Category ►►► Dhimmi of the Month

November 8, 2009

A Tale of Two Mentalities

Dhimmi of the Month , Domestic Terrorism , Islamarama , Liberal Lunacy , Military Machinations , War Against Radical Islamism
Hatched by Dafydd

There are so many categories for this post because it touches on so many hot-button issues; but I picked "Dhimmi of the Month" as the primary category. We never did get the polling software off the ground, so you can't vote on it... but I'll still use the category when appropriate.

Sadly, today it's appropriate.

The Chief of Staff of the United States Army, Gen. George Casey, has just uncovered the greatest threat exposed by the Fort Hood massacre, presumably committed by Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. Is it radical jihadism? A future Islamic terrorist attack in the United States? The use of political correctness as a human shield for potential murderers? The inability of the Army to notice that one of its members swam in currents of hate so strong, they seared his soul (as Winston Churchill put it)?

No. Gen. Casey has identified the real danger: a potential anti-Moslem backlash!

General George Casey Jr., the Army chief of staff, said on Sunday that he was concerned that speculation about the religious beliefs of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, accused of killing 12 fellow soldiers and one civilian and wounding dozens of others in a shooting rampage at Fort Hood, could “cause a backlash against some of our Muslim soldiers.”

“I’ve asked our Army leaders to be on the lookout for that,” General Casey said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union. “It would be a shame -- as great a tragedy as this was -- it would be a shame if our diversity became a casualty as well.”

General Casey, who was appeared on three Sunday news programs, used almost the same language during an interview on ABC’s “This Week With George Stephanopoulos,” an indication of the Army’s effort to ward off bias against the more than 3,000 Muslims in its ranks.

“A diverse Army gives us strength,” General Casey, who visited Fort Hood Friday, said on “This Week....”

“The speculation could heighten the backlash,” he said on “This Week.” “What happened at Fort Hood is a tragedy and I believe it would be a greater tragedy if diversity became a casualty here.”

Losing our "diversity" would be "a greater tragedy" than the Fort Hood massacre itself? Does any rational human being actually believe this? And does any military historian believe that "a [religiously] diverse Army gives us strength?" I think it clear from context that Casey is claiming that having a tiny handful of Moslem soldiers -- 3,000 out of nearly 1.1 million soldiers -- somehow makes the Army "stronger."

This is ludicrous. I'm positive having Moslems in our ranks doesn't make us any weaker, but neither does it make us stronger, except marginally: If we banned all Moslems from the ranks, we might have to accept a lesser qualified Christian, Jewish, or Buddhist soldier instead of a more qualified Moslem. But the diminishment would be slight at best.

What really makes us stronger is:

  • The independence and initiative of our soldiers, especially officers and non-coms;
  • Our rigorous and realistic training (with live ammunition);
  • Our general population's familiarity with firearms through civilian gun ownership;
  • Our technologically advanced weaponry and other warfighting systems;
  • And most of all, our ideology of liberty, which gives our servicemen reasons to fight more powerful than "because I told you to."

Casey's remark is yet another example of transforming the criminal into the victim; it's political correctness run wild. And if George Casey cannot understand why Hasan's religion -- which appears by all reports to be a violent, extremist, jihadist sect of Islam -- could be the primary motive behind the otherwise senseless spree killings, then Gen. Casey should be removed as Chief of Staff. Immediately.

It's as stunning as if Eisenhower had said in 1942 that we should not "speculate" on the possible role National Socialism might play in the military aggression of the Axis, lest we create a "backlash" against soldiers with names like, well, Eisenhower. For heaven's sake, the ideology of National Socialism was the primary cause of World War II... just as the ideology of violent Islamic jihadism is the primary cause of global Islamic terrorism.

Or doesn't George Casey believe that? Of course, Casey also didnt' believe in the "surge;" he thought it would inevitably fail, leading to American defeat in Iraq. Fortunately for us (and the Iraqis), he was kicked upstairs, and Gen. David Petraeus took his place as Commander of Multi-National Force - Iraq.

I find it curious that Gen. Casey is so worried about a potential "backlash" against other, non-radical Moslems -- when has this ever happened, by the way? -- but he seems utterly unconcerned about the possibility of another massacre at another military installation by another radical [REDACTED]. I guess each of us must prioritize his own concerns.

Does Casey's response make him a "dhimmi," by which we popularly mean a non-Moslem who bends over backwards to explain away or excuse the excesses of radical jihadism? Yes, I argue it does... because Casey tries to deflect blame from the horrific ideology of jihad: "Nothing to see here, folks; let's just MoveOn!" We know that the jihadist mindset directly causes Islamic terrorism; this appears to be terrorism, perpetrated by a Moslem who increasingly appears to have been radicalized. But we can't "speculate" on this seemingly urgent question for fear of that putative "backlash."

Casey's delusional political correctness was echoed by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC, 82%), naturally enough:

Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican of South Carolina, and Sen. Jack Reed, a Democrat of Rhode Island, took also pains on Sunday to say that Muslims have served honorably in the military and at risk to their lives.

“At the end of the day this is not about his religion -- the fact that this man was a Muslim,” Senator Graham said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

I wonder if Graham thinks that Osama bin Laden's hatred of the West and of Jews has anything to do with his religion; I'm afraid to ask.

In order to conclude that Hasan's religion had nothing whatsoever to do with the attack, one really must ignore an awful lot of evidence. For example (of both the evidence and how it can be brushed aside):

The San Antonio Express-News has reported that classmates in a graduate military medical program heard Major Hasan justify suicide bombings and make radical and anti-American statements. But investigators have said that Major Hasan might have suffered from emotional problems that were aggravated by the strain of working with veterans of combat in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the knowledge that he might soon be deployed to those theaters as well.

I think I would go along with the general premise that every radical Islamic jihadist "suffers from emotional problems;" but I understand the defense:

Only a lad
You really can't blame him
Only a lad
Society made him
Only a lad
He's our responsibility
Only a lad
He really couldn't help it
Only a lad
He didn't want to do it
Only a lad
He's underprivileged and abused
Perhaps a little bit confused

I note, however, that "understanding" is not the same as "exonerating."

Before we swing to the second "mentality," let's encapsulate the Casey mentality here:

On the base Sunday morning, mourners were asked [by the garrison chaplain] to pray for Major Hasan and his family, The Associated Press reported.

Yeah. That and not blaming the perpetrator are the most urgent tasks before us right now.

There is, however, another way to respond to the Fort Hood "tragedy" (man-caused disaster?); it was exemplified today by the man who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite senators:

A key U.S. senator called Sunday for an investigation into whether the Army missed signs that the man accused of opening fire at Fort Hood had embraced an increasingly extremist view of Islamic ideology.

Sen. Joe Lieberman's call came as word surfaced that Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan apparently attended the same Virginia mosque as two Sept. 11 hijackers in 2001, at a time when a radical imam preached there.

God forbid we should "speculate" about how Hasam's religion might have slightly influenced his murderous actions. "This is not -- the radical imam -- I knew...!"

Classmates participating in a 2007-2008 master's program at a military college complained repeatedly to superiors about what they considered Hasan's anti-American views. Dr. Val Finnell said Hasan gave a presentation at the Uniformed Services University that justified suicide bombing and even told classmates that Islamic law trumped the U.S. Constitution.

Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wants Congress to determine whether the shootings constitute a terrorist attack.

"If Hasan was showing signs, saying to people that he had become an Islamist extremist, the U.S. Army has to have zero tolerance," Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, said on "Fox News Sunday." "He should have been gone."

Couldn't we arrange for Gen. George Casey to be gone? He could be kicked upstairs again, this time to junior assistant deputy shavetail to the RINO Secretary of the Army, John McHugh. Then we could replace Casey with a new Chief of Staff, one with a mentality more like Joe Lieberman than George Casey.

Alas, that wouldn't work: The new Chief would have to be nominated by Barack H. Obama... and the One would probably name John Murtha!

