Archbishop of Canterbury warns sharia law in Britain is inevitable

The Archbishop of Canterbury provoked a chorus of criticism yesterday by predicting that it was “unavoidable” that elements of Islamic sharia law would be introduced in Britain.

Christian and secular groups joined senior politicians to condemn Rowan Williams’ view that there was a place for a “constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law” over such issues as marriage.

Dr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s The World At One: “It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system. We already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justifying conscientious objections in certain circumstances.”

He added: “There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law as we already do with aspects of other kinds of religious law.”

Read it all and there are scores of links to other coverage here.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Religion News & Commentary, Archbishop of Canterbury, Islam, Other Faiths

24 comments on “Archbishop of Canterbury warns sharia law in Britain is inevitable

  1. chips says:

    “Certain provisions of Shariah are already recognized in our society and under our law, so it’s not as if we’re bringing in an alien and rival system,” He does not believe that sharia is alien an a rival to British Culture. This is the man that orthodox and traditional Anglicans in the United States have pinned their hopes on for the last four years. Even the socialist PM (who is way further left than Blair) has repudiated his suggestion. As an Anglo Catholic at heart I see no point in looking to the current see of Canterbury for moral spiritual authority or guidance of any type.

  2. libraryjim says:

    Wait until fathers start killing their daughters because they refuse to wear the burkah, and claiming shariah law for their justification. Will it still be ‘unavoidable’ then?


  3. Pb says:

    This is also a sad commentary on law. It is now based on nothing except one’s opinion.

  4. Newbie Anglican says:

    As I posted last night, this may bring down Rowan Williams. And today more calls for his resignation are already coming out of the woodwork. This report just out from the Times is notable:

  5. Don R says:

    Roger Kimball has an [url=]insightful look[/url] at the relativism that undergirds Williams’ thinking. I think Kimball views it as a loss of religio-cultural confidence.

    While there’s truth to that, I wonder whether it isn’t primarily just a different sort of confidence: a confidence that many of the things previous generations thought important (i.e., things that are formative of our own culture) really are not important at all.

    That strikes me as a very serious error rooted in ideology, one peculiar to the contemporary West, and which seems only to come from people who are themselves comfortably situated.

  6. Ouroboros says:

    With talk like this, suddenly the idea of “Reclamation” in that movie by the Wachowski brothers doesn’t seem like such a bad thing.

    England Prevails!

  7. stevenanderson says:

    At least ABC is consistent in his unthinking approach to life: “anything goes.” Unfortunately, too many out there think that he has something to say because of the title he was given. And unfortunately, each time his off-base ideas are cited he is named as head of the Anglican Communion–so the embarrassment is not just his own. Do we wonder why so few attend the English churches he “leads”?

  8. CanaAnglican says:

    Yesterday, I asked ‘Can’t the queen recall him?’ and no one answered. Christ is the head of the church, but I thought for the see of Canterbury the queen appoints the archbishop. Sure that job has been delegated to the prime minister, but can’t the queen step in if necessary to restore sanity to the situation. Dear ++Rowan is apparently superannuated and has gone around the bend. For the good of the country as well as the church (and perhaps ++Rowan’s health) she should exercise her authority.

  9. Dale Rye says:

    The agreement I have with my credit card company provides that any dispute we have will be submitted to binding arbitration in South Dakota under South Dakota law and arbitration rules essentially dictated by the company; I do not have the option of appealing an adverse decision to a court here in Texas. Under +Rowan’s proposal, two Muslims who both wished to submit a dispute to arbitration before a sharia court could do so, but the losing party could appeal to the English courts. Which of those two situations constitutes the greater infringement of Anglo-American and Christian standards of justice?

  10. Dale Rye says:

    Obviously, the Abp. spoke highly unwisely, but the substance of his proposal is not nearly as bad as the public comments suggest.

    You might be interested in the [url=]comments[/url] of Richard Sudworth, a Church Missionary Society missions expert with experience in sharing Christ in Muslim countries, who concludes, “So, all in all, I’ll thank the Lord for our Archbishop… and pray that we will seek truth and move from fear to love.”

