Balneus

Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Rowan Williams has a point

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-02-11


Archbishop Rowan Williams’ speech indicating that some elements of Sharia will inevitably be incorporated into legal systems of Western countries is absolutely correct.  Indeed, this would be to our advantage.

The first "cab off the rank", in my view, should be commercial law.

The speech, insofar as the language was penetrable, was nuanced, and certainly did not advocate the introduction of beheadings and stonings, nor did it accept the complete corpus of Sharia, which, to my mind, was corrupted since the time of Mohammed by biased judgements, notably during the Caliphates when powerful political masters were pandered to.

I’m pretty sure he was talking about something like the theory involved in the dualist system required to accomodate elements and methods of tribal law in Australia.

Now for the bit of sharia that would be useful in our society:

Consider commercial law: Usury is prohibited in Abrahamic tradition, yet only the Islamic branch of it maintains the prohibition.  There is a way around this that allows people to get capital: the creation of entities with joint equity, initiatially wholly owned by the bank, but gradually purchased by the "borrower".

Bringing this as an option to normal Western business practice not only allows strict Moslems to use the mainstream banking system rather than force them to use banks that might have connections to fundamentalist islamists, and thus possibly decrease the risk or terrorists getting finance, but could also be used by non-Moslems, to the advantage of "borrowers" and the economy.

Under mainstream contracts, the key thing is the capital, rather than the success of the capital investment.  By creating a partnership between bank and "borrower", the Islamic tradition may tend towards more responsible "loans".

In some ways, it reflects the pure capitalist model.  If banks took equity in a business in return for capital rather than merely loan money at interest, they would be more likely to give wise advice to the "borrower" and help them succeed – as the equity might increase in value beyond the nominal interest rate.  This would be particularly useful for startups with innovative products.

Kentucky Fried Chicken have a range of Moslem-friendly offerings, although this is not advertized in the wider community, and KFC have got a nice little earner happening because of this inclusiveness.  The first mainstream bank in Oz to offer Moslem-friendly "loans" as an alternative to usury will certainly gain competitive advantage – although our regulations regarding banking might need some modification.


Extracts from the speech (my emphases):

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
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7 Responses to “Rowan Williams has a point”

  1. Dave Bath said

    It’s worth reading LanguageLogs analysis of the speech and the reaction to it. Williams is criticized for some complex syntax, but the tabloids (and public) cop it for their inability or lack of effort to parse complex syntax correctly. LL ends up with this wonderful comment.

    Dr Williams is a gentle, learned, brilliant, scholarly man, and a bit of a public relations doofus. The calls for his resignation are not unjustified. He should be the holder of an endowed professorship in some suitable subject at some research-led university. He should not be a prominent church administrator, and certainly not the Archbishop of Canterbury. Someone duller, less original, less intelligent, and more political should be found for that job.

  2. USpace said

    IMHO Dr. Williams is insane and/or evil. He should be put out to pasture ASAP. He is a traitor to England and to all Christians and freedom-loving people everywhere; and he deserves to be vilified for the rest of his life and beyond.
    .
    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    the Archbishop is correct

    little by little allow
    mad mullahs to call the shots

    .
    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    freedom is bollocks

    dismantle your human rights
    earned over centuries

    .
    absurd thought –
    God of the Universe says
    never dethrone leaders

    religious ones are special
    give them lifetime positions
    .

    absurdthoughtsaboutgod.blogspot.com
    .

  3. Raf said

    He has an amazing capacity to stir people up. No wonder the mainstream muslim groups immediately tried to separate themselves from his comments.

    It seems to me he is trying to separate out religion from culture. That’s a pretty big call especially when looking at Islam and Judaism. Perhaps Christianity has achieved this, allowing people to evolve from the clutches of fear to a more enlightened position?

    Nevertheless I have to agree his mode of reasoning is not suited to his current position and he would be better off in a think tank or back within the peaceful walls of academia.

  4. saint said

    Yes his view of Islam is naive and too much informed by lefty liberal academics instead of reality on the ground. And while he made passing reference to one or two elephants in the room (like apostasy) he failed to note others. Like which sharia? There are many schools of Islamic jurisprudence and his idea of itjihad is a minority of a minority view. And who? Sharia rulings must be made by Islamic jurists (who technically can only be trained in Saudi Arabia or Egypt…even though every second male Muslim self appoints themselves on the informal sharia councils that operate now) etc etc.

    All nice speculative theory, but better to deal with the world as it is then the world posited by academia.

    And while I read the speech and lots of commentary on it, I think this time the British public (including British Muslim women) said it loud and clear: right problem, wrong solution. They don’t want pluralistic jurisidictions yada yada. They want Napier.

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  6. […] drawing conflicting interpretations in this hemisphere: David Bath sees it as a harmless call for more creative solutions like Islamic banking; Kim seems to think the Archbishop wants to license stoning for adulterers. […]

  7. […] values” or to borrow from Obama, universal terms. For an example, last year Dave Bath wrote a piece covering Sharia law and commerce wherein there is a sensibility that the big Wall Street financiers would have been wise to […]

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