The Archbishop of Canterbury’s remarks on the inclusion of Sharia law into British secular law was unnecessary and untimely. Perhaps the Archbishop should read the Quran and assess for himself the extent of the problems and restrictions that Sharia law Arriving at the correct interpretations of the Quran has been a matter of great debate.
With no provisions for dealing with problems that women face, in particular domestic violence, the Islamic organisations in Britain are impotent when dealing effectively and in the interest of women. The Archbishop’s archaic views can only reinforce multicultural attitudes of ‘let them sort it out in their own communities’ approach. His remarks also throws light on the escalation of funding cuts in the voluntary sector by local authorities throughout Britain which has meant that women’s organisations such as Southall Black Sisters are facing an uncertain future. Southall Black Sisters has been at the forefront of rights for minority women but are now facing a core funding cut by Ealing Council depriving Britain of an organisation that is ‘iconic, vital and essential (Keith Vaz). Both the Governments and local authorities mantra these days is that ‘we are not living in Alabama are we?’ meaning there is no need for special provisions for minority groups anymore. According to them, the war on racism and inequality for women has been won.
The erosion of provisions in law and civil life for minority women of all religions has ensured an increase in violence, destitution and abandonment. In many cases there are high risks to their lives where women are killed (Banaz, Surjit Atwal) or commit suicide (Navjeet Sidhu). The Archbishop’s careless remarks can prove to be very costly indeed.
Which religious interpretation does the Archbishop suggest we follow? Saudi Arabia, Iran, India? Religious laws have no place in democracy as in essence, it operates outside of these realms. It is not just the matter of divorce in Sharia law. There are other implications for women too, for example the rule for husbands on ‘wife beating’.
According to six eminent scholars, this is their reading on the law governing wife beating:
Men are superior to women on account of the qualities with which God has gifted the one above the other, and on account of the outlay they make from their substance for them. Virtuous women are obedient, careful, during the husband’s absence, because God has of them been careful. But chide those for whose refractoriness you have cause to fear; remove them into beds apart, and scourge them: but if they are obedient to you, then seek not occasion against them: verily, God is High, Great! Rodwell
Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and send them to beds apart and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme. Dawood
Men are in charge of women, because Allah has made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret that which Allah has guarded. As for those from whom you fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great. Pickthall
Men are the managers of the affairs of women for that God has preferred in bounty one of them over another, and for that they have expended of their property. Righteous women are therefore obedient, guarding the secret for God’s guarding. And those you fear may be rebellious admonish; banish them to their couches, and beat them. If they then obey you, look not for any way against them; God is All high, All great. Arberry
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in their sleeping places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great. Shakir
Men are the protectors and maintainers of women, because Allah has given the one more (strength) than the other, and because they support them from their means. Therefore the righteous women are devoutly obedient, and guard in (the husband’s) absence what Allah would have them guard. As to those women on whom part you fear disloyalty and ill conduct, admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly); but if they return to obedience, seek not against them means (of annoyance) for Allah is Most High, Great (above you all). Ali