    There is also a [url=]BBC article[/url] discussing the legal issues and showing how minimal the changes +Rowan was advocating would be.

  11. Don R says:

    #9 Dale Rye, it’s well and good to defend him for what he actually said [i]in toto[/i], but there are two problems. First, his seeming obliviousness to how his public ruminations are likely to be understood is a huge liability in a public figure. Second, what does he stand for? Does he appreciate the cultural ramifications of Christianity? Maybe, as someone said in a previous thread (was it you?), he’s playing chess, but that’s no advantage when everyone else is playing rugby.

  12. Cole says:

    Creeping relativism! It is taking the core message of the “Good News” out of Christianity, and it is making a mockery out of the English Common Law. If it wasn’t for creeping relativism, the CoE would still be appreciated as having meaning and being unquestionably Christian. The “Good News” appeals to one’s heart and emotions. Who cares what is buried in the small print? The door to the “Spirit of Confusion” is inching itself ever wider. The Abp should know better.

  13. pendennis88 says:

    When one is the Archbishop of Canterbury, one is to be expected to think things through carefully before speaking on so important and delicate a subject, and for all the words in his speech, his ideas are as poorly developed as they are controversial. Not doing one’s job can give rise to calls for resignation in many fields.

    Per the article, “insiders are wondering if Dr Williams’s moral authority has now been damaged almost beyond repair”, as well they should.

  14. Dale Rye says:

    Re #11: Your first point is, sadly, well taken. Assuming that your second question was not rhetorical, I believe that the Archbishop does appreciate the cultural ramifications of Christianity. In fact, he has written several books on the subject.

    It was me who used the chess analogy, my point being that +Rowan (unlike almost everyone who has reacted to him) understands that England and the West are secular societies where those who profess and call themselves Christians are in the minority. We should be preparing now for the time when we, like the Muslims, start being [i]treated[/i] like a minority—not wait until it happens.

    We can try to change our minority status, certainly, and the Archbishop is no opponent to evangelism. Nevertheless, we can’t ignore the situation and continue to operate as if “majority rules” will always act in our favor. In a society that accepts multi-culturalism, we will be one of the minorities to be accommodated alongside Muslims and Orthodox Jews. In a society that enforces cultural and legal uniformity, we will be just as disadvantaged as those groups will be. If we do not allow them to be counter-cultural, the state will not allow us to be counter-cultural, either, in all sorts of important ways.

    To take just one minor example: under current English law, people can be legally married in a Christian or Jewish religious service, but not in a Muslim one. There are two ways to fix that disparity: either allowing Muslims to marry in a mosque or requiring Christians and Jews to marry at a registry office like everyone else. In a monolithic secular society, which option is more likely?

    On a more serious subject: a multi-cultural society is more likely to honor Christian reservations about participating in abortion than a monolithic secular one. As a strong pro-life advocate, that subject has to be on +Rowan’s mind. It should be on other’s minds, too.

  15. Katherine says:

    Dale Rye, as I have seen it explained by English legal experts on some of the blogs, English residents already have the right to submit their disputes to religious or other arbitration if they all agree to do so. There are Jewish tribunals, and perhaps others. Nonetheless, such agreements still must be ratified by the English law where it applies. The English court will review the evidence and decisions from the arbitration body and determine if the results are enforceable under English law. In business disputes, perhaps the Muslim parties will see no need to apply to English law for ratification. This is not the case with family law. I do not know the state of English divorce, custody, and alimony law. However, English women have rights in these areas. They cannot be divorced without alimony beyond three months and without custody of their children simply because they are Muslim rather than Christian. This is an unjust result. To allow it in England because the woman’s religious community insists that it’s God decree changes the nature of English justice.

  16. Katherine says:

    I was typing as you posted, Dale Rye. Of course Muslim marriages contracted in England should be recognized by the state, and divorce laws should also apply. If this is not the case, it should be changed immediately. Are you saying that Hindu marriages are not recognized? Why has this issue not been raised before?

