Sunday, February 24, 2008

Religion and the Law

In every democratic and more-or-less secular country, similar questions arise about the precise extent to which religious sub-cultures should be allowed to live by their own rules and “laws”. One set of questions emerges when believers demand, and often get, an opt-out from the law of the land. Sikhs in British Columbia can ride motorcycles without helmets; some are campaigning for the right not to wear hard hats on building sites. Muslims and Jews slaughter animals in ways that others might consider cruel; Catholic doctors and nurses refuse to have anything to do with abortion or euthanasia.

Faith, law and democracy | Defining the limits of exceptionalism |

Should the legal system give room to different religions or sects to have their own laws? Kuwait’s courts work by this principle when it comes to personal affairs laws. Issues such as marriage and custody of children are subject to which religion or sect you belong to. This seems to be a fair arrangement as long as it is not abused or offensive to society.

However, lately there has been much controversy when Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury in the UK, suggested that British laws should accommodate for Muslims. Apparently there is nothing wrong with the principle, but perhaps great apprehension about Islam and Muslims who are now associated with terrorism.  

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