There are an estimated 1.6 million Muslims in Great Britain. By some estimates, more people attend mosque than go to Anglican churches every week. Judging by recent comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is easy to see why.
As most of you by now know, Archbishop Rowan William said in a recent interview that the "UK has to ‘face up to the fact' that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system." He left no doubt who those "citizens" are: British Muslims.
So according to Williams, British Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty." Instead, in the tradition of having your cake and eating it too, he proposes finding "a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law"-in other words, sharia.
British Muslims could choose to have "marital" or "financial" disputes resolved in sharia courts. Sharia courts in Britain? At first I thought the Archbishop misspoke.
But it turns out, no. He calls this "supplementary jurisdiction" unavoidable. He compared it to accommodating Christians in areas like abortion or gay adoption.
With all due respect to the Archbishop, there is no such parallel. The only thing that is unavoidable here is his failure to see sharia as it is practiced in the real world, as opposed to in seminars. As the Asia Times columnist "Spengler" put it, Williams is conceding "a permanent role to extralegal violence in the political life of England."
In real-world Muslim communities throughout Europe, coercion is so commonplace "that duly-constituted governments there" no longer wield justice among its citizens. The imams do. And where would the Archbishop draw the line? At husbands beating their wives for wearing Western clothes or maybe stoning a woman accused of adultery?
Nor will, as Williams hopes, permitting sharia on British soil aid social cohesion. On the contrary, Williams's fellow bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali, recently spoke about what he calls "no-go zones" in Muslim communities where Christians dare not enter. As a result of death threats, bishop Nazir-Ali and his family require police protection.
Nazir-Ali, whose father had to leave Pakistan after converting to Christianity, told the UK Telegraph that sharia is "in tension" with "fundamental aspects" of Anglo-American law. That is because our "legal tradition" is "rooted in the quite different moral and spiritual vision deriving from the Bible." This crucial difference seems to have escaped the Archbishop of Canterbury.
The West's greatest contribution to civilization has been the rule of law, the bulwark of freedom, captured in Anglo-American jurisprudence. Now a ranking religious official proposes compromising that with a theocratic church rule? Please.
Williams's comments are a tragic sign of the Church's weakness. We fawningly respond to Islamic overtures for dialogue, even as we see Christians being persecuted in Muslim nations-and sharia law being imposed on others right in our own backyards.
This weakness is the stuff that empty churches are made of.