Cross-posted to Hot Air's rogues' gallery...

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, November 8, 2009, at the time of 6:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

February 12, 2008

When a Man Stops Believing in God...

Dhimmi of the Month , Islamarama
Hatched by Dafydd
When a Man Stops Believing in God, he doesn't then believe in nothing; he believes anything.

-- A chestnut typically attributed to G.K. Chesterton, who never precisely said or wrote it.

(We never could get a reader voting system to work properly and securely on Big Lizards; so please pardon us if we hijack the "Dhimmi of the Month" category for an apropos post that includes no poll.)

The soon-to-be-ex-Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams -- the top dog in the Church of England (not counting the titular Queen) -- has essentially argued that Parliament should consider implementing some form of sharia law in Great Britain, in order to sooth the hurt feelings of British Moslems suffering under liberty and democracy. But his paralogical argument evinces the brain rot that comes from liberal extremism (a.k.a., liberation theology -- the theory that Christianity commands us to be socialists), as well as the cultural self-loathing and self immolation that is usually the result of creeping atheism: If Williams really believes that there is a God as depicted in the Old and New Testaments, and if God loves liberty and human freedom (having given us freedom of choice) -- then why would he argue that Britain should introduce a form of legal jurisprudence diametrically opposed to those virtues?

This leads me to wonder... Does Archbishop Dr. Rowan Williams still actually believe in God? Or does he now believe, rather, in anything?

Note: I shall put the full text of Dr. Williams' lecture in the "slither on," with each paragraph numbered for easy consumption and reference. When I refer to paragraph number 13 or 7 or somesuch, you can read the whole paragraph in the permalink.

Marxian maunderings

The axiomatic source of Williams' astonishing conclusion is not quite Marxist; but it is at least Marxian. He believes, along with Marxists, that all relationships are power-struggles between competing groups. In every such political struggle, there is a majority group -- which is "advantaged" by its majority power -- and a reflectively disadvantaged minority group.

There is a reason he needs this axiom: The simple fact is that he can only call for treating Islam as the equal of other forms of thought if he first supposes that Islamists who demand sharia courts in England act like other reformers; that is, they make logical arguments and abide by the democratic process.

But of course, they don't; they hurl charges of religious bigotry at anyone who disagrees with them; they declare fatwahs; they call for assassinations; they set off bombs in the tube. So how can Williams reconcile this dichotomy?

He turns to the argument made by many black supremecist demagogues, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson. Like them, Williams clearly believes that only the advantaged (majority) group can commit racial (religious) bias. If the disadvantaged (minority) group does the same thing, it's totally different: Because the minority hasn't the advantage of power, they must engage in, let us say, asymmetrical warfare, having no other way to fight back. If a runt is fighting a giant, we don't call him a cheater if he grabs a two by four and kneecaps the brute. Thus, Williams argues, we should cut the Moslems some slack when they engage in what otherwise would sure look like extreme sectarian hatred and even violence against "infidels":

7 I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour -- for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief -- it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.

Having thus cast out Judeo-Christian philosophy as the basis of Western civilization, Williams has set the stage for special privileges for Moslems; after all, he isn't calling for special Catholic tribunals for the Irish or Napoleonic courts for French immigrants. He can now proceed to knock down the other legs of the stool of Western civ, starting with individualism.

Cockeyed communalism

What matters to Williams is not the will of the individual but what particular groups the individual represents. In this case, he cares about individuals primarily as cogs in the Moslem group.

He assumes that if the umma (broadly defined, "Islamadom," as the Moslem version of Christendom), as a group, demands sharia, then every member of the should want to live under sharia law. The group desire -- in Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, the Waziristan region of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the suburbs of Paris, and at Cronula Beach in Australia -- sets the standard for each individual, including those in the UK branch of the umma. In such a worldview, rights inhere in the group, not the individual. E.g., from paragraph 12: "recognition of the corporate reality and rights of the umma."

But how can a fuzzy-bordered collection of people have "rights?" Our own American courts have consistently ruled that "the right of the people" means an individual right that inheres in each individual person; we don't recognize collective rights (rather, we shouldn't).

Or from paragraphs 5 and 6, discussing people who are "belonging to the umma." This is not like belonging to a church, which requires the active consent of the individual; the umma comprises not only all believing Moslems but everyone who was born into Islam, whether or not he has renounced it: Apostasy is considered a horrific crime by sharia courts, which Williams acknowledges. He argues against allowing British sharia courts to enforce the penalties for apostasy -- but he does not object to them pursuing social punishment for apostasy within the community. Therefore, he accepts the basic premise that once a Moslem, always a Moslem; not even death will release you.

So when he talks about the umma, it includes many involuntary members who are lumped in with those who (he seems to believe) should want to live under some form of sharia.

Ideal or no ideal:

Williams also rejects the core Western cultural system of hypothesis, observation, and conclusion. He does not care what his own eyes tell him about the real human beings who compose the umma in Great Britain.

Williams argues is that there is some enlightened version of Islam (probably true) that allows the umma and Western civilization to mesh, but that "Islamic primitivists" keep mucking up the gears. His sharia courts would, of course, be of the enlightened kind of Islam (from 9):

There needs to be access to recognised authority acting for a religious group: there is already, of course, an Islamic Shari'a Council, much in demand for rulings on marital questions in the UK [its defect from Williams' viewpoint is that it has no legally binding authority -- DaH]; and if we were to see more latitude given in law to rights and scruples rooted in religious identity, we should need a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition, so that 'vexatious' claims could be summarily dealt with. The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. There can be no blank cheques given to unexamined scruples.

14 So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction. Once again, there are no blank cheques.

But the reality is that utopianism gives way to real-world power plays: Utopian Marxism gave way to practical Stalinism; utopian pacifism gave way to reflexive anti-Americanism and support for violent revolutions of the Left. A utopian sharia court may start as a "much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition" -- though even that is questionable, considering who would be implementing it in the first place. But it would soon be supplanted by a more practical sharia court that simply enforced all the rules of Islam in the most literal and primitive way imaginable, rather than carefully picking what Westerners would consider the "sophisticated" -- that is, historically heretical -- interpretation of sharia.

The real problem with Williams' argument is that he clearly has no faith whatsoever in Western culture -- or even the Western God he professes to worship. There is no conflict between internal religious duties and Western jurisprudence; if an individual Moslem chooses to live his life according to the religious dictates of a sharia court, we allow him to do so, freely and without official prejudice or legal disfavor. (The reverse is never allowed by real sharia courts in the real world, of course.)

So-called "sophisticated" Islam is perfectly compatible with a fully Western legal system: Even today, some enlightened but non-official sharia court could rule that Achmed's daughter Sophia must marry Faisal, as Achmed decided. But then it is up to Sophia and Faisal to agree or reject this decision, because Western lands allow individuals to make their own choices.

Thus, since voluntary "submission" to Islam is already allowed by Western authorities under existing law, Williams' call for separate and overlapping legal jurisdictions -- one secular Western democratic system, and a separate sharia system with "supplementary jurisdiction" -- can only be a call for sharia courts having binding jurisdiction over the umma and all its members:

  1. They already have non-binding jurisdiction over anyone who chooses to obey;
  2. Williams calls for a change, for sharia courts with greater official power;
  3. Ergo, Williams must want to give sharia courts the only power they lack today: legal authority to enforce their decisions willy-nilly on whomever they see as part of the umma, whether the victim chooses to accept such jurisdiction or not.

In the real world of politics, the imam's fantasy will become some poor slob's reality in the time it takes to establish a British Islamic Commission for the Protection of Virtue and the Suppression of Vice.

