A leading member of the Catholic Church in Scotland has predicted that elements of Islamic law will inevitably be incorporated into the British legal system over time.
However, Canon Gerard Tartaglia, priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Glasgow and lecturer in canon law at Scotus College, Bearsden, does not agree with the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent sense of urgency and believes UK law will evolve in accordance with the development of multicultural communities.
He will be discussing his views today at the International Bar Association conference in Amsterdam, during a symposium titled Religious and secular laws: mutual respect or mutual suspicion?
Speaking to The Herald in advance of the conference, Canon Tartaglia said: "In the long term, I cannot see how our law will not be influenced by the customs and practices of the communities which exist in these islands. It is inevitable there will be influence from Islamic law to one degree or another.
"I cannot see how it can be avoided, but nor can I imagine our society adopting laws which would not be of benefit. And it may be that the legislators introduce elements of Islamic law and that we will be none the wiser.
"I don't feel threatened by this, but the worry comes when the aims of faith are compromised by the law of the land. The law on abortion was one such example. The Archbishop of Canterbury was right to raise the subject, but I don't agree with his sense of urgency on the matter."
John Rees, provincial registrar of the Archbishop of Canterbury, will also be taking part in the discussion. He believes recent comments by the Archbishop were misconstrued.
"He was talking about alternative dispute legislation; it is not intended to supplant general law," he said. "He specifically pointed out the dangers of the rights of women and other citizens being diminished by direct application of the communitarian law.
"There have always been certain tensions between the views of churches and other religions on the issues of the state and we just happen to be living in a period when these tensions are slightly more pronounced.
"I don't think we would have got this on the agenda of an international legal conference 10 years ago. The fact is that the law of organised religions is becoming a real issue for the law of the land. It is causing the whole of secular society to wake up to the persistence of religious values."
Michael Clancy, director of law reform at the Law Society of Scotland, who is chairing the event, said it is important to debate the ways in which religious and secular law interact. "Religion has been influential in shaping the law of many jurisdictions," he added.
"Islamic law has not been as influential in Scots law but even within the framework of Scots law, accommodation is being made for financial practice and hygiene laws in respect, for example, of Halal food and regulations in respect of abattoirs."
Source: The Herald (English), h/t Hojda (Danish)