There's been a storm of protest and condemnation at the Archmullah of Canterburystan's public assertion that the introduction of sharia law in this country was "unavoidable", and it hasn't taken long for some of his supporters to brand the opposition as "hysterical".
It seems odd to someone like The GOS who actually speaks English quite well, that an educated prelate couldn't choose his words a bit more carefully. If he'd said "calls for the introduction of Sharia law" were unavoidable, most of us wouldn't have turned a hair. And his friends are no better - their own command of language is so rudimentary that they can't tell the difference between "hysteria" and "anger".
Rowan "Catweazle" Williams no doubt believes he is merely opening up a debate, that he is, in the words of Sunday Times editorial this morning, "trying to correct common British misunderstandings about sharia". What he needs to correct are his own misunderstanding of the deeply-held beliefs of British people, and some Muslims' misunderstanding of the country they now live in.
And, of course, he needs to get up to speed on the nature of Sharia law in practice. He needs to read this report: "Up to 17,000 women in Britain are being subjected to "honour" related violence, including murder, every year, according to police chiefs. And official figures on forced marriages are the tip of the iceberg, says the Association of Chief Police Officers. It warns that the number of girls falling victim to forced marriages, kidnappings, sexual assaults, beatings and even murder by relatives intent on upholding the "honour" of their family is up to 35 times higher than official figures suggest."
Now that's one aspect of Sharia I bet he hasn't thought of. And perhaps he ought to consult a few Muslim women: " What Rowan Williams wishes upon us is an abomination and I write here as a modern Muslim woman. He lectures the nation on the benefits of sharia law - made by bearded men, for men … What he did on Thursday was to convince other Britons, white, black and brown, that Muslims want not equality but exceptionalism and their own domains. Enlightened British Muslims quail. Friends like this churchman do us more harm than our many enemies ... he would not want his own girls and women, I am sure, to "choose" to be governed by these laws he breezily endorses. And he is naive to the point of folly if he imagines it is possible to pick and choose the bits that are relatively nice to the girls or ones that seem to dictate honourable financial transactions. Look around the Islamic world where sharia rules and, in every single country, these ordinances reduce our human value to less than half that is accorded a male; homosexuals are imprisoned or killed, children have no free voice or autonomy, authoritarianism rules and infantilises populations."
The same Sunday Times editorial pointed out that the government had been quick to slap Catweazle down, but its own record is hardly unblemished. Why, if sharia is not for these shores, does the benefits system recognise polygamy among Muslims when it is illegal for the rest of us? Where is the debate about the practice of many Muslims in Britain of marrying first cousins, leading to an astronomically high proportion of babies with birth defects? This government is pretty quick to tell the rest of us how to live - don't smoke, don't drink, don't drive, don't be fat - even, most recently, have sex a lot - but shrinks from the task of persuading Pakistani immigrants that in this country it's normal to marry people you aren't already related to.
And it boots Catweazle nothing to protest that he only meant that a few Muslims should be able to settle their differences in their own way, because it won't stop there, will it? Suppose Muslim extremists did manage to achieve the imposition of Sharia law in this country? It might only apply in the first place to consenting Muslims in marital or business disputes, but how long would it be before they demanded an extension to other areas of life?
How long would it be before they wanted Sharia law to be applied to all Muslims, whether they wanted it or not? How long would it be before they called for non-Muslims who offend against Muslims to be judged by Sharia law? I'd give it about ten years before the first white English women were being birched for offending against the dress codes of their Muslim neighbours, and fifteen for the first public stoning of a woman for running out on her abusive marriage to a Pakistani.
We think our Grumpy Correspondent M*** J**** had it about right when he predicted …
2008 - Recognition of Sharia Courts in the UK for marital disputes etc. between Muslims
2009 - Decisions of Sharia Courts in such cases become binding in UK law
2010 - Use of Sharia Courts in their areas of jurisdiction now compulsory for Muslims
2011 - Extension of the powers of Sharia Courts to criminal cases in which both the accused and the victim are Muslims. The first public flogging in Britain for 200 years
2012 - Muslims demand the right to try non-Muslim accused in the Sharia Courts. Muslim woman stoned to death in judicial execution in Bradford
2013 - Sharia law replaces UK law in designated Muslim areas. Non-Muslim woman flogged for breach of the new UK-wide dress code
2014 - Sharia law extended to cover the whole of England (Scotland and Wales having sensibly siezed their last chance of independence). The first public beheading in Britain since 1689
Let's be clear and simple about all this. Sharia law is one backward, primitive, ignorant manifestation of a backward, primitive, ignorant religion adhered to by backward, primitive, ignorant people from a backward, primitive, ignorant part of the world. Frankly, we shouldn't even be talking about it.
But then, what can you expect from someone who seriously believes that a man can walk on water, that five thousand people can live off a few small pilchards and a sesame-seed bap, and a girl can get pregnant without … well, you know. Perhaps she caught it off the toilet seat. Oh, no. Palestine two thousand years ago - comparative dearth of en-suite facilities.
The GOS says: In a radio interview Gordon Brown has revealed his dream of his own version of Camp David, a meeting between the Prime Ministers of Israel and Palestine at a Manchester United football match.
Should work well. Especially if he arranges that traditional Middle Eastern half-time entertainment, a public execution.
We can even suggest a candidate - just send the police round to Lambeth Palace. There's some mad old beardy living there we wouldn't miss. Not with half a brick at fifteen paces, anyway.
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