Moral Relativism and the case of Sharia

This week the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, caused quite a stir when he publicly advocated for Sharia to be formally adopted within the U.K. legal system. Archbishop Williams defended his position arguing that the adoption of Sharia into the U.K. legal system is “an unavoidable accommodation necessary for social harmony”.

But why is it a necessary condition?

Archbishop Williams is obviously advocating a position for Moral Relativism. He believes that Sharia can co-exist alongside the U.K. legal system despite their many differences. Advocating for Moral Relativism within a legal system can be quite troublesome. The law of the land is perhaps one of the few social constructs that most, if not all, citizens are, or should potentially be, treated equally under.

This is a very contentious issue and one that needs to be treated very carefully. For example, what sort of persons should be subject to Sharia? Who decides this? Is it OK to forgo general ‘rational’ procedures of law making and delivery and introduce religious systems that appear arbitrary in a ratio-centric world?

Before we make a final decision we need to acknowledge that the U.K. already allows Jewish Rabbinical courts to deal with many cases within the U.K. legal system and there has not been much community opposition to this situation. Is the introduction of Sharia any different to the introduction of Jewish law?


7 Responses to “Moral Relativism and the case of Sharia”

  1. 1 Brad February 17, 2008 at 11:03 am

    I followed the story only a little, but having read from the,22049,23199877-5001028,00.html
    there may be some room for caution with regards to how we judge the Archbishop’s position.
    In a quote from that article,
    “Archbishop Williams sparked a political and religious storm last week when he said the introduction of aspects of sharia in Britain was unavoidable”.
    There should clearly be an emphasis on the word aspects here.
    “Archbishop Williams, seeking to clarify his position, said he was not advocating parallel systems of law”.

    Now I am not one to place a lot of faith in the accuracy of journalistic output, so I won’t claim that the article I am referencing is somehow reliable. But our first point of research, before we even start debating consequences and actions, should be to clarify the position we seek to debate.

  2. 2 Simon February 17, 2008 at 11:09 am

    I haven’t got time to read it all at the moment, maybe later, but here’s the link from Archbishop Williams’ home page.

  3. 3 Simon February 17, 2008 at 7:08 pm

    Hmmm, it’s still not a very cut and dry issue. Maybe I commented too early because, it seems, that Archbishop Williams still has a lot of explaining to do regarding his position. Perhaps it was just a little ill advised of Archbishop Williams to make such brief comments about a very controversial issue.

  4. 4 Nathan February 18, 2008 at 8:05 am

    what I find most controversial is that people are under the assumption that the legal system is the right/correct/true system; as if christian morality is anything to write home about.

  5. 5 Simon February 18, 2008 at 12:01 pm

    I don’t think that’s what this thread is advocating Nath.

  6. 6 Nathan February 19, 2008 at 7:15 am

    i’m not suggesting that either. i’ve recently heard the latest installment of the religion report, and i have certainly come to the opinion that this is what stephen crittenden and melanie phillips were advocating. I’ll grant my opinion is a little strong, however, from a non-religious perspective, it is a little easier to see through that haze for what it really is.

  7. 7 Waz February 19, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    One of the things I heard was that aspects of traditional Jewish religious law is already in place in the UK. The Archbishop put forward his idea (if it was his) because there are now more muslims in the UK than Jewish – Why would one religious group receive special treatment?
    From the Archbishop link Simon put up

    “We have orthodox Jewish courts operating in this country legally and in a regulated way because there are modes of dispute resolution and customary provisions which apply there in the light of Talmud. ”

    The law in the UK is supposed to be a reflection of the old Monarchy styles of law… (from my memory haven’t done any research), if you look at the titles of the lawyers/barristers – Queens Counsel etc… While the law is not supposed to be religious in content, it can not be ignored that most of the early laws (which went on to become the laws we know today) came directly from the religious teachings of the early priests/saints/monks/etc…

    Ok, that is about all I know about it, so have fun


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