The unending open season against Islam in Britain has brought a lot of Muslim-haters out of their closets. The far right, political centrists, the liberal left, Zionists, self-hating and self-serving ‘Muslims’, all are among a disparate bunch who have found a common purpose in attacking the religion, its adherents and values.
One group however that has refused to travel with the prevailing wind is the Church of England. To date it has seen Islamophobia for what it is preferring instead to see Muslims as a fellow band of brothers engaged in a shared struggle against secularism. For their part Muslims have welcomed the protection that the support of a more influential faith group clearly brings.
Not anymore though. In his new book, Reimagining Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury has questioned the compatibility of Islamic values with the Christian basis of life in Britain.
“The problem is reimagining Britain through values applied in action can only work where the narrative of the country is coherent and embracing,” writes Justin Welby.
“Sharia, which has a powerful and ancient cultural narrative of its own, deeply embedded in a system of faith and understanding of God, and thus especially powerful in forming identity, cannot become part of another narrative. Accepting it in part implies accepting its values around the nature of the human person, attitudes to outsiders, the revelation of God, and a basis for life in law, rather than grace, the formative word of Christian culture.”
The archbishop is referring in particular to the debate around introducing into law certain elements of Muslim inheritance and family law as applies for example in India under The Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, which codified existing practice under the colonial regime.
Welby is only the latest to get into a flap about the recognition of Muslim family by the state. Like other opponents he seems to be labouring under the misconception (insecurity even) that allowing Muslims to apply their religious precepts in personal matters is somehow going to undermine the country’s Christian character. That the statute book will suddenly include a section in Arabic defining a parallel jurisprudence for Muslims.
Clearly there’s a huge leap from permitting Muslims to marry and inherit under their own codes to embracing a total Islamic worldview but it does show the alarmist tone in which any conversation surrounding Muslims now takes place.
Writing in the Times last month Melanie Phillips (mis)characterised the situation thus: “Although Sharia has no legal authority in Britain, there are many Muslim enclaves where its writ runs. This is despite its anti-western principles, such as the death penalty for apostasy, punishments for homosexuality and the profound disadvantages and threats to personal safety meted out to British Muslim women.” Needless to say, Philllips lauded Welby for his “courage about resisting Sharia”.