Shari'a Law's need for supremacy
a comment on Archbishop Rowan Williams’ statement about Shari’a Law
by David Andrew
The Archbishop, we are told is bewildered by the barrage of criticism his statement has brought against him, not only from outside the church, but from within. I believe the greatest danger to Christians right now is not from Rowan Williams’ statement, but from our possible failure to understand the nature of our times and a consequent failure to swim against the current of our day.
I was as incredulous as anyone when I first heard his statement – and just as quick to criticise. But this was the wrong response. Of course I disagree with the Archbishop, but I’m less concerned with his views than with our tendency to let the media determine our response. Before offering any comment on Dr. Williams’ expressed view, I believe it is crucial that we set his apparent faux pas in its current spiritual context.
The distance of a nation from God determines its proximity to the Accuser. (I realise it is no longer fashionable to believe in the devil – not least amongst professional clergy and theologians – but I work on the assumption that Our Lord Jesus’ intellect far exceeds the sum of ours, and since He believed in the devil, and even addressed him, that’s good enough for me.)
As a society, we have abandoned God and, by default, have made more room for the influence of the one the Bible calls the Accuser. His power is growing in our society, because we prefer our own way to God’s rule. This should give us more than pause for thought…
It’s a safe rule of thumb that band wagons are not the Christian’s transport of choice. How many of us who gasped at the Archbishop’s remarks converted our astonishment and our criticism into prayer for him – and for our national leaders? ‘I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men’ (1 Timothy 2:1-6)
At the beginning of his interview, the Archbishop made the point that the application of Shari’a is already one of the ‘facts on the ground’, as indeed both Christian and Jewish societies have long had their own de facto courts for dealing with internal matters of discipline or guidance which fall outside the remit of criminal or civil law but which affect their polity and the lives of their adherents.
It seems to me that Dr Williams is mistaken in equating Shari’a with these other religious juridical systems in one important respect: Shari’a is never comfortable as a parallel system. It is underpinned by a theology which gives it supreme status. It is not intended as the partner to any other legal system, but its total replacement. Christian and Jewish courts – and even military courts martial – run within, parallel to and subject to the laws of Britain. Ultimately, this would demean the status of Shari’a in Islamic theology.
There is a gradualist strategy within radical Islam to which the liberal establishment of Britain is either unwittingly or selectively blind. Arabic-speaking, formerly Muslim, Christian scholars have well documented the stages by which Islamisation is progressed in a host society. Radical Islam will no more tolerate ‘a little bit of Shari’a’ than a Christian’s eternal hope could tolerate a ‘little bit of hell’. Sooner or later, it will have something to say about how you name your teddy bear!
As to the question of Muslims being ‘unable to relate’ to British law, it’s not easy to imagine a situation where a Muslim scholar in say, Saudi Arabia or Sudan would speak of the inevitability of British Law taking parallel status to Shari’a because the British ex-pat communities are uncomfortable with Islamic values! No doubt Britain’s domestic criminal community is watching this closely – imagining the possibilities of a legislative laissez-faire!
However, before we help society build the fire around Lambeth Palace, we would do well to remember that we are called by God to be a ‘house of prayer for all nations’. Besides, we owe ourselves a chunk of humble pie because the chaotic condition of Britain – church and state – is never going to be helped by doing the Accuser’s work for him, but through repentance and renewed consecration to the God who put the ‘Great’ in Great Britain.
Sword Magazine is a successor publication to the magazine Prophecy Today International. Whereas the thrust of Prophecy Today was to declare God's word and warnings to the nation(s), Sword's emphasis, now that God's judgement is upon us, is to speak into the church.
David Andrew, 09/02/2008