is a topic apparently being taught in a subject called "Muslim minorities and the law" at the University of Sydney. It apparently calls for Sharia law to be recognised with respect to such things as polygamy and lowering the age of consent for marriage. The lecturers of the course use a book they wrote themselves and, it is said, claim that the failure by police to recognise "conservative Muslim values" makes it harder to control terrorism.
I did not do my degree in law at the University of Sydney. I also did it long enough ago that, at the university I went to, we had plenty of Muslim students but nobody would even have contemplated that there was a need to teach anything like this. I taught many of the Muslim students the finer points of legal language. I am still friendly with some of them. There is just one of these former students who might - just might - approve of such a course being taught. Discuss these things? Yes. Suggest or ask for them to become part of Downunder's legal system? No.
So, what's going on here? Polygamy used to be a means of making sure that a woman whose husband died was supported. Way back in history a man would "marry" his brother's wife in order to make sure she had a home. Over the centuries that changed slowly. In some parts of the world it is still a means of support or a means of showing how wealthy you are.
The vast majority of countries have out outlawed polygamy. The United Nations Human Rights Committee considers it violates the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Despite that it seems we have a course being taught in one of our leading law schools saying it should be recognised. Not only that but those teaching it are suggesting that the age of consent should also be lowered. In New South Wales, the state the course is taught in, the age of consent is 16. In two states it is 17 - and 16 in the others. It is unrealistic but the age of consent is surely something which should coincide with the age at which someone is recognised as being an "adult" under the law? To suggest that it should be lowered to fit in with Sharia law is something I find disturbing. There are issues of "willingness" and "consent" - two different things - which need to be recognised too.
In our society there are good reasons for laws about monogamy and the age of consent. They are there to protect people, particularly females, from being abused. All too often the "second" wife (and any subsequent wife) is also treated in a second class fashion. There are still arranged marriages - where the girl is not willing but has given her "consent" because she sees no means of avoiding it. Why should the law actively support such abuses in a country where there is no need for women to marry in order to be independent?
I know there will be people who will read this and say, "But you don't understand Sharia law" - and no, I don't. However if you can explain why it is a good thing and how such "conservative values" fit into the present day then please do.