BRITAIN'S ENCOUNTER WITH ISLAMIC LAW
By Dr. Daniel Pipes
First, the United Kingdom government has decided that terrorism by Muslims in the name of Islam is actually unrelated to Islam, or is even anti-Islamic. This notion took root in 2006, when the U.K. Foreign Office, afraid that the term "war on terror" would inflame British Muslims, sought language that upholds "shared values as a means to counter terrorists." By early 2007, the European Union issued a classified handbook that banned use of the words "jihad," "Islamic," and "fundamentalist" in reference to terrorism, offering instead some "non-offensive" phrases. Last Summer, Prime Minister Gordon Brown prohibited his ministers from using the word Muslim in connection with terrorism. In January, 2008, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith went further, actually describing terrorism as "anti-Islamic." And, last week, the Home Office completed the obfuscation by issuing a counterterrorism phrasebook that instructs civil servants to refer only to violent extremism and criminal murderers, not Islamist extremism and jihadi-fundamentalists.
Second, and again culminating several years of evolution, the British government now recognizes polygamous marriages. It changed the rules in the "Tax Credits (Polygamous Marriages) Regulations 2003": previously, only one wife could inherit assets tax-free from a deceased husband; this legislation permits multiple wives to inherit tax-free, so long as the marriage had been contracted where polygamy is legal, as in Nigeria, Pakistan, or India. In a related matter, the Department for Work and Pensions began issuing extra payments to harems for such benefits as jobseeker allowances, housing subventions, and council tax relief. Last week came news that, after a year-long review, four government departments (Work and Pensions, Treasury, Revenue and Customs, Home Office) concluded that formal recognition of polygamy is "the best possible" option for Her Majesty's Government.
Third, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, endorsed applying portions of the Islamic law (the Shari‘a) in Great Britain. Adopting its civil elements, he explained, "seems unavoidable" because not all British Muslims relate to the existing legal system and applying the Shari‘a would help with their social cohesion. When Muslims can go to an Islamic civil court, they need not face "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty." Continuing to insist on the "legal monopoly" of British common law rather than permit Shari'a, Williams warned, would bring on "a bit of a danger" for the country.
Prime Minister Brown immediately slammed Williams' suggestion. His office declared:
Criticism of Williams came additionally from all sides of the political spectrum – from Sayeeda Warsi, the Tory (Muslim) shadow Minister for Community Cohesion and Social Action; Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats; and Gerald Batten of the United Kingdom Independence Party. Secular and Christian groups opposed Williams. So did Trevor Phillips, head of the Equality Commission. The Anglican Church in Australia denounced his proposal, along with leading members of his own Church, including his predecessor, Lord Carey. Melanie Phillips called his argument "quite extraordinarily muddled, absurd and wrong." The Sun newspaper editorialized:
It concluded acerbically that "The Archbishop of Canterbury is in the wrong church."
Although widely denounced (and in danger of losing his job), Williams may be right about the Shari‘a being unavoidable, for it is already getting entrenched in the West. A Dutch justice minister announced that "if two-thirds of the Dutch population should want to introduce the Shari‘a tomorrow, then the possibility should exist." A German judge referred to the Koran in a routine divorce case. A parallel Somali gar courts system already exists in Britain.
These developments suggest that British appeasement concerning the war on terror, the nature of the family, and the rule of law are part of a larger pattern. Even more than the security threat posed by Islamist violence, these trends are challenging and perhaps will change the very nature of Western life.
© Daniel Pipes 2008
Originally Published in the Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2008
Republished with the Permission of Daniel Pipes
Reprinted from the Daniel Pipes Mailing List, February 12, 2008
Article URL: http://www.danielpipes.org/article/5462
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Author or co-author of eighteen books, Dr. Pipes is a regular columnist for Front Page Magazine, the New York Sun, and the Jerusalem Post. His analyses of world trends and of forces and developments in the Middle East have appeared in numerous North American newspapers, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal. He frequently appears on American network television, as well as at universities and think tanks, to discuss the Middle East, Islam, and the Islamist threat to the U.S.A. and the West. He also has appeared on BBC and Al Jazeera, and has lectured in approximately twenty-five countries.
Dr. Pipes is a Polish-American Jew whose parents fled Poland in 1939, immigrated to the U.S.A., and assimilated well into
American society and culture. His father is Richard Pipes, an American historian specializing in Russian and Soviet history
and serving as Professor of History at Harvard University from 1950 until his retirement in 1996. During the Cold War, the
worldview of Richard Pipes was strongly anti-Soviet and anti-Communist.
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