And even if British law doesn't accept such expanded sharia jurisdiction in every location, the mere act of declaring that such "supplementary jurisdiction" exists -- at any officially recognized level -- will have the effect of emboldening the sharia courts, disheartening Islamic dissidents in Great Britain, and encouraging the "simple folk" in the British branch of the umma -- primitivists almost by definition -- to own slaves, beat their wives, order their daughters to marry the father's pick of suitors, or kill those daughters to protect the family "honor." And of course, it will encourage hirabis to commit acts of terrorism to push for even more empowered sharia zones in Britain, ultimately demanding that the entire U.K. become part of the umma. "Parliament surrendered once," they will say; "they will never fight for their corrupt and godless system!" Correct or not, it's a prescription for civil war within the entire Commonwealth.

The horrors of Islamic courts everywhere else in the world will not stop at the English Channel; if Britain gives Moslem radicals sharia-lite, then a demand for full-blown sharia will inevitably follow and be very hard to resist; folks get in the habit of surrendering. Thus, sharia law will not supplement but supplant the "unbreakable" golden thread of British law, whence our own Founding Fathers took the inspiration for our own Constitution and Bill of Rights.

The lions shall lie down upon the lambs

Here is Williams' key utopian fallacy:

17 The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity - and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of 'human dignity as such' -- a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group.

He simply doesn't understand that, when the possibility of some form of official jurisdication is dangled before any group hungry for power -- and in particular sharia-loving Salafists or Qom-school (Khomeini-ist) Shia -- their tendency will be to "say anything" to get the power... and then immediately set about expanding it beyond what was agreed. They will cheerfully promise to acknowledge "human dignity as such," and agree that the sharia courts will not have finality; but they will have no intention of making good on those promises.

Islam even has a special word for such "pie-crust promises," as Mary Poppins calls them ("easily made, easily broken"): al-Takeyya -- lying for the sake of Allah. Promising to keep their rulings within the context of a superceding legal authority is necessary to gain official recognition of Islamic courts within Great Britain; but true Islamists would never accept the sovereignty of a nation-state above that of the word of God.

Hence, they advance the cause of Islam by agreeing to the "Peace of Williams" and becoming a recognized legal authority; and then they further it even further by instantly reneging on that promise. They know that it's easy to create a bureaucracy but virtually impossible to extirpate one, especially amid charges of religious bias -- and when the sharia courts the seeming blessing of the de facto head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

But in addition to flying in the face of observed reality (name a country where sharia courts have been granted such co-jurisdiction -- alas, there are many -- but where they have avoided abusing that authority -- alas, there are none), Williams' mullings and ruminations about the joys of communalism and religious co-jurisdiction also contradict his own earlier preaching (in this very lecture) in favor of the Marxian idea of power.

Specifically, Williams argues that individuals should have the free choice to "opt out" of their own rights... rights we here in America consider inaliable (where "to alienate," in both Leftspeak and as our Founding Fathers understood the term, means exactly that: to give away something that belongs to you, whether the fruit of your labor -- or your fundamental right of freedom of speech or association). Archbishop Williams in paragraph 19:

At the moment, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the most frequently noted problems in the law in this area is the reluctance of a dominant rights-based philosophy to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious opting-out from collaboration in procedures or practices that are in tension with the demands of particular religious groups: the assumption, in rather misleading shorthand, that if a right or liberty is granted there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to 'activate' this whenever called upon.

So individuals should be allowed to reject the freedoms and liberties that the United Kingdom would otherwise defend on their behalf.

But wait... didn't he argue earlier the Marxian belief is that all relationships are power relationships... and specifically, that the minority is always at a terrible power disadvantage to the majority? This is why leftists have cleverly managed to modify the English language to redefine "disadvantaged" to be a synonym for "minority."

Well, how then about a minority of one? What chance does a sixteen year old Moslem girl living within the umma (London branch) have to exercise her free will against the demands of the entire community surrounding her, that (for example) she marry who her father tells her to marry? Particuarly when that community, through its sharia courts, has been granted special recognition by the same government of Great Britain that formerly defended her rights to the hilt as inalienable elements of her individuality... rights that could not be taken away, even if she were cowed enough by her community to claim that she, herself, didn't want them anymore.

If we are to believe (as I'm sure Rowan Williams does) that the "consent" of a woman to sleep with her boss is inherently suspect, as he has so much power over her that she may well not be making a free choice but a defensive one in order to keep her high-paying job -- then how can we reject out of hand the possibility that the Moslem girl above is doing the same?

The Most Reverend and Right Honorable the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury cannot have it both ways: Either one believes that the individual is, or should be required to be, responsible for his own actions and for defending his own rights in the proper venue -- a Western court of law that actually recognizes those individual rights and does not recognize any putative "communitarian rights" against the individual... or else one must instead believe that the minority (including a minority of one) is always at such a disadvantage against the majority that we can never trust the acquiescence of the former to the latter's will... and must intervene willy-nilly against the majority wherever it is found, including the majority Moslem cultures surrounding smaller, weaker individuals or apostate minorities in neighborhoods of London, York, and Canterbury.

Yet by empowering those majority-minority Moslem cultures even more, Williams' does precisely the opposite of what his philosophy ought to suggest: He makes it even harder for apostate (or even dissenting) individuals or minorities within those communities to express themselves "in their own right." Not only need they fight the disapproval of the community itself, they will surely be hauled up before a sharia council... which, even if it lacks legal authority to conduct an official inquisition, will at the very least, be able to organize community disapprobation, condemnation, and eventually exile from a community that may still be important to the dissenter.

Williams himself (quoting "Jewish legal theorist Ayelet Shachar" in paragraph 13) warns against "the ultimatum of 'either your culture or your rights.'" Yet his scheme to give official recognition to sharia courts, even if they're restrained in the punishments they can mete out, will produce exactly such ultimata, over and over, as its most likely outcome.

He has fallen into the root reductio ad absurdum of using "tolerance" as the core value of society: Do you then tolerate the intolerant?

He believes that British society, and indeed Western civilization, should be less exclusionary and invite sharia courts into the official "social contract" -- for Moslems in Great Britain. But Islam itself is an exclusionary religion; hence the terrible punishments for apostasy, heresy, and blasphemy; and in particular, there is a strong strain of such "primitivist" Islam in Britain, as the Salmon Rushdie death threats from British imams and the July 7th bombings make clear.

Even if (on paper) these Williamsian sharia courts would not "actively interfer[] with liberties guaranteed by the wider society," they would substantially undermine such liberties by organizing social opposition to them under the new sharia authority. If the Islamic courts had no paper authority to strip Moslems in Britain of those rights, they would simply issue a fatwah -- and lynch-mobs within the community would do it for them.

I suppose that possibility never occurred to the holy naif. Well, it occurs to me.

Who was that mitered man?

We have seen earlier bizarre spiritual journeys, leftist radicalism, and unfathomable (and silly) applications of liberation theology to the real world by this particular Archbishop of Canterbury:

  • He was a radical pacifist protester during the 1980s;
  • He sees Capitalism as the great threat to the world -- not Communism or Islamism: "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game."
  • About al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, he is quoted in the same Wall Street Journal opinion piece as saying, "Bombast about evil individuals doesn't help in understanding anything."
  • He supports ordaining gay priests and he supports same-sex marriage.

So in a sense, coming out of the closet and calling for the implementation of sharia courts -- even if limited in their enforcement powers and having only "supplementary jurisdiction" (they must outsource their stonings and beheadings to angry committees of vigilance) -- seems right in line with his other positions; they all form part of the same mosaic of rejection of Western civilization and culture. Williams is not a total radical; he completely accepts his church's pro-life stance, for example. But he is clearly a radical socialist who accepts all the nefarious propaganda against the belief of Western exceptionalism.

Rowan Williams, whatever he may say if asked this question directly, undeniably manifests a strong belief in cultural relativism... the idea that each culture must be judged solely by its own axioms and beliefs: The cultural relativist would refuse to call any culture "evil," from the Nazis death-campers to the Aztecs human sacrificers to the Canaanite Moloch-worshippers. Except, perhaps, Western culture; cultural relativists have special dispensation to attack the West without regard to their general theory. (Gilbert and Sullivan wrote about such folk, who existed even in the 19th century: "The idiot who praises with enthusiastic tone all centuries but this and every country but his own.")

