A reader/interlocutor has chided me for being too hasty in condemning Archbishop Rowan’s shariah remarks, noting that one, and only one, system of civil law gets you exactly what is happening in Colorado—an attempt to curtail the Catholic Church’s freedom to hire whom it will.

And our own Fr. Edward T. Oakes has sent along a link to a Tablet article, in which the Muslim muezzin’s call to prayer in Oxford is defended. (I believe you have to log in to retrieve the article.)

The point I made to my reader/interlocutor is that, while Archbishop Rowan probably does have to be read more closely, Shariah law is not comparable to religious laws among Orthodox Jews or among Catholics (think annulment vs. divorce and the status one confers that the other does not within the church). The proper analogy is between Shariah laws today and the blurred lines between church and state in the West in the sixteenth centur y.

Shariah laws TO THIS DAY often justify execution for what other religious communities in the West deem sins to be dealt with as a spiritual matter, even when said sin does impact one’s status within the religious community (or deter some people from getting remarried, say). This is very different from forcing Muslims to hire Presbyterians to work at day schools.

The ABC may be appalled at the notion of beheadings in stadiums under the Taliban or how rape victims are treated in Saudi Arabia, but it has taken centuries for Christians and Jews to work out their ecclesiastical bodies’ proper sphere of influence and authority in relation to the state. (Just think about blasphemy laws, which are still on the books in Britain, even if never enforced.) Can Islam claim the same hard work? And once Shariah is given its sphere of influence, can everyone be so sanguine about where that influence will end, when too many (yes, granted, not all ) of its adherents believe that violence is an appropriate response to non-Muslim interference in Muslim affairs?

That is why people are freaking out.