A senior establishment figure has once more raised the question of whether sharia law should be introduced as a parallel system of justice for British Muslims. Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, was following in the footsteps of the Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, who in February suggested that the institutionalisation of unspecified aspects of sharia law is ‘unavoidable'.

Rowan Williams gave the appearance of mere cluelessness; discussing sharia in a vague, multiculturalist manner apparently intended to project warm feelings toward British Muslims. But Lord Phillips, in attempting to move from nebulous clichés to specifics, has done far more damage than the Archbishop.

For non-Muslim authorities to propose the introduction of sharia as a legal standard for Muslims in any non-Muslim land is not only absurdly patronising and discriminatory, but also violates the canons of traditional sharia law. Sharia has always held that Muslims emigrating to non-Muslim lands are obliged to accept the laws and customs of their new homes, and must not attempt to change them in an Islamic direction. Precedent for this goes back to the counsel of the Prophet Mohammed himself, when his followers, persecuted in Mecca, sought a temporary refuge in the nearby Christian kingdom of Ethiopia.

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