Monday, 11 February 2008

Archbishop stands by his position on Sharia

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Today saw the latest development in the Rowan Williams/Sharia law row, as the Archbishop of Canterbury defended last week's statement that the introduction of some aspects of Sharia law into the UK is "unavoidable".

Addressing a biannual gathering of the Church of England's general synod, Williams said he felt his comments had been exaggerated and taken out of context but also admitted that he must "take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text or in the radio interview and for any misleading choice of words that's helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large, and especially among my fellow Christians.''

However, he refused to express regret for raising the issue, saying that he does not believe it is "inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues about the perceived concerns of other religious communities, and to try and bring them into better public focus."

The speech seems to suggest that, in his position as the head of the established church, Williams sees himself as a de facto spokesperson for all religious groups in the UK: "Part of both the burden and the privilege of being the church we are in the nation we're in is that we are often looked to for some coherent voice on behalf of all the faith communities living here. And that is a considerable privilege, and I hope we can use it well - however clumsily it may have been deployed in this instance. If we can attempt to speak for the liberties and consciences of others in this country as well as our own, we shall I believe be doing something we as a Church are called to do in Christ's name, witnessing to his Lordship and not compromising it."

Williams once again reiterated that he was not advocating "parallel jurisdictions" in Britain, but was rather looking to open up a debate around the issue.

I invited comments on this issue last week and received plenty, so I'll send out the call again – thoughts, people...

2 comments:

chem_fem said...

What bothers me so much about his comments is that they are so vague. He didn't give one example about where accommodation for a sharia law was needed in order for a Muslim to not have to choose between their culture and their country.

If they change the law it should be so that people in the public eye, who are about to say something controversial, must give at least one example or piece of evidence to back up what they say. That goes for the archbishop and the other bishop who mentioned no go areas for non-muslims.

I think that the real controversy however is that we have a culture where we expect more of a say than ever before. More people have the vote (rather than the right sort of people), we can protest our POV and write about it in public over the internet and have it reach more people than ever before. Yet the church is ultimately a top down institution where what the guys say at the top is what the 'believers' are supposed to accept at the bottom, often unquestioningly.

Much of the world doesn't work like that any more.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

I think the strangest part of the Archbishop's remarks was his use of the word "unavoidable."

That word, coupled with his admirably stubborn refusal to apologize for making such a remarkable statement, make this 'sharia' incident a peculiar combination of Chamberlainesque capitulation and Churchillian determination.

As for a United Kingdom with one set of laws and courts for one set of people, and another for a group of immigrants who don't like the local laws: I think that's a crazy idea.

Although I did rather like the idea of the male relatives of a young man who stabbed someone getting together, paying off the victim (or perhaps the victim's family), and apologizing.