Wednesday, February 11, 2009

England's Slide

It's been about a year since Rowan Williams, the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury caused a row by remarking that the imposition of sharia law in England was inevitable. Many people took his remarks to be an endorsement of Islamic law. I think that he was merely looking at the direction the tide was flowing and making a prediction about the future, unless the tide is reversed. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown "quickly distanced himself from the Anglican primate, signalling that British law must be based on British values." Then, to the extent that the population of England has increasingly Moslem values, the British law will reflect that, right minister? Isn't that pretty much what the Archbishop said?

Two items from this week document this slide in British law and policy.

The first is news that Geert Wilders, the Dutch politician who produced a film critical of Islam, has been banned from entering England. Note that Mr. Wilders is a member of the Dutch parliament. The reason given for banning him is that he represents a "security risk." It seems that the British government is afraid that if Mr. Wilders enters the country, there could be riots by those who are defining the new British values. John Derbyshire over at The Corner notes that the chief spokesman for the Lebanese group Hizbollah was allowed to enter Britain last May. To the British government, a Dutch film-maker politician is a security risk while the front man for a terrorist orgnanization is not.

The second item concerns an English foster parent. It seems that a 16 year-old Moslem girl, after having been assaulted by a family member, was placed in foster care. While in foster care, she converted to Christianity and was baptized. This was done entirely on the girl's initiative.

'We had a multicultural household and I had no problems helping the young person maintain her faith of birth,’ she said. ‘I have always prided myself in being very professional in what I do. If something works for a young person, whether I agree with it or not, I am happy to support them in that.’

But the girl, whom the foster mother describes as caring and intelligent, defied expectations by choosing not to wear overtly Muslim clothes or to eat Halal food.The girl, whose interest in Christianity had begun at school some
time before her foster placement, also made it clear that she wanted to go to church.

The carer, an Anglican who attends a local evangelical church, aid: ‘I did initially try to discourage her.

‘I offered her alternatives. I offered to find places for her to practise her own religion. I offered to take her to friends or family. But she said to me from the word go, “I am interested and I want to come.” She sort of burst in.’

The British government, it seems, is being somewhat selective in which British values it is going to uphold.

You might be thinking at this point that this is all very interesting, but it's happening over on the other side of the Atlantic, half a world away. It's got nothing to do with us. To which I would suggest that, unless we are vigilant, what happens over there could be a portent of things to come here. Remember that British common law (at least as it used to be practiced) forms the legal foundation for much of the English-speaking world, including the United States. We like to think that the Judeo-Christian values of the majority of U.S. citizens will always protect the freedoms that we enjoy. However, a very vocal and active minority can wield considerable influence in just which (and whose) freedoms are given priority. One person's freedom of speech can be found to interfere with another's "freedom" not to be insulted. When we begin to lose sight of which freedoms are necessary to the funtioning of a free and democratic republic, then we'll begin to follow our dear friends on the other side of the Atlantic into the darkening night.

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