepped down because his faith is, ahem, an issue.

    Comment by lekhni — February 8, 2008 @ 5:24 pm | Reply

  2. Ah… I was keeping an eye on this from the day Dr Williams made that comment :), was sure that it will be blown out of proportion and yes thats what happened.
    Most of the people commented are “BBC have your say” have either not read the article completely and took the flow of the articles heading, oh I love journalism and what it can do with a sentence or two.

    Archbishop never said “Islamic law is inevitable in UK”, he said “introduction in Britain of ‘some aspects’ of sharia is unavoidable”, you see how the word “some aspects” change a whole lot of things and why not just copy paste the sentence :).

    “Williams, speaking to the BBC, said other religions enjoyed tolerance of their laws in Britain and he called for a “constructive accommodation” with Muslim practice in areas such as marital disputes.”
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7232661.stm

    He said some aspects of sharia law can be incorporated to help moslems resolve their civil issues like property or marital disputes etc “If they choose to” according to sharia law. However why do I get the feeling from the statements that archbishop said “From now on start beheadings!!!”.

    Jews in UK do that and follow their own civil courts again if they choose to and why not moslems if they choose to. They are not talking about criminal laws based sharia or any other aspects of a british citizen.

    Well for that matter most moslems in UK are not bothered about it at all, as british law does not interfere with islam at all, and are totally comfortable with it and I can say this at the high level because I have been living here for almost 2 years.

    You said you lived in Saudi and have first hand experience with sharia law, I lived in india and I have the first hand experience too, moslems in india are governed under sharia law for almost all of their civil disputes if they choose to. India does not have uniform civil code because its almost impossible to implement it in a country with a such diversity.
    Many moslem countries implement sharia law and it differs in all the countries because while implementing many things influence it and obviously gets misintrepreted. Thing like culture, traditions etc and most of the times male dominations as in the case of some of the saudi laws.

    Anyway british law already recognise some aspects of sharia
    British food regulations allow meat to be slaughtered according to islamic practices(HALAL).
    The Treasury has approved Sharia-compliant financial products such as mortgages and investments. Islam forbids interest on the basis that it is money unjustly earned. These products are said by supporters to meet the needs of modern life in a way that fits the faith. Also I realised recently when I went to open a bank account that I can invest money based on sharia, that is islam forbids money being invested in pornography, gambling and alcohol industry.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7234870.stm

    Why does cnn, fox, or many a times bbc write about sharia(and many a times about moslems) keeping in mind the “beheadings” in saudi, or “Oh! look at the condition of women in afghanistan.”, Why is it interpreted as the opinion of every moslem and their interpretation of islam based on opinion of some journalist who writes it on CNN etc or edits few damn wikipedia pages without having even meagre knowledge of sharia or islam for that matter. Or why is it based on opinion of some “afghan cleric” who does not have any idea what islam means in the first place. Why not it be written based on opinion of few learned muslim(who has both the islamic and worldly knowledge) and who are acknowledged by ordinary moslems or why not just ask an ordinary educated moslem who usally live(NOT COMPLETELY) based on sharia. I say “not completely” because its extremely difficult to interpret sharia completely. Sharia law cannot be implemented ignoring the country’s(mulim country or otherwise) law. Why is assumed that every moslem accepts what saudi government says.

    Why not highlight aspects of sharia which says, “Seeking knowledge(any) is mandatory for every Moslem (male and female).” which totally Screws up talebans logic of sharia completely or “It is obligatory for every moslem to repect the laws of the country(moselm country, christian country, secular etc) he/she resides in”. which screws up omar bakri’s logic.

    And the reaction to archbishop’s comments is completely illogical, common people he gave an opinion, If govt think it makes sense they will implement it else just ignore the damn thing.

    From the common sense point of view, if somebody does(moslem or otherwise) not like the government policy of uk he/she can just leave. But if you are a citizen you have a right to voice your opinion and the govt has a right to ignore/reject it. I think its really incorrect to assume that a saudi represents every moslem.

    I completely agree with lekhni comments above, religion does influence american policies, and in india forget it every election is won or lost based on caste, religion, region etc.

    “because religion should have no place in government at all” — Next to impossible to separate the two.

    ” And no, nothing good can ever come out of a ” don’t-like it? then-get-out ” attitude either. The muslims are there to stay, so impress upon them the need for one rule for everyone, if you ever want to make any progress with the communal tensions.” — Like your :) politically correct statement.

    In short, things can be solved diplomatically and by being people from both sides reasonable and don’t really have to do what “Mr President” always wants to, “invade them if they don’t listen to you” is way too injurious to the world in the long run.

    Comment by Anonymous — February 9, 2008 @ 10:19 am | Reply

  3. Oh by the way that was me with the above comment, always forget to write my name :)

    Comment by Salman — February 9, 2008 @ 10:20 am | Reply

  4. @Lekhni

    I don’t expect there to be a day when people will vote without considering the candidates’s religious beliefs, but keeping law free of religion is something I wish was more obvious around the world. BTW, are you the same lekhni from DesiPundit?

    @Salman

    I expected you to have a lot to say about this, and you did! Thanks for the comment.

    There is no doubt that this is blown out of proportion, but there is no other way islamophobic societies in the western world will ever think differently of Sharia law, as the only times news about this reaches their shores is when the Sharia law makes no sense at all – like recently a woman was arrested for having a business meeting in Starbucks with an unrelated man. Also, a month ago, the rape VICTIM was sentenced to caning as she was with unrelated men as well. I know that Saudi is a terrible place to get our examples from, but those are the things that make news, and there is no denying that this wasn’t the result of Sharia either.

