Williams, Sharia and global justice issues

By Press Office
February 11, 2008

Responding to links being made between the debate about family Sharia in Britain and the situation in Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, Simon Barrow of the religion and society think-tank Ekklesia commented:

"While global ramifications [of the UK row] cannot be ignored, it is important that we distinguish between the frameworks needed for relating minorities and the majority in plural societies with a common civil law, and those situations of conflict where different minorities face repressive interpretations of Sharia as a statutory criminal and civil code. This distinction applies whatever we think of Dr Williams' local proposals and his subsequent clarification of them."

He added: "Solidarity with those whose rights and dignity are denied - by whatever ideology, religious or secular, is vital. But conflating the different challenges of different contexts is misleading."

Ekklesia has argued that in Britain family and restorative justice traditions and commitments of minorities in the civic arena can operate distinctly from formal legal arrangements, which should protect all citizens regardless of creed.

It suggests that general contract law provides a way of translating local agreements into formal ones, where that is needed, but points out that community resolutions avoiding litigation have their own value - provided they do not discriminate against or marginalise particular groups of people, such as women, whose equal rights are upheld in the common civil code.

[Note: There are some 40 different forms of Sharia around the world, and significant differences of interpretation and application - within, alongside and in place of other jurisprudence. The majority of Muslims reject the harsh and inhuman treatment of states like Saudi Arabia. Dr Williams condemned this too, and was talking about a limited (but still contested) area of family Sharia jurisdiction practiced voluntarily in Britain. His lecture was specifically on England.]

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