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Sunday, July 17

United Kingdom and Sharia: British confusion about a fundamental aspect of democracy and nationhood

I deleted the following paragraph from my essay about the Pentagon's New Map because it was not central to my point, and yet was important enough to merit a separate blog, particularly in light of the 7/7 London massacre. The paragraph generated an exchange with a reader from England, which I also publish here.

"While the British have not yet devolved to the body paint-and-feathers level of human social organization, they now have only the most tenuous grasp of the concept of a nation-state. If you think I'm pulling your leg -- Britain recognizes two bodies of law, British and Sharia. That is why polygamy among Muslims living in Britain is legal. Thus, technically, if a fatwa was issued in accordance with Sharia law, the London bombings massacre was not illegal in Britain. Nobody write Pundita in horror to tell me no no that's not true. Yes yes it is true; it's just that the British are clearly unaware that a nation run according to two sets of law is a contradiction in terms. Body paint and feathers are not far behind."

"Dear Pundita:
Sharia has no standing in statute or common law that I am aware of. For instance, the status under sharia of the (still standing) fatwa against Salman Rushdie would not protect anyone attempting to carry it out from prosecution by the Crown.

Though there is a worrying tendency for courts to be "understanding" of foreign residents familial and property arrangements arrived at under their home states legal systems, this does not apply to citizens. Polygamous relationships have the legal status of cohabitees (i.e. not even common law, rather than civil marriage.)

Judgements made by sharia "lawyers" do have a limited standing; that of voluntary arbitration between consenting parties. So long as the parties remain free to dissent from the process or any outcome thereof, and resort to law, this has limited implications. Jewish law is regarded on the same basis.

See:
The Reception of Muslim Family Law in Western Liberal States
author: Pascale Fournier
for: The Canadian Council of Muslim Women

http://www.ccmw.com/Position%
20Papers/Pascale%20paper.doc.

Though in a way Britain does recognise two bodies of law: technically there's no such thing as British Law, there's either Scottish or English (and Northern Irish if you're talking UK rather than GB). [...]
Regards,
John in Worcestershire"

Dear John:
I hope you realize I was stretching a point to pound one home but it does seem that many British Muslims are under the impression that Britain legally recognizes Sharia. I will dig up a reference to support this statement as soon as enough caffeine courses through my veins. For now, a Times (UK) poll taken after 9/11 revealed that 80% of Britain's Muslims consider themselves Muslims first and British second. That situation must be changed "yesterday."
* * * * *
John replies:
"You're spot-on about the need to assert the overriding claims of the British nation-state to the primary loyalty of its citizens. If the recent appalling events have any upside, it would be if a shift of public consensus and government policy takes place. There are some signs this may happen, but not near enough to be happy.

For one worrying item about "integrating" Sharia, have a look at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/talking_point
/special/islam/3198285.stm
John in Worcestershire"
* * * * * *
Pundita comments:
I pulled the following blurbs from an old issue of British Muslims Monthly Survey. (March 1996 Vol. IV, No. 3). Americans trying to understand the decline of European/Anglo societies might want to spend time someday browsing back copies of the journal.
Rushdie fatwa statement
The fatwa, or religious decision, issued against Salman Rushdie by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in 1989 remains in force, according to Dr Kalim Siddiqui of the Muslim Parliament (The Times, 30.03.96). The relevant section of Dr Siddiqui’s press released speech said:

"The Muslim Parliament was conceived in the heat of the conflict generated by the insult and abuse heaped upon Islam in The Satanic Verses. The fatwa of the late Imam Khomeini, sentencing Salman Rushdie to death...was and remains an order that must be carried out" (Yorkshire Evening Post, 30.03.96). [...]

Multiple marriage
When Medi Siadatan’s third wife, Sarah, gave birth to their daughter Ayesha in Kidderminster Hospital, his two other wives, Stefania and Cinzia were there to help her (Wolverhampton Express & Star, 04.03.96). This is the fifth child born to the family. Mr Siadatan is not committing any offence because the women are not married to him under British law, but under Islamic law (Daily Mail, 07.03.96).[...]
It might be that the full British press reports quoted in the blurbs make it clear that the "Muslim Parliament" has no legal governing status in Britain and that "Islamic Law" in Britain cannot contravene Scottish and English (and Northern Ireland) law.

Even if that were the case, however, clearly many British Muslims do not draw the distinction between a liberal democracy's tolerance for religious sensibilities and the law of the land.

The lack of clarity on the issue has definitely extended to British governing, social welfare and policing authorities, which is why the Muslim practice of female genital mutilation has been tolerated for so long by these authorities.

The same lack of clarity would be evident if British welfare agencies give financial aid to children born of multiple female "cohabitees" residing in the same domicile with one father whose name is recorded on the birth certificate for all children born to the cohabitees; i.e., wives under Muslim law.

To put all this another way, British government has long been crystal clear on the fact that they have done everything possible to encourage Muslims to the belief that Britain is governed by two [radically] different sets of law.

The point of my criticism directed at the British is that such encouragement could not have happened unless the majority of British were very unclear on the meaning of "a nation." Thus, my jibe about body paint and feathers.

If the British are unclear, well, that is not a violation of international law. My warning is directed to the US government and to thinkers such as Thomas Barnett who are trying to modernize US defense/foreign policy.

There is much talk about bringing Western values to those who live in non-democratic countries. It seems to me that getting clear on these values needs to start in the West -- including right here in the USA. One could make out a good case that US tax-funded educational efforts would have the best results if they were directed to our oldest NATO allies and the US public school system.

What the British don't seem to grasp is that there is nothing democratic about the Muslim faith -- indeed, about any faith. Thus, one simply cannot have a modern democratic nation if religious precepts are tacitly given precedence over national law. On paper, we should strive to obey the moral precepts of our religion. Yet this observation, when translated by a national governing authority into an unclear reading of the law of the land, is a slippery slope that weakens and even destroys civilization.

That is why today, in Britain -- the bastion of civilized ideals -- ritual human sacrifice is carried out by followers of an African faith. This is sacrifice of children who have been kidnapped and shipped to Britain for the express purpose of being tortured to death for a religious ritual.

Of course the British authorities consider this a crime. But once you establish a climate of moral parity between national law and religious law, it becomes extremely hard for the government to argue against religious practices that conflict with national law.

That is the corner into which British society has painted itself.

You might also wish to read Mark Silverberg's summary of the Islamization of Europe, which unhappily he terms "Eurabia." However, all the facts Silverberg cites overlook the point I strive to make in my earlier reply. To observe that the Europeans (including Anglos) bent over backwards to accommodate the Muslims because of the 1970s oil embargo avoids asking how such bending could include abandoning (or ignoring) of fundamental principles undergirding modern democratic government!

This is a vital issue, which seems to have been ignored or suppressed by Europeans in the push to establish and extend the European Union.

Silverberg also tends overlook (as does Bat Ye'or) that it is Muslims -- often with no linguistic or no (or little) cultural ties to the Arabs, whatever their DNA -- that have made such an impact on Europe during the past three decades.

The Muslim immigrants from many lands are being conditioned by Muslim radicals to think of themselves first and foremost as part of a transcendent "Muslim Nation" whose laws supersede all international laws and all national laws -- and to act according to that belief. That, rather than Arab ancestry, is the central issue.

Nevertheless, Mark Silverberg's piece is a valuable overview and compendium of facts, so I provide the link here: The Coming of Eurabia.
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