How do you solve a problem like sharia?

Rowan Williams has shown us one thing: why multiculturalism must be abandoned

Linked with Johann Hari – England;

Published on JohannHari.com, by Johann Hari, Febr. 9, 2008.

3 excerpts: … bashing the bishop has become a national sport. But this row shouldn’t be just about the pitiful contortions of the head of a dying Church. Rowan Williams has shown us why the doctrine of multiculturalism needs to abandoned.

If you really believe that Britain is comprised of a smorgasbord of “cultures” that need to be preserved, promoted and respected as an end in itself, then this proposal is perfectly logical. Different cultures should have different courts, and rules, and schools.

We don’t need to speculate about what these British sharia courts would look like. They already exist in some mosques across Britain, as voluntary enterprises …

… The argument that women will only have to enter these courts if they freely choose to shows a near-total disconnection from the reality of Muslim women’s lives. Most of the women who will be drawn into “consenting” are, like Nasirin, recent immigrants with little idea of their legal options. Then there are the threats of excommunication – or violence – from some families. As the Muslim feminist Irshad Manji puts it: “When it comes to contemporary sharia, choice is theory; intimidation is the reality.”


These courts highlight in their purest form the problem with multiculturalism. It has become a feel-good doctrine mindlessly celebrating “difference”, without looking at what that difference actually means.

Yet many people feel instinctively uncomfortable when we talk about ditching multiculturalism – for a good reason. The only alternative they are aware of is the old whiter-than-white monoculturalism …

… There is a better way for the state to understand and regulate human differences, beyond the old oppositions of Tebbittry and multiculturalism. It is called liberalism. A liberal society allows an individual to do whatever he or she wants, provided it doesn’t harm other people. You can choose to wear PVC hotpants or a veil. You can choose to spend all day praying, or all day mocking people who pray.

Where a multiculturalist prizes the rights of religious groups, a liberal favours the rights of the individual. So if you want to preach that the Archangel Gabriel revealed the word of God to an illiterate nomad two millennia ago, you can do it as much as you like. You can write books and hold rallies and make your case. What you cannot do is argue that since this angel supposedly said women are worth half of a man when it comes to inheritance, and that gay people should be killed, you can ditch the rules of liberalism and act on it.

The job of a liberal state is not to stamp The True National Essence on its citizens, nor to promote “difference” for its own sake. It is to uphold the equal rights of every individual – whether they are white men or Muslim women. It has one liberal culture, with freedoms used differently by different people.

So as well as scorning the Archbishop, we should thank him. He has helped to deliver the funeral rites for multiculturalism. With his matted beard and tortured hand-wringing to a desert-God, the Archbishop has unwittingly pointed us towards a vision of a better Britain – one that chooses proudly to be liberal. (full text).

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