Bondage in the Name of Tolerance

Debra J. Saunders

2/12/2008 12:01:00 AM - Debra J. Saunders

Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury, endorsed adopting some aspects of Sharia law for Muslims, lest, he told the BBC, British Muslims be forced to choose between "the stark alternatives of culture loyalty and state loyalty."

Williams' remarks followed a report in the London Telegraph that the British government has made official the practice of paying welfare benefits for multiple wives in polygamous marriages.

The paper reports there are an estimated 1,000 polygamous marriages in the United Kingdom, although no one is sure how accurate that number is. Polygamy is illegal in the United Kingdom. Yet the British government rewards polygamous families who had married outside the United Kingdom -- not with deportation to countries that recognize polygamy, which would make sense -- but with extra welfare payments for extra wives.

Great Britain prides itself in its multiculturalism and inclusion. But when the British government subsidizes polygamy and the Anglican leader promotes Sharia, they risk conferring upon extremist Muslim men special status, while relegating Muslim women to second-class status.

Western democracies function because all citizens are deemed to be equal. Polygamy is inherently unequal for women. Period. Yet in the name of tolerance, in a bid to make sure they will not be seen as Islamophobic, they enable discrimination.

The timing of the archbishop's comments couldn't be worse. While Williams is enraptured with the rich theological disputes of Muslim scholars, he fails to note that British women are suffering as radical Islamists have been beating up on mainstream Islam.

A new report, "Crimes of the Community, Honor-Based Violence in the U.K." by the Centre for Social Cohesion, catalogs the horror of forced marriages -- often after unwitting girls are sent abroad for a "vacation" -- female genital mutilation, domestic abuse and an estimated 10 to 12 honor killings in the United Kingdom each year.

The archbishop tried to soften his position by explaining that he does not want to see "extreme" Sharia punishments (especially against women) endorsed by the British legal system. The Islamic Sharia Council already augments divorce settlements -- although the honor-violence report suggests that these panels often shortchange women and try to pressure them into returning to life-threatening marriages.

It's not only Our Betters in Europe who, in the name of political correctness, become apologists for polygamists. In 2005, then-Canada Prime Minister Paul Martin commissioned a $150,000 study to debunk the notion that same-sex marriages could lead to legalized polygamy -- only to watch the three law professors on the panel recommend that Canada repeal its anti-polygamy law. Because: "The parties most likely to suffer from this rule are the left-behind wives."

If secular Western nations had bedrock values, maybe there would be no need to worry about Values Creep. But when, as the honor-violence report noted, even womens activists defend female genital mutilation, its clear that the only absolute in liberal societies is doubt.

Up against fanatics with barbaric ideologies, we are outgunned. We don't even care if they want to hurt us.

"If you had a map of the U.K. showing the location of Islamist groups -- or terrorist cells -- and you had another map showing the incidence of honor-based violence and you overlaid them, you would find that they were a mirror," noted Nazir Afzal, the Crown prosecutor on honor-based violence.

It makes you wonder if Western nations have a death wish.