Tuesday, November 30, 2004
And this is how it starts....
A special Guardian/ICM poll based on a survey of 500 British Muslims found that a clear majority want Islamic law introduced into this country in civil cases relating to their own community. Some 61% wanted Islamic courts — operating on sharia principles — "so long as the penalties did not contravene British law".<>They've been getting to do a little of it in Canada...
Many civil cases in this country deal with family disputes such as divorce, custody and inheritance.
The poll also found a high level of religious observance with just over half saying they pray five times a day, every day — although women are shown to be more devout than men. The poll reveals that 88% want to see schools and workplaces in Britain accommodating Muslim prayer times as part of their normal working day.
And the main issue here wasn't prayer, it was allowing Muslim religious courts to take over civil law between two Muslims, such as divorce settlements, and so forth.
Like you, I am very suspicious of doing this, because it undermines the neutrality of civil law, and in a multicultural state you have to have areas that are open to all, or you lose areas where you need civility. In the US tradition Civil and Criminal law are not colored by religion, but by justice.
Our constitution doesn't guarantee freedom for only secularism, but also for the free practice of all religions. Right now, there is a lot of tolerence in some circles for Wicca, Buddhism, and to some degree Islam, but much less for Christianity and Judaism. But, I suspect, this too shall pass as we find a proper balance point, in part because our consitution does does guarantee equal access under the law, no matter what your faith walk or lack of it. I doubt if we get to the point where we don't dare wear scarves or religious emblems to government offices or schools because it means we aren't secular enough. If it gets to that point, then the Atheistic viewpoint will have become the state relgion, and that's not constitutional, either. But seeing Sharia courts ruling on anything more than just religious regulations won't be acceptable here, any more than Catholic churches rules on anulment of marriage has nothing to do with the legal status of a marriage, but only its religious status. Some things the government keeps for itself.
And that makes us a stronger, safer place to be.
As for atheism being the national religion, I don't like the prospects of that either. The school boards and principals who have banned even the mentioning of god in the classroom have gone to a level of revisionism that is a stones throw away from totalitarianism. God has been a big party of out history as a nation and as human beings. Trying to remove him is like trying to rewrite history. But, I do believe organized prayer should also not be in the schools. Religion is a personal matter that should be practiced at home and at church. There is plenty of time for prayer during the day other than at school.
My fear is that religion is becoming the next big divider of our nation. First is was race, then it was gender. The founding fathers, while messing up on the first two, tried to nip the religion thing in the bud. They were smart enough to know that religion and government is a very dangerous thing when mixed. I don't want their foresight to go to waste. As for Christians being under attack, I generally agree with this. But at the same time, I am a Christian, and I feel under attack from fellow Christians more than anything else. I am Catholic which accepts evolution as a probability more than just a hypothesis (even though the church will still not endorse it fully). The Catholic Church is a huge supporter of physicists studying the Big Bang theory. My parish also teaches more tolerance regarding homosexuals. So, according to a lot of vocal fundamentalists Christians out there and am labeled "un-Christian" even though my core values of charity and love are the same.
Anyway, once again, we probably agree on more than we disagree on.