In which we swallow our own tail

So to sum up, Williams rejects the very idea that Western Judeo-Christian values are actually better -- more decent, more successful, more just -- than the values of the radical Islamists who want to blast back to the seventh century. He doesn't see individuals or individual activity as important, not nearly as much as masses of people organized into communities. He rejects the concept that people -- even Osama bin Laden -- can actually be evil. He rejects the supremacy of Judeo-Christian law, universal law, a law for all... the greatest gift the Jews ever gave the world. And he even rejects the evidence of his own senses as to what happens whenever countries allow "sharia-lite" into official jurisprudence.

It seems quite clear to me that if Rowan Williams ever really had faith in the core values of our culture -- or its theistic God -- he lost it long ago. He is a man who has stopped believing in God... and now, as Chesterton didn't say (but meant to), the Archbishop of Canterbury believes anything.


For further reading -- dare I say supplementary, if rather shallow -- consider these articles:

0 Full text of Archbishop's Lecture - Civil and Religious Law in England: a religious perspective
Full text of the lecture by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, that sparked controversy for advocating the adoption of parts of Sharia, or Islamic Law, in Britain

1 The title of this series of lectures signals the existence of what is very widely felt to be a growing challenge in our society -- that is, the presence of communities which, while no less 'law-abiding' than the rest of the population, relate to something other than the British legal system alone. But, as I hope to suggest, the issues that arise around what level of public or legal recognition, if any, might be allowed to the legal provisions of a religious group, are not peculiar to Islam: we might recall that, while the law of the Church of England is the law of the land, its daily operation is in the hands of authorities to whom considerable independence is granted. And beyond the specific issues that arise in relation to the practicalities of recognition or delegation, there are large questions in the background about what we understand by and expect from the law, questions that are more sharply focused than ever in a largely secular social environment. I shall therefore be concentrating on certain issues around Islamic law to begin with, in order to open up some of these wider matters.

2 Among the manifold anxieties that haunt the discussion of the place of Muslims in British society, one of the strongest, reinforced from time to time by the sensational reporting of opinion polls, is that Muslim communities in this country seek the freedom to live under sharia law. And what most people think they know of sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments; just a few days ago, it was reported that a 'forced marriage' involving a young woman with learning difficulties had been 'sanctioned under sharia law' -- the kind of story that, in its assumption that we all 'really' know what is involved in the practice of sharia, powerfully reinforces the image of -- at best -- a pre-modern system in which human rights have no role. The problem is freely admitted by Muslim scholars. 'In the West', writes Tariq Ramadan in his groundbreaking Western Muslims and the Future of Islam, 'the idea of Sharia calls up all the darkest images of Islam...It has reached the extent that many Muslim intellectuals do not dare even to refer to the concept for fear of frightening people or arousing suspicion of all their work by the mere mention of the word' (p.31). Even when some of the more dramatic fears are set aside, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what degree of accommodation the law of the land can and should give to minority communities with their own strongly entrenched legal and moral codes. As such, this is not only an issue about Islam but about other faith groups, including Orthodox Judaism; and indeed it spills over into some of the questions which have surfaced sharply in the last twelve months about the right of religious believers in general to opt out of certain legal provisions -- as in the problems around Roman Catholic adoption agencies which emerged in relation to the Sexual Orientation Regulations last spring.

3 This lecture will not attempt a detailed discussion of the nature of sharia, which would be far beyond my competence; my aim is only, as I have said, to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state, with a few thought about what might be entailed in crafting a just and constructive relationship between Islamic law and the statutory law of the United Kingdom. But it is important to begin by dispelling one or two myths about sharia; so far from being a monolithic system of detailed enactments, sharia designates primarily -- to quote Ramadan again -- 'the expression of the universal principles of Islam [and] the framework and the thinking that makes for their actualization in human history' (32). Universal principles: as any Muslim commentator will insist, what is in view is the eternal and absolute will of God for the universe and for its human inhabitants in particular; but also something that has to be 'actualized', not a ready-made system. If shar' designates the essence of the revealed Law, sharia is the practice of actualizing and applying it; while certain elements of the sharia are specified fairly exactly in the Qur'an and Sunna and in the hadith recognised as authoritative in this respect, there is no single code that can be identified as 'the' sharia. And when certain states impose what they refer to as sharia or when certain Muslim activists demand its recognition alongside secular jurisdictions, they are usually referring not to a universal and fixed code established once for all but to some particular concretisation of it at the hands of a tradition of jurists. In the hands of contemporary legal traditionalists, this means simply that the application of sharia must be governed by the judgements of representatives of the classical schools of legal interpretation. But there are a good many voices arguing for an extension of the liberty of ijtihad -- basically reasoning from first principles rather than simply the collation of traditional judgements (see for example Louis Gardet, 'Un prealable aux questions soulevees par les droits de l'homme: l'actualisation de la Loi religieuse musulmane aujourd'hui', Islamochristiana 9, 1983, 1-12, and Abdullah Saeed, 'Trends in Contemporary Islam: a Preliminary Attempt at a Classification', The Muslim World, 97:3, 2007, 395-404, esp. 401-2).

4 Thus, in contrast to what is sometimes assumed, we do not simply have a standoff between two rival legal systems when we discuss Islamic and British law. On the one hand, sharia depends for its legitimacy not on any human decision, not on votes or preferences, but on the conviction that it represents the mind of God; on the other, it is to some extent unfinished business so far as codified and precise provisions are concerned. To recognise sharia is to recognise a method of jurisprudence governed by revealed texts rather than a single system. In a discussion based on a paper from Mona Siddiqui at a conference last year at Al Akhawayn University in Morocco, the point was made by one or two Muslim scholars that an excessively narrow understanding sharia as simply codified rules can have the effect of actually undermining the universal claims of the Qur'an.

5 But while such universal claims are not open for renegotiation, they also assume the voluntary consent or submission of the believer, the free decision to be and to continue a member of the umma. Sharia is not, in that sense, intrinsically to do with any demand for Muslim dominance over non-Muslims. Both historically and in the contemporary context, Muslim states have acknowledged that membership of the umma is not coterminous with membership in a particular political society: in modern times, the clearest articulation of this was in the foundation of the Pakistani state under Jinnah; but other examples (Morocco, Jordan) could be cited of societies where there is a concept of citizenship that is not identical with belonging to the umma. Such societies, while not compromising or weakening the possibility of unqualified belief in the authority and universality of sharia, or even the privileged status of Islam in a nation, recognise that there can be no guarantee that the state is religiously homogeneous and that the relationships in which the individual stands and which define him or her are not exclusively with other Muslims. There has therefore to be some concept of common good that is not prescribed solely in terms of revealed Law, however provisional or imperfect such a situation is thought to be. And this implies in turn that the Muslim, even in a predominantly Muslim state, has something of a dual identity, as citizen and as believer within the community of the faithful.

