Atheists can break out the champagne: there really are some wacky religious people out there. One of them seems to be Rowan Williams, the archbishop of Canterbury,. In a recent speech, Williams ruffled a lot of feathers--it is not Anglican custom to ruffle a lot of feathers--when he said it "seems unavoidable" that Muslim holy law or sharia is coming to Britain. Not only that, but our bearded, bespectacled cleric even thought that this would be a good thing because it would foster social cohesion.
While conceding that "nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country" some of the "extreme punishments" and "attitudes toward women" that prevail in certain Muslim countries, Williams called for a "constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law." So: no chopping off limbs and no honor killings. That’s a relief.
Williams argued, however, that other issues such as marital disputes and financial matters could be handled not by the British legal system but by Muslim sharia courts. Presumably Muslims would voluntarily opt out of the normal court system and invest the religious court with the authority to adjudicate their disputes on these matters. All of this would have the beneficial result, in Williams' view, of meeting the distinctive needs of Muslims. Williams argued that Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty."
Now if this sounds absurd to you, and a little dangerous to boot, ask yourself: where have I heard this before? What we are getting from Williams is not religious craziness but liberal craziness, not theological error but multicultural reductio ad absurdum. The multicultural premise is that classical liberal rules that apply equally to everyone nevertheless discriminate against racial and cultural minorities that don't want to play by those rules. Consequently equality of rights for individuals must give way to equality of consideration for groups. Otherwise minorities will feel disenfranchised even in a society where there is equal treatment for individuals under the law.