Friday, February 08, 2008

Talking past each other

The Archbishop of Canterbury has generated a firestorm with his suggestion that a place must be found for Sharia law in modern Britain.

Despite this, it's important to note that his comments on the application of Sharia law in a multicultural society seem reasonable from one perspective, namely a political perspective. In politics, an acceptable compromise is typically the order of the day, and some kind of compromise between Western and Sharia law is a political solution.

But this raises the question: are the divided loyalties of those who owe their allegiance to other forms of law really a political problem? Or is the problem better thought of as a theological one? If so, Rowan is wrong to seek compromise, and truth is the appropriate test to apply. Truth is a pre-political principle, not a political one.

But I wonder if we have the stomach for a genuinely theological discussion on the basis of our legal commitments? Or will the jealous demands of the hidden metaphysics of modernism, which brook no rival, prevent us once again from a reasoned defence of Western law?

Personally, I think they will. And the West and Islam will continue to speak from their own incommensurate assumptions, incomprehensible to one another. There will be neither compromise nor conversion. Which is why the Archbishop is, unfortunately, wrong.

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