6 It is true that this account would be hotly contested by some committed Islamic primitivists, by followers of Sayyid Qutb and similar polemicists; but it is fair to say that the great body of serious jurists in the Islamic world would recognise this degree of political plurality as consistent with Muslim integrity. In this sense, while (as I have said) we are not talking about two rival systems on the same level, there is some community of understanding between Islamic social thinking and the categories we might turn to in the non-Muslim world for the understanding of law in the most general context. There is a recognition that our social identities are not constituted by one exclusive set of relations or mode of belonging -- even if one of those sets is regarded as relating to the most fundamental and non-negotiable level of reality, as established by a 'covenant' between the divine and the human (as in Jewish and Christian thinking; once again, we are not talking about an exclusively Muslim problem). The danger arises not only when there is an assumption on the religious side that membership of the community (belonging to the umma or the Church or whatever) is the only significant category, so that participation in other kinds of socio-political arrangement is a kind of betrayal. It also occurs when secular government assumes a monopoly in terms of defining public and political identity. There is a position -- not at all unfamiliar in contemporary discussion -- which says that to be a citizen is essentially and simply to be under the rule of the uniform law of a sovereign state, in such a way that any other relations, commitments or protocols of behaviour belong exclusively to the realm of the private and of individual choice. As I have maintained in several other contexts, this is a very unsatisfactory account of political reality in modern societies; but it is also a problematic basis for thinking of the legal category of citizenship and the nature of human interdependence. Maleiha Malik, following Alasdair MacIntyre, argues in an essay on 'Faith and the State of Jurisprudence' (Faith in Law: Essays in Legal Theory, ed. Peter Oliver, Sionaidh Douglas Scott and Victor Tadros, 2000, pp.129-49) that there is a risk of assuming that 'mainstreram' jurisprudence should routinely and unquestioningly bypass the variety of ways in which actions are as a matter of fact understood by agents in the light of the diverse sorts of communal belonging they are involved in. If that is the assumption, 'the appropriate temporal unit for analysis tends to be the basic action. Instead of concentrating on the history of the individual or the origins of the social practice which provides the context within which the act is performed, conduct tends to be studied as an isolated and one-off act' (139-40). And another essay in the same collection, Anthony Bradney's 'Faced by Faith' (89-105) offers some examples of legal rulings which have disregarded the account offered by religious believers of the motives for their own decisions, on the grounds that the court alone is competent to assess the coherence or even sincerity of their claims. And when courts attempt to do this on the grounds of what is 'generally acceptable' behaviour in a society, they are open, Bradney claims (102-3) to the accusation of undermining the principle of liberal pluralism by denying someone the right to speak in their own voice. The distinguished ecclesiastical lawyer, Chancellor Mark Hill, has also underlined in a number of recent papers the degree of confusion that has bedevilled recent essays in adjudicating disputes with a religious element, stressing the need for better definition of the kind of protection for religious conscience that the law intends (see particularly his essay with Russell Sandberg, 'Is Nothing Sacred? Clashing Symbols in a Secular World', Public Law 3, 2007, pp.488-506).

7 I have argued recently in a discussion of the moral background to legislation about incitement to religious hatred that any crime involving religious offence has to be thought about in terms of its tendency to create or reinforce a position in which a religious person or group could be gravely disadvantaged in regard to access to speaking in public in their own right: offence needs to be connected to issues of power and status, so that a powerful individual or group making derogatory or defamatory statements about a disadvantaged minority might be thought to be increasing that disadvantage. The point I am making here is similar. If the law of the land takes no account of what might be for certain agents a proper rationale for behaviour -- for protest against certain unforeseen professional requirements, for instance, which would compromise religious discipline or belief -- it fails in a significant way to communicate with someone involved in the legal process (or indeed to receive their communication), and so, on at least one kind of legal theory (expounded recently, for example, by R.A. Duff), fails in one of its purposes.

8 The implications are twofold. There is a plain procedural question -- and neither Bradney nor Malik goes much beyond this -- about how existing courts function and what weight is properly give to the issues we have been discussing. But there is a larger theoretical and practical issue about what it is to live under more than one jurisdiction., which takes us back to the question we began with -- the role of sharia (or indeed Orthodox Jewish practice) in relation to the routine jurisdiction of the British courts. In general, when there is a robust affirmation that the law of the land should protect individuals on the grounds of their corporate religious identity and secure their freedom to fulfil religious duties, a number of queries are regularly raised. I want to look at three such difficulties briefly. They relate both to the question of whether there should be a higher level of attention to religious identity and communal rights in the practice of the law, and to the larger issue I mentioned of something like a delegation of certain legal functions to the religious courts of a community; and this latter question, it should be remembered, is relevant not only to Islamic law but also to areas of Orthodox Jewish practice.

9 The first objection to a higher level of public legal regard being paid to communal identity is that it leaves legal process (including ordinary disciplinary process within organisations) at the mercy of what might be called vexatious appeals to religious scruple. A recent example might be the reported refusal of a Muslim woman employed by Marks and Spencer to handle a book of Bible stories. Or we might think of the rather more serious cluster of questions around forced marriages, where again it is crucial to distinguish between cultural and strictly religious dimensions. While Bradney rightly cautions against the simple dismissal of alleged scruple by judicial authorities who have made no attempt to understand its workings in the construction of people's social identities, it should be clear also that any recognition of the need for such sensitivity must also have a recognised means of deciding the relative seriousness of conscience-related claims, a way of distinguishing purely cultural habits from seriously-rooted matters of faith and discipline, and distinguishing uninformed prejudice from religious prescription. There needs to be access to recognised authority acting for a religious group: there is already, of course, an Islamic Shari'a Council, much in demand for rulings on marital questions in the UK; and if we were to see more latitude given in law to rights and scruples rooted in religious identity, we should need a much enhanced and quite sophisticated version of such a body, with increased resource and a high degree of community recognition, so that 'vexatious' claims could be summarily dealt with. The secular lawyer needs to know where the potential conflict is real, legally and religiously serious, and where it is grounded in either nuisance or ignorance. There can be no blank cheques given to unexamined scruples.

10 The second issue, a very serious one, is that recognition of 'supplementary jurisdiction' in some areas, especially family law, could have the effect of reinforcing in minority communities some of the most repressive or retrograde elements in them, with particularly serious consequences for the role and liberties of women. The 'forced marriage' question is the one most often referred to here, and it is at the moment undoubtedly a very serious and scandalous one; but precisely because it has to do with custom and culture rather than directly binding enactments by religious authority, I shall refer to another issue. It is argued that the provision for the inheritance of widows under a strict application of sharia has the effect of disadvantaging them in what the majority community might regard as unacceptable ways. A legal (in fact Qur'anic) provision which in its time served very clearly to secure a widow's position at a time when this was practically unknown in the culture becomes, if taken absolutely literally, a generator of relative insecurity in a new context (see, for example, Ann Elizabeth Mayer, Islam and Human Rights. Tradition and Politics, 1999, p.111). The problem here is that recognising the authority of a communal religious court to decide finally and authoritatively about such a question would in effect not merely allow an additional layer of legal routes for resolving conflicts and ordering behaviour but would actually deprive members of the minority community of rights and liberties that they were entitled to enjoy as citizens; and while a legal system might properly admit structures or protocols that embody the diversity of moral reasoning in a plural society by allowing scope for a minority group to administer its affairs according to its own convictions, it can hardly admit or 'license' protocols that effectively take away the rights it acknowledges as generally valid.

11 To put the question like that is already to see where an answer might lie, though it is not an answer that will remove the possibility of some conflict. If any kind of plural jurisdiction is recognised, it would presumably have to be under the rubric that no 'supplementary' jurisdiction could have the power to deny access to the rights granted to other citizens or to punish its members for claiming those rights. This is in effect to mirror what a minority might themselves be requesting -- that the situation should not arise where membership of one group restricted the freedom to live also as a member of an overlapping group, that (in this case) citizenship in a secular society should not necessitate the abandoning of religious discipline, any more than religious discipline should deprive one of access to liberties secured by the law of the land, to the common benefits of secular citizenship -- or, better, to recognise that citizenship itself is a complex phenomenon not bound up with any one level of communal belonging but involving them all.

