Pragna Patel from Southall Black Sisters has an eloquent article on CiF today about the Archbishop debate, saying that religious law has consistently failed women.
“Such accommodation [of religious law] is problematic because in many instances it would necessarily involve shoring up patriarchal and caste power, resulting in the violation of fundamental human rights, especially the right of choice and autonomy for women and girls in particular,” she says. I agree with that. She adds: “Our experience shows that what many eventually want the most, is the right to opt out of those aspects of their religion and culture that they consider oppressive, without fear of repercussions.”
I agree with this too. As I said earlier, I don’t necessarily agree with the Archbishop because he also assumes the conflict between bias against women inherent in current interpretations of sharia civil law and this country’s equality laws will be easily resolved. It probably won’t, especially if the government consults on people like Sheikh al-Qaradawi. That said, there have been similar cases involving the Jewish Orthodox Beth Din too, so it is very likely that extending the jurisdiction of religious courts will disadvantage women.
So rather than the stupid uproar asking for ABC’s head, questions arise:
1) Should we abolish religious arbitration in civil cases entirely, as Canada did?
2) Should the govt interfere to ensure religious courts don’t conflict with laws?
3) Should there be independent bodies monitor prejudice against women?
Or what? And can we not have the usual hysteria in the discussion please about hand-chopping and stoning and whether any progressive are crying out for it.
Update: Ooops, turns out Muslims and Jews have been working together in this area. Cue horror!
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