I've spent the better part of the afternoon hours, or at least the spare moments thereof, vainly endeavouring to come up with something semi-profound to say about the news that Rowan Williams has called for the implementation of sharia law in Britain.
Alas, all eloquence and percipience have departed me.
It is not that I am astonished. To the contrary, where the Archbishop of Canterbury is concerned, nothing really occasions surprise; the man is a living reproof to the facile belief that wisdom correlates with an individual's native intellectual endowment. In fact, a coworker printed out a copy of the article and presented it to me this morning, adding that it would cause my head to explode. This sort of thing occasionally astonishes him - in fact, he still finds unfathomable the fact that Sayyid Qtub was profoundly scandalized by - wait for it - square dancing. Likewise, an archbishop advocating the implementation of sharia law elicits expressions of stupefaction. Perhaps, then, it is a testament to my cynicism that I received the news with equanimity. "What took him so long?", I wondered silently.
Several things are noteworthy, though none of them is really new. First, those enamored of the liberal settlement, the notion that each is entitled to fashion for himself an identity from whatever fragments fall to hand, and that no inherited tradition should interpose itself between an individual and his self-posited ends, really do, in the final analysis, reject the inheritance of Western civilization. They may not do so explicitly; in fact, most do not - but all this means is that the liberal order is parasitic upon the carcass of Christendom, presupposing its benefits while devouring the substance that would enable its reproduction. In other words, liberal individualism and all of its derivatives, including the ethos of toleration and inclusiveness, presuppose the Christian conception of the person, yet isolate, abstract, and elevate it as a metaphysical absolute. Liberalism ideologizes a dissociated fragment of Christianity, and thus sweeps clean the house of Christian remnants, disdaining these as relics of intolerance and exclusion.
Second, the liberal order is subject to an irresistible compulsion to 'include' even the most intolerable and retrograde, provided they are not identifiably Western; in a black parody of kenosis, the liberal West lays down its identity, not to await some sort of resurrection or vindication, but simply to abolish itself. Humility does not lead to exaltation, but to abasement - this, because it is not truly humility with which we are confronted, but the mask of humility, which conceals pride: pride that we have attained to the wisdom our predecessors lacked, that we have transcended their bigotry and intolerance, for which we must nonetheless suffer. The liberal West hates that it is, that it is what it is, and indeed, that it is not The Other, and unknowingly ordains its own punishment.
Finally, the addled Archbishop likens his prospective parallel sharia courts to the Orthodox Jewish divorce courts, not recognizing that a) Judaism, through Christianity, is part of the Western heritage, which Islam is not, and b) that according to sharia law itself, such legal recognition could only be a stepping stone, a rival sovereignty that, by the fact of its existence, not only undoes the Western achievement in law, but establishes the preconditions of further encroachments. Muslims in Britain will not content themselves with a ghetto within the liberal city; once grant them this legitimacy, and they will next assert that their 'enlightened' system is not for them only, but for all mankind.
We can forecast what the Archbishop will say about that, can we not?