Monday, February 18, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Soft Bigotry of Political Correctness

BBC News Radio Four got a little more than it bargained for when it interviewed Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The leader of the Anglican Church, already embroiled in a huge controversy about the ordination of open Homosexuals as Bishops, for some reason felt the urge to open yet another large number 10 size can of worms.

The good doctor decided to weigh in on the Islamic community and the implementation of Sharia Law in the UK. From the BBC website:

“Dr Rowan Williams told Radio 4's World at One that the UK has to "face up to the fact" that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

Dr Williams argues that adopting parts of Islamic Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.

For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.

He says Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty". “

There is more at the BBC website including Dr Williams’ statement that enacting Sharia law “would help maintain social cohesion.” No, seriously, it is there in the article.

In a way it is comforting to see that there is still no shortage of muddled thinking in the U.K. even in, or should it be said especially among, the elites. Despite all manner of degrees and studies and learning it is still quite possible for the most erudite and cultured to say something profoundly ignorant. God is in his heaven and all is profoundly wrong with the world.

Peel back what is the subtext being peddled here. Those poor dears, the Muslims, they are having such a terrible time adjusting to our way of doing thing here. We really can’t expect them to act like normal people now can we? No, they are a people apart and we must make allowances for them. We must allow them to indulge in their quant ways. Not for them our regular laws that have been developed over centuries. We can not expect them to understand that our form of government is based secular authority. They can not be expected to understand our norms based on reason, judgment, and tradition. Yes they did decide to leave their Muslim polity, left the rule of the Ummah, and entered a nation governed by secular authority; but that is no matter, they must be allowed to set up there own little Riyadhs, Kandahars, and Istanbuls in the heart of London.

It is odd that the westerners are not being extended the any sort of quid pro quo from the Muslim world. We can not be-bop down the streets of Riyadh with a can of beer in one hand, a ham sandwich in the other, and playboy in our back pocket without facing serious consequences. For some reason we are expected to conform to Muslim norms while Muslims are not expected to conform to our norms. What we have here is the soft bigotry of political correctness.

In a sense it is the same dreary jingoism and chauvinism that fueled the Imperil march of Great Brittan in the 18th and 19th century. Back then at least the pasty white empire builders were decent enough to call a spade a spade and a wog a wog. Even now brown people are still seen as somehow as damaged goods. Somehow they just can’t cope, they can’t adapt, and they need special dispensation. No the Muslims must be a people apart. Not for them the idea of equal justice under the law, not for them the idea of equality under the law, not for them the great gift of the enlightenment : both freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Not for them the protections of civil society—they just can’t handle secular society, the poor benighted souls.

Not that the UK is alone in this muddle headed thinking. Germany has been less than fabulous with its "guest workers" from Turkey. There has been next to nothing done about “honor killings” and other bits of nastiness that are part of the Turkish cultural legacy. The German Greens are more than happy to slag the smallest sexist infraction of male Germans, especially if they are leaders in the party, but have done precious little to defend the rights of Turkish women in DDR. Isn’t cultural sensitivity grand?

How about we let the West be the West that is secular? How about we enforce the rule of law and the primacy of civil society that has been the norm in Europe for at least a century? How about we stick with the state being the final arbitrator in matters of marriage and family? The nations of Europe for hundreds of years worked to evict religion from these matters, why are we so eager to let religion back in via the back door. Ever since the French Revolution Europe has struggled to realize the goals of the Enlightenment, to establish a government based on reason and law- not Devine revelation. Exactly why should we now abandon ideas now? Why are we no longer willing to have equal justice under law?

Let’s be clear, by setting up any kind of Sharia law that is separate from civil law we automatically have unequal protection. Separate is inherently unequal. The good doctor should have reviewed Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas before spouting off on the subject.

Let us also be clear on rights and responsibilities. Liberals and leftist are keen on illuminating rights while ignoring responsibilities. By coming to the UK or any other country out of the orbit of the Ummah , by coming to a place where Islam is a minority religion , Muslims pick up the responsibility of adapting to secularism—not vice versa.

Granted the immigrants life is a hard one. One becomes a person apart, the only people who really understand you are other immigrants. One becomes doomed to be neither fish nor fowl. But it is a choice made by ambition, by circumstance, by the individual. One has chosen to cut oneself off from the mother culture and be a stranger in a strange land. For whatever reasons one leaves their native land one knows that they are going to have to cope with fundamental change.

The adopted land owes the immigrant absolutely nothing, not a job, not shelter, not understanding, nothing above and beyond what it offers the rest of its citizens. The immigrant chooses his new land; the new nation does not choose the immigrant. At best a nation may ask for people with specific skills but only as a group. Einstein choose the USA and while the USA was quite happy to receive him it never specifically asked him to come over to the land of the free and home of the brave. The US had many advantages and many private individuals and institutions drawing him to our nation. Einstein had his reasons to get out of Germany as did many Jews in the 1930’s , but it was his decision of where he would finally rest his hat. As it was for this very famous man it is for more obscure types. They choose the countries they go to, it has been a very long time since sub-continental citizens have been shipped off to jolly-old with the rest of the lordly brick-a-brack. These people know or should know what they are getting into.

Ultimately this is about real equality and unity. There can not be one law for Muslims, another for Jews, yet another for Buddhists, quite a different one for Mormons and a totally different law for Wiccans. One nation, one standard, zero opt outs. In Saudi Arabia that standard is informed by Sunni Islam, in Iran that standard is informed by Shia Islam. In England it is informed by Thousands of years of common law, some of those laws predating Christianity. Exactly why is England expected to toss these laws for a bunch of parvenus when it did not change it for the “new” religion of Christianity? England is England and traditions matter there.

Not that tradition doesn’t matter on this side of the pond either. We have these quant ideas about the right of conscience and the separation of church and state. They are written on a scrap of paper known as the Constitution. Thanks to Cheney-Bush the Constitution is not what it used be; all the more reason to resist any more assaults on it.

The Bush minions have been especially busy injecting Dominionist Christianity into the decision making arms of the government. This corruption of the core political values of the USA has been disastrous. The USA needs less accommodation to religion not more. We need to rebuild the rational, secular, civic side of nation; not let even more religious sectarianism and separatism creep into our civil society.

The founders built a church-state wall for a reason: to protect the Government from Religion and to protect Religion from the Government. It always ends in tears when Government and Religion get entwined. In the end both Religion and Government end up deeply sullied and corrupt. In the end Religion and Government loose the respect of the people and the door is opened to radical and disastrous notions.

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