  17. Cennydd says:

    Give Muslim radicals an inch, and they’ll grab a mile. Do you really want that in Britain? I don’t think you do!

  18. Don R says:

    Dale, in reading the transcript of his BBC interview, it’s clear that he isn’t simply advocating the institution of Sharia, but his nuanced thoughts cannot play well in a media culture that really doesn’t do nuance. And I think that even BBC radio falls into that category.

    Regarding my earlier question, “What does he stand for?” It was indeed rhetorical; I would never deny that he’s a Christian believer, regardless of whether I agree with him on every question. The problem is that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury, his role includes an advocacy component for which he seems ill-suited. It’s odd, too, because he’s certainly comfortable with some kinds of political advocacy, just not with a more general advocacy of Christianity.

    To my thinking, that is a problem that stems from his own cultural (or subcultural) conditioning, but nevertheless a serious liability for a leader in the church. Who will make a case for the specifically Christian view? Can you imagine this Archbishop promulgating a Christian apologetic as strongly as C.S. Lewis?

  19. wvparson says:

    I think it a given that the Archbishop spoke unwisely or perhaps without demonstrating adequate political savvy given the nature of the Media and the reaction of those who wish him ill and lust for moments such as these to use as excuses to cover their distaste for a person they do not know, have not read and probably cannot understand. Such approaches to controversy and part of the secular political process as demonstrated clearly by some radio talk show hosts in the past few days! One would hope for calmer, more measured reflections from Christians but there we are.

    Despite all this I agree with the CMS leader who reminds us that we are fortunate to have as our primus inter pares a person of +Rowan’s intellect, holiness and personal kindness. Mercifully we do not believe in archiepiscopal infallibility and therefore can expect that not everything which proceeds from his mouth will be ultimate truth or even prudent!

  20. Newbie Anglican says:

    wv #19, If Rowan Williams were not already a failure as Archbishop of Canterbury who has succeeded in alienating a great many who were once well disposed toward him, I doubt his sharia statements would be causing such a furor.

    This isn’t an exception to an otherwise good tenure. It’s more like the straw that broke the camel’s back.

  21. carol says:

    I would like to hear Rowan’s comments on this article.
    Two Women Stoned: Feminists Mum
    By David Horowitz, Robert Spencer and Janet Levy | Thursday, February 07, 2008

    Two sisters – identified only as Zohreh and Azar – have been convicted of adultery in Iran.

    They have now been sentenced to be stoned to death.

    Adultery is a crime punishable by death in the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with the canons of Islamic Sharia law. The Iranian Supreme Court has upheld the stoning sentence.

    Zohreh and Azar have already received 99 lashes for “illegal relations.” Yet they were tried again for the same crime, and convicted of adultery on the evidence of videotape that showed them in the presence of other men while their husbands were absent. The video does not show either of them engaging in any sexual activity at all.

    for the rest please go to the website above.

  22. Wilfred says:

    Dale, we are all tired of reading about the fine print on your Master Card bill and wish you would just cancel the thing and pay cash from now on.

    And under [i] shariah [/i] law, you will have to.

  23. John Wilkins says:

    Wilfred – you miss the point. Sharia is for Muslims. your speaking of fear, as if Rowan is encouraging your conversion. It’s disturbing how ready we are to believe the worst without even listening to the man. Why is it that when I heard Rowan speak, I assumed he was making a sophisticated argument about the nature of religious communities to the state, whil you assumed he was busy converting Christians to islam.

    ridiculous. It only fans the flames of misunderstanding. A cheap shot, also.

    Besides, paying cash is probably better than a credit card, given the interest rates charged upon consumers.

  24. Wilfred says:

    #23 John – I must confess, I never actually read all the documentation that came with my Master Card. Little did I suspect that, buried in the fine print, it states, “By activating this card, user agrees to imposition of shariah law in Britain.”