12 But this does not guarantee an absence of conflict. In the particular case we have mentioned, the inheritance rights of widows, it is already true that some Islamic societies have themselves proved flexible (Malaysia is a case in point). But let us take a more neuralgic matter still: what about the historic Islamic prohibition against apostasy, and the draconian penalties entailed? In a society where freedom of religion is secured by law, it is obviously impossible for any group to claim that conversion to another faith is simply disallowed or to claim the right to inflict punishment on a convert. We touch here on one of the most sensitive areas not only in thinking about legal practice but also in interfaith relations. A significant number of contemporary Islamic jurists and scholars would say that the Qur'anic pronouncements on apostasy which have been regarded as the ground for extreme penalties reflect a situation in which abandoning Islam was equivalent to adopting an active stance of violent hostility to the community, so that extreme penalties could be compared to provisions in other jurisdictions for punishing spies or traitors in wartime; but that this cannot be regarded as bearing on the conditions now existing in the world. Of course such a reading is wholly unacceptable to 'primitivists' in Islam, for whom this would be an example of a rationalising strategy, a style of interpretation (ijtihad) uncontrolled by proper traditional norms. But, to use again the terminology suggested a moment ago, as soon as it is granted that -- even in a dominantly Islamic society -- citizens have more than one set of defining relationships under the law of the state, it becomes hard to justify enactments that take it for granted that the only mode of contact between these sets of relationships is open enmity; in which case, the appropriateness of extreme penalties for conversion is not obvious even within a fairly strict Muslim frame of reference. Conversely, where the dominant legal culture is non-Islamic, but there is a level of serious recognition of the corporate reality and rights of the umma, there can be no assumption that outside the umma the goal of any other jurisdiction is its destruction. Once again, there has to be a recognition that difference of conviction is not automatically a lethal threat.

13 As I have said, this is a delicate and complex matter involving what is mostly a fairly muted but nonetheless real debate among Muslim scholars in various contexts. I mention it partly because of its gravity as an issue in interfaith relations and in discussions of human rights and the treatment of minorities, partly to illustrate how the recognition of what I have been calling membership in different but overlapping sets of social relationship (what others have called 'multiple affiliations') can provide a framework for thinking about these neuralgic questions of the status of women and converts. Recognising a supplementary jurisdiction cannot mean recognising a liberty to exert a sort of local monopoly in some areas. The Jewish legal theorist Ayelet Shachar, in a highly original and significant monograph on Multicultural Jurisdictions: Cultural Differences and Women's Rights (2001), explores the risks of any model that ends up 'franchising' a non-state jurisdiction so as to reinforce its most problematic features and further disadvantage its weakest members: 'we must be alert', she writes, 'to the potentially injurious effects of well-meaning external protections upon different categories of group members here -- effects which may unwittingly exacerbate preexisting internal power hierarchies' (113). She argues that if we are serious in trying to move away from a model that treats one jurisdiction as having a monopoly of socially defining roles and relations, we do not solve any problems by a purely uncritical endorsement of a communal legal structure which can only be avoided by deciding to leave the community altogether. We need, according to Shachar, to 'work to overcome the ultimatum of "either your culture or your rights"' (114).

14 So the second objection to an increased legal recognition of communal religious identities can be met if we are prepared to think about the basic ground rules that might organise the relationship between jurisdictions, making sure that we do not collude with unexamined systems that have oppressive effect or allow shared public liberties to be decisively taken away by a supplementary jurisdiction. Once again, there are no blank cheques. I shall return to some of the details of Shachar's positive proposal; but I want to move on to the third objection, which grows precisely out of the complexities of clarifying the relations between jurisdictions. Is it not both theoretically and practically mistaken to qualify our commitment to legal monopoly? So much of our thinking in the modern world, dominated by European assumptions about universal rights, rests, surely, on the basis that the law is the law; that everyone stands before the public tribunal on exactly equal terms, so that recognition of corporate identities or, more seriously, of supplementary jurisdictions is simply incoherent if we want to preserve the great political and social advances of Western legality.

15 There is a bit of a risk here in the way we sometimes talk about the universal vision of post-Enlightenment politics. The great protest of the Enlightenment was against authority that appealed only to tradition and refused to justify itself by other criteria -- by open reasoned argument or by standards of successful provision of goods and liberties for the greatest number. Its claim to override traditional forms of governance and custom by looking towards a universal tribunal was entirely intelligible against the background of despotism and uncritical inherited privilege which prevailed in so much of early modern Europe. The most positive aspect of this moment in our cultural history was its focus on equal levels of accountability for all and equal levels of access for all to legal process. In this respect, it was in fact largely the foregrounding and confirming of what was already encoded in longstanding legal tradition, Roman and mediaeval, which had consistently affirmed the universality and primacy of law (even over the person of the monarch). But this set of considerations alone is not adequate to deal with the realities of complex societies: it is not enough to say that citizenship as an abstract form of equal access and equal accountability is either the basis or the entirety of social identity and personal motivation. Where this has been enforced, it has proved a weak vehicle for the life of a society and has often brought violent injustice in its wake (think of the various attempts to reduce citizenship to rational equality in the France of the 1790's or the China of the 1970's). Societies that are in fact ethnically, culturally and religiously diverse are societies in which identity is formed, as we have noted by different modes and contexts of belonging, 'multiple affiliation'. The danger is in acting as if the authority that managed the abstract level of equal citizenship represented a sovereign order which then allowed other levels to exist. But if the reality of society is plural -- as many political theorists have pointed out -- this is a damagingly inadequate account of common life, in which certain kinds of affiliation are marginalised or privatised to the extent that what is produced is a ghettoised pattern of social life, in which particular sorts of interest and of reasoning are tolerated as private matters but never granted legitimacy in public as part of a continuing debate about shared goods and priorities.

16 But this means that we have to think a little harder about the role and rule of law in a plural society of overlapping identities. Perhaps it helps to see the universalist vision of law as guaranteeing equal accountability and access primarily in a negative rather than a positive sense -- that is, to see it as a mechanism whereby any human participant in a society is protected against the loss of certain elementary liberties of self-determination and guaranteed the freedom to demand reasons for any actions on the part of others for actions and policies that infringe self-determination. This is a slightly more gentle or tactful way of expressing what some legal theorists will describe as the 'monopoly of legitimate violence' by the law of a state, the absolute restriction of powers of forcible restraint to those who administer statutory law. This is not to reduce society itself primarily to an uneasy alliance of self-determining individuals arguing about the degree to which their freedom is limited by one another and needing forcible restraint in a war of all against all -- though that is increasingly the model which a narrowly rights-based culture fosters, producing a manically litigious atmosphere and a conviction of the inadequacy of customary ethical restraints and traditions -- of what was once called 'civility'. The picture will not be unfamiliar, and there is a modern legal culture which loves to have it so. But the point of defining legal universalism as a negative thing is that it allows us to assume, as I think we should, that the important springs of moral vision in a society will be in those areas which a systematic abstract universalism regards as 'private' -- in religion above all, but also in custom and habit. The role of 'secular' law is not the dissolution of these things in the name of universalism but the monitoring of such affiliations to prevent the creation of mutually isolated communities in which human liberties are seen in incompatible ways and individual persons are subjected to restraints or injustices for which there is no public redress.

17 The rule of law is thus not the enshrining of priority for the universal/abstract dimension of social existence but the establishing of a space accessible to everyone in which it is possible to affirm and defend a commitment to human dignity as such, independent of membership in any specific human community or tradition, so that when specific communities or traditions are in danger of claiming finality for their own boundaries of practice and understanding, they are reminded that they have to come to terms with the actuality of human diversity - and that the only way of doing this is to acknowledge the category of 'human dignity as such' -- a non-negotiable assumption that each agent (with his or her historical and social affiliations) could be expected to have a voice in the shaping of some common project for the well-being and order of a human group. It is not to claim that specific community understandings are 'superseded' by this universal principle, rather to claim that they all need to be undergirded by it. The rule of law is -- and this may sound rather counterintuitive -- a way of honouring what in the human constitution is not captured by any one form of corporate belonging or any particular history, even though the human constitution never exists without those other determinations. Our need, as Raymond Plant has well expressed it, is for the construction of 'a moral framework which could expand outside the boundaries of particular narratives while, at the same time, respecting the narratives as the cultural contexts in which the language [of common dignity and mutually intelligible commitments to work for certain common moral priorities] is learned and taught' (Politics, Theology and History, 2001, pp.357-8).

