Sunday, February 10, 2008

Recalling 1829

In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in the United Kingdom. In the minds of many at the time it was unconstitutional insofar as the sovereign was both the spiritual and political head of the people and as such there was no way in which Catholic's could submit fully to the crown. On the other hand, it seems more appropriate to see it as a broadening of the crown's power and a liberalization of the understanding of it's role. No longer would it be the case that English civil religion would be equated with one particular cultic form but instead the way was opened to embrace ever wider forms of cultic practice under the spiritual direction of the crown and thereby sublimate them to Englishness. In this way the law and rule of England came to be more uniformly and systematically applied to its citizens, eliminating a situation in which Catholic's existed at a lower or marginal level within the English state.

The existence of parallel courts of law at the peripheries of the English legal system is a return to the days prior to 1829 when it was recognized that there were those citizens and permanent residents of the nation who could never really be English and who did not reside within the fullness of English law. Rowan Williams, who currently has his plate full presiding over the dissolution of the Church of England, may well be presiding over the dissolution of 1829 and the liberal English state as well.



thabet said...

Williams did not argue for parallel courts of law. He explicitly rejected that in his speech to the General Synod yesterday.

He was thinking along the lines of the Jewish rabbinical courts which involve themselves in the personal affairs of observant Jews (e.g. London Beth Din).

In fact, (unregulated and unrecognised) sharia courts are already in operation granting religious marriages, divorces and settling financial disputes between Muslims. Plus, he has noted that sharia-compliant finance is already in operation (no doubt to attract Gulf oil money). Further, third-party arbitration is part of English law.

I think this is part of Williams bid to stave off the eventual disestablishment of the CofE, by co-opting other religious groups.

I do, however, have my concerns over such Muslim law "courts".

thabet said...

Oops. I left the same comment on two different posts. Sorry.

Lawrence of Arabia said...

they were slightly different comments. :)

i admit to writing all three of these posts in some haste and without a lot of research, though my basic concerns stand. muslim shariah courts are better off avoiding being coopted by the state and will inevitably be placed within some sort of hierarchy within the english legal system.

as for your comment on the previous post about the 'good life', i suppose that it is here that my opposition to liberalism is most clear. it is not simply that i think the state ought to be involved in questions of the good life, i think it is inevitable. it is and cannot help but be involved in questions of the good. liberalism is also actively involved in shaping the attitudes of persons regarding the good life. that it tries to deny this does not change it.


Lawrence of Arabia said...

i also think it is a mistake to see Williams as simply speaking on behalf of the Church of England. He is a prominent representative of the British state. This is not a plan to keep the CoE in business, this is a trial balloon by the government on how to handle "the Muslim Problem".

And the various ways in which liberal states continue to say, directly or indirectly, that they have a "Muslim Problem" frightens me.

To call Arbp Williams statements unhelpful is understatement. To me it is just another dark cloud on the horizon for Muslims, and thus for us all.