    I know that the Archbishop wasn’t asking for these laws to come to Britain, but I do not think it is this simple. Sharia law is intrinsically male dominated. Even if muslims want this for Civil purposes only, I do not see how any domestic conflict will side with the woman’s version.

    Seriously speaking, imagine a Saudi family has immigrated to Britain. I do not think that the mothers and daughters in this family will have the courage to tell their male relatives that they do NOT want Sharia law to decide their disputes. They will be forced into accepting this law, which is heavily stacked against them. They would have moved from Saudi to Britain, only to face a similar kind of treatment there, and this is unacceptable. Only if the British system carefully hand-picks only those laws that are explicitly un-patriarchal and completely fair will this have any chance at working…

    Apart from my concerns about the Sharia law, I am fundamentally against any religion from entering law, for whatever reason. This calls for the official registration of every person into a certain religion, because different religions are dealt with differently, and that is ridiculous, because religions are private matters.

    I do not think any Jewish / Christian / Muslim leaders should have ANY LEGAL powers because of their religious status. If they want to be the leaders of the peoples’ beliefs, that is fine with me. But there cannot be a ‘parallel judiciary’ like the Sharia board , or the Jewish board, comprised of people who take their laws from religious text and not the Constitution of the land.

    Comment by Randomizer — February 11, 2008 @ 2:33 pm | Reply

  5. Yes, I am the same Lekhni.

    Comment by Lekhni — February 11, 2008 @ 6:09 pm | Reply

  6. Yes, I am the same Lekhni.

    Comment by Lekhni — February 11, 2008 @ 6:10 pm | Reply

  7. you are welcome.

    “There is no doubt that this is blown out of proportion, but there is no other way islamophobic societies in the western world will ever think differently of Sharia law, as the only times news about this reaches their shores is when the Sharia law makes no sense at all – like recently a woman was arrested…… ”
    –> Absolutely agree with you on this.

    “there is no denying that this wasn’t the result of Sharia either. ” –> yes, sharia interpreted by the saudis.

    “I do not think any Jewish / Christian / Muslim leaders should have ANY LEGAL powers because of their religious status” –> I think it is not possible to separate religion with constitution/law of a country, however its possible to reduce its influence, for e.g in a democratic country like india where general people vote the govt to power and the religious leaders have huge influence on general public, so directly or indirectly they have a say, But I feel instead of throwing out the religious leaders from having a say, we should have sane and educated people who are very well read about their religion and about the world they live in, into the mainstream politics/public domains and therefore initiate a dialog and reason with them.

    I think what Dr Williams was trying to do was just give his personal opinion and this should have led to a constructive debate among say the moslems and the govt, but instead it turned out to be a fiasco :D .. poor guy will be careful from next time onwards.. people from within his own church are after him now :)

    Religion is a very private matter but it plays a very public role especially in countries like india etc.

    As far as UK is concerned moslems are least bothered here whether they implement sharia or not, As I said before the law here does not interfere with islam..moslems get to eat halal food, All the major banks provide sharia based banking, no one stops them from praying 5 times in a mosque or at home etc etc.

    The only problems here that needs changing is perception of a british towards a moslem (and non-whites ingeneral).
    Moslems are not ‘uncomfortable’ in west or europe because they don’t have sharia compliant law or anything else like that, for e.g If moslems don’t have a bank which gives them interest they they will just take out the interest and give it for charity etc etc. They are uncomfortable because of the attitude of the west/europe caused because of many reasons but mostly the damn media. When a british(apoloies for making a generic statement) think of a moslem, he thinks he is a terrorist(at a high level) or atleast a sympathiser of terrorist…. or will think that women inhis house are all oppressed etc etc which is not the case at all majority of the time.

    In my opinon this can be resolved only through a costructive debate and ordinary educated moslems should come up and say that they want to have a debate and should come without any conditions, and the west/europe should come to the table without any preconcieved notions about moslems or conditions.
    Yes, west and europe have a very bad name among moslems, but that image is not becauase of the religion but becuase of their attitude and their foriegn policies,, their policies in the middle-east, their support for israel and israel’s treatment of palestinians.. Many people will think how can a single state like palestine can influence moslems around the globe, but believe it or not it does.

    So I guess people should think a little and have a good dialogm with each other and understand why their fellow citizens are uncomfortable (if at all they are).. and educated moslems should join the british/western mainstream and should be more vocal in their reasonlable opinions. Hope sense prevail among all.

    “Apart from my concerns about the Sharia law, I am fundamentally against any religion from entering law, for whatever reason.” –> Well its gonna stay the wya it is right now, what the people can think of is, can they change the influence of religion into a positive one ?

    You have selected good topics to write about :)

    Comment by salman — February 11, 2008 @ 9:19 pm | Reply

  8. Sorry typo:

    “If moslems don’t have a bank which ‘DOES NOT’ gives them interest they they will just take out the interest …..”

    Comment by salman — February 11, 2008 @ 9:21 pm | Reply

  9. @lekhni – sorry for the late reply, but thanks and do continue to visit!

    @Salman – Thanks for the comment… yup, constructive debate is the best way out of this. I wonder what happened to that bishop anyway.

    Comment by Randomizer — February 19, 2008 @ 1:32 am | Reply


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