Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sharia law, honour victims and the Archbishop of Canterbury

Someone should take a look at what the Archbishop of Canterbury puts in his tea. Maybe the Church of England falling into oblivion is playing on his mind.

The fact that we've reached a point where Jeremy Paxman nit-picking Marks & Spencer's alleged flaccid underpants grabs more headlines than anything the Archbishop says may have required some sort of divine intervention. Not quite.

All it took was a moment of vintage medieval folly and there he is again, Rowan Williams makes the front page news. When the Archbishop made the suggestions that "some aspects of Sharia law should be adopted in the UK", he obviously didn’t take into account that Sharia law is -de facto- already ruling the lives of tens of thousands of British citizens and residents. The moderate Muslim Council of Britain couldn’t believe their ears, as they remarked what a great idea the Archbishop's is.

After all, their line is, Sharia in Britain wouldn't be about chopping thieves' hands and public flagellation, but would only regulate family law and aspects related to marriage and adultery.

In which case, there won't be much change. Everybody knows that a not insignificant percentage of British Muslims are involved in arranged marriages. Some argue that many of them are forced marriages, but proving the allegation is just about impossible.

I will never forget that time when I asked an ex-colleague how arranged marriage works. What if the woman isn't up for it? "She is", was his firm, totemic answer. "Her life is made much easier that way". I refrained from asking any more as in Britain that's automatically muddy waters and it makes you a… (fill in the gap). But otherwise I'd have mentioned those -as young as 12- taken overseas against their own will so that they can be forced to marry their cousin. Or the women who are segregated into pariah status, prevented from finding a job, leaving the house unaccompanied and much more. Official figures talk of 17,000 "honour victims" each year and no in-depth analysis is required to gather that an infinitely higher number goes unreported. I don’t hear anyone sticking this abomination on top of their political agenda.

Quite the opposite. Perhaps the Archbishop didn’t give it much thought, but if it's already difficult for the victims to come forward in fear of reprisals, the idea of knocking on the door of a Sharia court would simply kill off any chance. It would mean a total amnesty on the daily abuse of human rights that happens against British Muslim women. According to the Centre for Social Cohesion, women aged 16 to 24 from Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi backgrounds are three times more likely to kill themselves than the national average for women of their age. In recent years there have been endless news reports of girls intimidated, kidnapped, dreadfully killed for turning their back on their 'family law'.

That is the result of Sharia already unofficially operating in Britain. It's about time someone should say, once and for all - loud and clear- that Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy.

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