Charles Moore talks sense to the Archdhimmi (and Sarkozy) in the Telegraph (thanks to the Constantinopolitan Irredentist):
[…] At which point, enter Islam. President Sarkozy criticises the French state for maintaining Muslim congregations “under a form of tutelage” and refusing to recognise their cultural and social value. He boasts of how he has set up the French Council of the Muslim Religion, how he wants more mosques.
Archbishop Williams looks, in a similar spirit, at the realm of law. He sees law as deriving ultimately from religious, not rationalist, principles. He notes how orthodox Judaism has its own Beth Din courts which do not quarrel with the secular law. His own Church of England, too, has its courts, he pointed out. Because we have an Established Church, their decisions have the force of secular law. They settle things like the rights of parochial church councils. Few people see them as instruments of clerical oppression.
So, says the archbishop, we in Britain clearly do not have “a monopolistic understanding of jurisdiction”. Why not extend this plurality to Muslims? Why not allow sharia in some areas, such as marriage disputes?
Many people, surely, would want to follow the broad arguments of president and archbishop, but then stop before they do. Most people with any understanding of European culture will disagree with the militant secularists such as Richard Dawkins, who want any trace of Christianity expunged from our institutions and public life.
In the British context, many non-believers would recognise that, for instance, the state funding of Church schools has done much more good than harm. It would be crazy to cut the schools off now, in the abstract interests of neutrality.
And yes, most of us, believers or not, surely agree that one must permit Muslims to worship freely, and encourage all their genuine charitable and educational activities.
Yet there is a dreadful sense of unreality about the assertion, made both by Mr Sarkozy and by Dr Williams, that whatever applies to Christianity and to Judaism in the West can be applied, just like that, to Islam.
As a post-Vatican II Catholic myself, I share the ecumenical beliefs of most modern Christians. One of these is that Islam, being one of the three “Abrahamic” religions, has a great deal in common with Christianity, and that these common roots should be cultivated. It contains truth, and wisdom, and has built civilisations.
But it is also blindingly obvious that the current state of Islam is quite different from that of Christianity. Western societies are hosts to large numbers of Muslims, who quarrel fiercely among themselves and include extreme, sometimes violent minorities. Goodness knows, the history of Christianity is scarred with such things, but at the moment, in the West, Christian violence is not a big problem. Muslim violence is. If we incorporated sharia in our legal system, whom would we accept as its authentic interpreters?
In his lecture, Archbishop Williams tiptoes round the question, in sharia, of apostasy. He says it is unacceptable that people are punished for leaving the Muslim faith. But he cannot bring himself to say, which he knows to be true, that all the Muslim schools of law agree that the punishment for abandoning the Muslim religion is death. Some people, even in this country, live in hiding because they fear this.
“Sharia,” says Dr Williams, “is not intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim domination over non-Muslims.” Actually, under sharia, Jews and Christians have only what is called “dhimmi” status, a sort of protected, but second-class citizenship.
But in a way, he is right. Sharia does not “demand” domination; it assumes it. The law of Islam is radically different from the law of Judaism, which is the law of a minority that accepts the authority of the majority, non-Jewish state. Islam, like Christianity, is a religion of conversion. Its sharia, unlike the teachings of Christianity, is a programme of law to be turned into a political reality, if possible everywhere.
Poor, dear Dr Williams mutters into his beard about a “market element” of taking a bit of sharia, and a bit of this and a bit of that, as if these things were herbs to spice our multicultural soup. People who want sharia do not see it like that. For them, it must be the only dish on the table.
And if I were French, even though I would agree with President Sarkozy’s rejection of doctrinaire secularism, I would not accept that building lots more mosques is the same as building more churches. More than these leaders wish to admit, this is a zero-sum game….