THE CHURCH of Scotland has accused politicians of being too quick to reject the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion that Sharia laws be recognised in Britain.

Scots faith leaders support Sharia debate

THE CHURCH of Scotland has accused politicians of being too quick to reject the Archbishop of Canterbury’s suggestion that Sharia laws be recognised in Britain.
Dr Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican Church, yesterday called for an “accommodation” with parts of the Islamic legal code, but this was immediately dismissed by Number 10 and the Scottish Government yesterday.But Morag Mylne, the convenor of the Church of Scotland’s council, said the Anglican leader was sparking a sensible debate about the role of faith and law.

And challenging a statement from the Prime Minister, she said: “There is a difficulty in saying British law is informed by British values. That begs the question, what are British values?”

She added: “There can be a compatibility with the same law applying to us all but recognising for different groups there are ways of resolving disputes that are particular to them.”

She also said that faith was already recognised under English and Scots laws. For example, doctors who hold religious views do not have to carry out abortions.

Bashir Maan, the convenor of the Muslim Council of Scotland, said he was mystified at the furore.

“Why are people so uptight? Those who are saying the Archbishop should never have started the debate should recognise that the Archbishop has got the right to free speech.”

Mr Maan added that elements of Sharia already operated in the Muslim community and were recognised by the state, for example in Islamic mortgages and wills. But he said there should be greater recognition of other Islamic rules such as the code governing divorce and inheritance.

The Scottish Episcopal Church, however, said it would oppose any formal change to the law. A spokeswoman for the Most Rev Dr Idris Jones said: “The law is the law and it is not something that can be compromised.”

Noman Tahir, editor of the Muslim newspaper the iWitness said that the Archbishop’s views had become “warped” through the media prism. He had been pointing out that “people in this country have allegiances above the uniformed legislators in Westminster.

“Unfortunately, the Archbishop’s legitimate point on this multifaceted ethical issue has been warped – no-one is calling for an overhaul of the British legal system or stoning to be legalised, it is a minor aspect of Sharia for Muslim families in relation to issues like marriage and inheritance.”

Sharia courts already operate in parts of England but Scotland’s 50,000 Muslims have yet to get their own tribunal.

However, Dr Williams faced criticism from David Blunkett, the former home secretary, who said formalising Sharia law in the UK would be “catastrophic” for social cohesion.

Mr Blunkett said people must not be excluded from the law because of cultural or faith reasons.

WHY ONTARIO WENT BACK TO ‘ONE LAW FOR ALL’ONE province in Canada seriously consid

ered recognising Sharia law in family disputes.

Ontario was faced with the suggestion that Islamic law be used to settle issues such as divorce and custody.

Family faith-based tribunals had already been set up by Catholic and Jewish communities following the passing of the province’s Arbitration Act in 1991.

However, it would not have been fair to allow Jews and Catholics to use their religion to resolve disputes while not recognising Islam.

In 2003, the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice said it intended to establish similar tribunals for the 400,000 Muslims in Ontario. But a storm of protests erupted in Canada as well as Paris, London and Vienna.

Ontario’s premier, Dalton McGuinty, ruled against the move in September 2005, saying there should be “one law for all Ontarians”.

He was also forced to ban other religions which had been using faith-based tribunals.


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