18 I'd add in passing that this is arguably a place where more reflection is needed about the theology of law; if my analysis is right, the sort of foundation I have sketched for a universal principle of legal right requires both a certain valuation of the human as such and a conviction that the human subject is always endowed with some degree of freedom over against any and every actual system of human social life; both of these things are historically rooted in Christian theology, even when they have acquired a life of their own in isolation from that theology. It never does any harm to be reminded that without certain themes consistently and strongly emphasised by the 'Abrahamic' faiths, themes to do with the unconditional possibility for every human subject to live in conscious relation with God and in free and constructive collaboration with others, there is no guarantee that a 'universalist' account of human dignity would ever have seemed plausible or even emerged with clarity. Slave societies and assumptions about innate racial superiority are as widespread a feature as any in human history (and they have persistently infected even Abrahamic communities, which is perhaps why the Enlightenment was a necessary wake-up call to religion...).

19 But to return to our main theme: I have been arguing that a defence of an unqualified secular legal monopoly in terms of the need for a universalist doctrine of human right or dignity is to misunderstand the circumstances in which that doctrine emerged, and that the essential liberating (and religiously informed) vision it represents is not imperilled by a loosening of the monopolistic framework. At the moment, as I mentioned at the beginning of this lecture, one of the most frequently noted problems in the law in this area is the reluctance of a dominant rights-based philosophy to acknowledge the liberty of conscientious opting-out from collaboration in procedures or practices that are in tension with the demands of particular religious groups: the assumption, in rather misleading shorthand, that if a right or liberty is granted there is a corresponding duty upon every individual to 'activate' this whenever called upon. Earlier on, I proposed that the criterion for recognising and collaborating with communal religious discipline should be connected with whether a communal jurisdiction actively interfered with liberties guaranteed by the wider society in such a way as definitively to block access to the exercise of those liberties; clearly the refusal of a religious believer to act upon the legal recognition of a right is not, given the plural character of society, a denial to anyone inside or outside the community of access to that right. The point has been granted in respect of medical professionals who may be asked to perform or co-operate in performing abortions -- a perfectly reasonable example of the law doing what I earlier defined as its job, securing space for those aspects of human motivation and behaviour that cannot be finally determined by any corporate or social system. It is difficult to see quite why the principle cannot be extended in other areas. But it is undeniable that there is pressure from some quarters to insist that conscientious disagreement should always be overruled by a monopolistic understanding of jurisdiction.

20 I labour the point because what at first seems to be a somewhat narrow point about how Islamic law and Islamic identity should or might be regarded in our legal system in fact opens up a very wide range of current issues, and requires some general thinking about the character of law. It would be a pity if the immense advances in the recognition of human rights led, because of a misconception about legal universality, to a situation where a person was defined primarily as the possessor of a set of abstract liberties and the law's function was accordingly seen as nothing but the securing of those liberties irrespective of the custom and conscience of those groups which concretely compose a plural modern society. Certainly, no-one is likely to suppose that a scheme allowing for supplementary jurisdiction will be simple, and the history of experiments in this direction amply illustrates the problems. But if one approaches it along the lines sketched by Shachar in the monograph quoted earlier, it might be possible to think in terms of what she calls 'transformative accommodation': a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that 'power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents' (122). This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution -- the main areas that have been in question where supplementary jurisdictions have been tried, with native American communities in Canada as well as with religious groups like Islamic minority communities in certain contexts. In such schemes, both jurisdictional stakeholders may need to examine the way they operate; a communal/religious nomos, to borrow Shachar's vocabulary, has to think through the risks of alienating its people by inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law, and a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. Hence 'transformative accommodation': both jurisdictional parties may be changed by their encounter over time, and we avoid the sterility of mutually exclusive monopolies.

21 It is uncomfortably true that this introduces into our thinking about law what some would see as a 'market' element, a competition for loyalty as Shachar admits. But if what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of divers and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable. In other settings, I have spoken about the idea of 'interactive pluralism' as a political desideratum; this seems to be one manifestation of such an ideal, comparable to the arrangements that allow for shared responsibility in education: the best argument for faith schools from the point of view of any aspiration towards social harmony and understanding is that they bring communal loyalties into direct relation with the wider society and inevitably lead to mutual questioning and sometimes mutual influence towards change, without compromising the distinctiveness of the essential elements of those communal loyalties.

22 In conclusion, it seems that if we are to think intelligently about the relations between Islam and British law, we need a fair amount of 'deconstruction' of crude oppositions and mythologies, whether of the nature of sharia or the nature of the Enlightenment. But as I have hinted, I do not believe this can be done without some thinking also about the very nature of law. It is always easy to take refuge in some form of positivism; and what I have called legal universalism, when divorced from a serious theoretical (and, I would argue, religious) underpinning, can turn into a positivism as sterile as any other variety. If the paradoxical idea which I have sketched is true -- that universal law and universal right are a way of recognising what is least fathomable and controllable in the human subject -- theology still waits for us around the corner of these debates, however hard our culture may try to keep it out. And, as you can imagine, I am not going to complain about that.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 12, 2008, at the time of 7:31 PM | Comments (25) | TrackBack

September 24, 2007

Cindy Sheehan's Day of Out-of-Tunement Manifesto

Afghan Astonishments , Asquirmative Action , Dhimmi of the Month , Domestic Terrorism , Drama Kings and Queens , Econ. 101 , Enviro-Mental Cases , Hippy Dippy Peacenik Groove , History of Moral Philosophy , Illiberal Liberalism , Impeachment Imbecilities , Iraq Matters , Kriminal Konspiracies , Liberal Lunacy , Logical Lacunae , News of the Weird , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Politics 101 , Scurrilous Scribblings , Terrorism Intelligence , Unnatural Disasters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I rarely do this, as you know: I rarely link to some piece and say simply "read this." (I'm too in love with the sound of my own fingers typing on a keyboard.)

But here's an exception. Read Cindy Sheehan's Yom Kippur "sermon," delivered at Michael Lerner's Beyt Tikkun "synogogue;" you will be -- if not exactly glad, then at least agape. (Rabbi Lerner is Hillary Clinton's mentor, author of the Politics of Meaning and other works of Socialist agit-prop masquerading as theology.)

My response (I love this) is entirely contained in the list of categories I had to attach to this post.

(Well, one more thing. It has always been my understanding that Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, is a day for each person to atone for what he, personally, has done wrong -- not "atone" for his enemies failing to live up to his own lofty standards, apologize for all the times America hasn't followed his lead, or wallow in self-righteous indignation that nobody listens to him. 'Nuff said; read the list of categories above.)

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, September 24, 2007, at the time of 2:36 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

June 13, 2007

It's Like Déjà-Vu All Over Again...

Congressional Calamities , Dhimmi of the Month , Iraq Matters , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

...Why do I have the feeling I used that line before?

I'm actually starting to lose track of how many times we've lost the Iraq war; at least, according to Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 90%). But he's at it again. I don't think I've ever before seen a feller so anxious to see his own side lose:

Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged the president over Iraq by sending him a letter, ahead of a White House meeting later on Wednesday.

"As many had forseen, the escalation has failed to produce the intended results," the two leaders wrote. [The troops are just now in place, and the new counterinsurgency strategy is just about to begin.]

"The increase in US forces has had little impact in curbing the violence or fostering political reconciliation. [Even before the new strategy begins, violence in Baghdad is down significantly; some has moved outside the capital, but that was the plan: Secure Baghdad, then expand the security outward.]

"It has not enhanced Americas national security. The unsettling reality is that instances of violence against Iraqis remain high and attacks on US forces have increased. [By "attacks on US forces," you of course mean "casualties suffered as US forces take the fight to the terrorists and insurgents, increase the tempo of engagement, and obliterate al-Qaeda in Anbar, Salahadin, Diyala, and Baghdad.]

