So What If It’s Sharia Law?

This image has nothing to do with the article, I just like it.
(Image by Glyn Lowe Photoworks via Flickr)

It didn’t take them long to find a hater, did it?

A Muslim – an Irish man, not a furriner – was talking on the radio about a hold-up with the new Muslim graveyard in Dundalk. They’ve been campaigning for this for six years, and thought they had secured it – only to be told by the local authority that, according to a law of 1888, all burials are supposed to be in a coffin. Islamic practice is to bury a person directly in the ground.

It should be a human interest story about a community unable to bury their own family members in the town where they live. But, someone has to phone in to complain that Muslims “Always want things their way”. Ireland’s Mr. Creeping Sharia.

Now don’t get me wrong, I revile Islam. The religion is anathema to me because… Well, because it’s a religion. I pretty much despise them all. Religions are dangerous confusions of morality and mythology, systems of absolute authority founded on fear of the different and the unknown.

Which you have every right to believe in. A right, what’s more, that I will defend to the death. This is what religious activists pretend not to understand about secularism. We don’t want to stop you doing your religion. We want to stop you stopping other people doing their religion. The law should not impose one person’s faith on another. Freedom of conscience is sacrosanct. I might think that what you believe causes a great deal of harm to you, but as long as it doesn’t cause you to harm others I have to respect your right to believe it.

Of course there will be times when beliefs and the law conflict, and it goes without saying that the law of the land has primacy – whatever the Catholic Church chooses to believe. But the entire point of democracy is that law can be changed. It is not holy writ, it is decided by people to suit their will and their changing needs. So we can accommodate other people’s traditions – if we want it to.

It would be different if the tradition could harm others, if say there was a danger of disease associated with coffinless burial, but I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that. The law of 1888 serves no function now except to make life that much harder for a small minority. And it seems only to be supported by the sort of bigoted zero-sum shithead who phones into radio programmes to advocate making life harder for minorities.

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