Monday, February 11, 2008

Link to the Archbishop's talk added!

It certainly makes a change from the usual focus! Memo to NY Times: there are lay women in the General Synod! As Aunty Beeb notes, there are 482 members divided into three houses: bishops, clergy, laity. Lay members are the largest element and are elected by dioceses.

Here's a take from Andrew Brown at the Guardian who appears to have been at the Synod along with the rest of the press. Picture courtesy of Father Rose.

Now to substance: Abdul Hakim Murad posted a reasoned assessment on yesterday's Thought for the Day, arguing:

It is now clear to most that Dr Williams, far from recommending some kind of parallel law for Muslims, was pointing out that informal religious tribunals which already adjudicate on a limited number of civil - never criminal - matters, in a way which is entirely legal under arbitration laws, should be more systematically brought under the regulation of the legal system. He was not commending greater separateness, or an expansion of Muslim courts - quite the opposite.

Although his prose is sometimes dense, I know he thinks this because a few weeks ago I was with him in Singapore, where we were shown how many of the city's religious minorities, including the Muslims, have their own courts to deal with civil matters such as marriage and divorce. He is interested in the challenge that religious diversity poses to a secular legal system. But he is sure that social cohesion is best served when there is a mechanism by which arbitration conducted within communities can be formally related to national law.

And yet the issue seems a bit more complicated. Shari'a law is revealed truth to which individuals in a religious community (representing a religious minority in the wider society) agree to submit themselves. However, the ABC proposes "transformative jurisdiction in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters." But can the legal system of the land, for example, allow particular religious courts to take away rights that individuals enjoy in their larger context as citizens of the society in which they live? So far, I have more questions than answers.

Here's a link to a video of the speech.

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