"In fact, the last two months of the war were the deadliest to date for US troops." [So let's make all those deaths meaningless by retreating just as we're about to launch the full-scale attack!]

Of course, t'other way of looking at it is -- the side he's anxious to see lose isn't his own side at all. Has anybody seen any photos of Harry Reid sitting astride an al-Qaeda anti-aircraft gun? And does anybody know if a Special Forces guy ever gave Squeaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Haight-Ashbury, 95%) a "magic hat?"

Is this really the image the Democrats want to project? When the going gets tough, the Democrats have another panic attack. How many more of these spasmodic breakdowns will we have to suffer through before the 2008 elections?

They have become the George Constanza party:

  • They lurch from one crisis to the next;
  • They're crude;
  • They're cowardly;
  • Their normal emotinal state is hysterical overreaction;
  • And they're "unusually good liars."

I grow weary of pointing out every time Reid or Pelosi or some other dysfunctional Defeatocrat (not to mention any names, such as John Murtha, D-PA, 65%) informs us that we've lost, there's no point in continuing, we've learned a difficult lesson, and it's time to crawl away, lick our wounds, and negotiate surrender with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Syrian President Bashar Assad, Grand Kleagle of al-Qaeda in Iraq Ayyub al-Masri, and Iranian Puppet Muqtada Sadr.

You know who "Pinky" Reid has always reminded me of? In Aliens (a.k.a., Alien II) -- anybody remember that great movie? -- one of the Colonial Marines, Hudson, spends the entire movie whining, "That's it man, game over man, game over! What the [expletive deleted] are we gonna do now? What are we gonna do? We're toast, man, we're history!"

But that's really unfair, and I'm sorry I made the comparison. After all, in the end, Hudson actually did his duty and mowed down a bunch of alien monsters.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 13, 2007, at the time of 11:01 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBack

June 12, 2007

Palestinian Civil War in Gaza; UN Declares It's Bush's Fault

Dhimmi of the Month , Palestinian Perils and Pratfalls , Untied Nations , Unuseful Idiots
Hatched by Dafydd

I never was able to get the software working to allow readers to vote on Dhimmi of the Month, but I thought this might be a propitious time to dust off the concept (if not execution) for this incredible story.

Here is the sequence of steps:

  1. Israel decides to evacuate from Gaza.
  2. Israel sends troops into Gaza, not to attack Palestinians, but to herd several thousand Jewish settlers into buses and trucks and ship them back into Israel. No Jews left in Gaza (no live ones, anyway).
  3. Palestinian voters decide to thank Israel by electing Hamas.
  4. The European Union, the United States, and many other countries decide to boycott the Palestinian Authority, now officially run by a mob of thugs on everybody's list of terrorist groups.
  5. Fatah gets angry at losing power.
  6. Hamas and Fatah begin to fight.
  7. Fighting escalates.
  8. Fighting escalates.
  9. Fighting escalates; recall this war is between rival Palestinian terrorist groups fighting each other over the "spoils" of the Gaza Strip (which seems to me like fighting a duel over a hooker, but you know).
  10. Fighting escalates.
  11. United Nations Middle East Envoy Alvaro de Soto writes a secret report to U.N. Secretary General Nanki-Poo; declares that George W. Bush is to blame!

I rib you not; here is the Guardian story.

You just can't make this stuff up. Evidently, it's America's fault for urging civilized nations to boycott Hamas, which every national and international body agrees is a gang of terrorists. If only we had embraced Hamas, worked with them to exterminate the Jews, and not riled them up, then surely all this wouldn't be happening now. Oh, a few Juden might be killed here and there, Israel might be obliterated... but we wouldn't have the dreadful spectacle of Arabs killing Arabs.

So... it's Bush's fault. Remember that for next time.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, June 12, 2007, at the time of 11:40 PM | Comments (10) | TrackBack

March 12, 2006

Dhimmi of the Month Poll: Advanced Poll 2.04, Anyone?

Administrative Annunciamentos , Dhimmi of the Month
Hatched by Dafydd

We're trying to figure out how to use the PHP software Advanced Poll 2.04 to create the polls for the Dhimmi of the Month feature... but we're having a hard time figuring out how to work it (actually, I am the one who is completely befuddled; Sachi the Engineer refuses to get involved in techie stuff!)

Do any of you readers have experience with this application? I think it's the same one Patrick Ruffini uses for his 1,001 weekly straw polls, but I don't want to start bugging him for help until I've exhausted every other avenue.

Any aid you can supply would be greatly appreciated!


the Mgt.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, March 12, 2006, at the time of 6:35 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

February 13, 2006

Rantin' Al: First Dhimmi of the Month Nominee!

Dhimmi of the Month
Hatched by Dafydd

I'm sure you all guessed who the first nominee would be, and by gum, you're right: it's former Vice President Albert Arnold Gore, jr.

Yesterday, Al Gore spoke at the Jiddah Economic Forum in (oddly enough) Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. There, he said the following:

Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

Rantin' Al Gore

Would you buy a used chador from this man?

I hope this first nominee will make clear the high standards to which candidates must aspire: the award is for Western politicians (and perhaps celebrities, if it's a slow month) savagely and bitterly attacking the West in general, preferably America or Israel in particular -- and especially preferably while on the soil of our enemies (or at least a country whose people overwhelmingly support our enemies).

The Four Feathers award highlights those so assiduous in kowtowing to, rolling over for, and appeasing militant Islamism (or radical jihadism), that they strain their backs bending over to agree with them that the West is wicked, evil, and irredeemably corrupt.

George Galloway, Cindy Sheehan, Ramsey Clark, and Noam Chomsky are automatically disqualified every month by virtue of having already achieved Hall of Fame status. Besides, I'm tired of them.

By the way, at least some people at the conference were challenging the Saudis to some form of Western-inspired change. From the same article:

Cherie Blair, wife of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, made a plea at the forum for women's rights, telling Saudi leaders that the dearth of women in the work force was "undermining economic potential" of the kingdom.

Irish President Mary McAleese urged Saudi Arabia to learn from Ireland's economic transformation, which hinged on opening the country to the outside world and ushering women into the workplace.

When the British PM's wife, the aptly named Cherie Blair, is more forceful in defending liberal Western democracy than the former Democratic presidential nominee, you know something is rotten in the state of Dhimmistan!

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2006, at the time of 6:31 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

New Feature at Big Lizards!

Administrative Annunciamentos , Dhimmi of the Month
Hatched by Dafydd

I have decided to inaugurate a new feature at Big Lizards: the Dhimmi of the Month award.

Each month, starting this one (even though it's half over), I'll be nominating some well-known blabbermouths as Dhimmi of the Month. Then, at the beginning of the next month -- assuming I can figure out how to do this -- I'll do a "poll" post, where you all can vote on which nominee wins the coveted "Four Feathers" trophy and plaque. (The plaque will remain metaphorical until I can find some really cheap plaque-making place to produce one.)

The plaque -- real or imaginery -- will remain at Big Lizards central; but if I ever get around actually to having one made, I'll take a picture and post it here, so you can see what it looks like. Each month, the winner's name will be "etched" onto the plaque below the other winners (by "etched," I of course mean "hand-scribbled with a paint pen").

Readers are invited to suggest nominees; you must include a link to a respected Antique Media article (not just somebody's unsourced blogpost) describing the incident for which you believe he or she deserves being immortalized. If I accept your nomination (totally up to me), I will of course hat tip all those who suggested that person.

This could be fun... I've never tried to make a poll post before! But it's just XHTML -- how hard could it be? (Uh oh, my hubris may have just angered Blogetheus, the Titan of the blogosphere!)

The next post will have our first Dhimmi of the Month nominee, the man who in fact inspired me to this reckless promise....

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, February 13, 2006, at the time of 6:00 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

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