Reactions to Rowan on Sharia Law

There have been many articles and posts over the evening on Rowan Williams’ suggestion that some form of British accomadation for Muslim Sharia law was inevitable. We’ve tried to collect a number of those here.

The New York Times article summarizes the responses of various government voices:

The 57-year-old archbishop, an Oxford-educated theologian, was met with immediate repudiation from political and legal leaders.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown, speaking anonymously in the tradition of Downing Street, told reporters that Mr. Brown did not “welcome or support” the proposals, and added that Mr. Brown “believes that British laws should be based on British values.”

Spokesmen for the Conservative and Liberal Democrat Parties, the main opposition groups, issued similar responses.

Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, a 36-year-old lawyer who is a rising star in the Conservative Party and one of its most influential Muslim figures, issued a statement calling the archbishop’s remarks “unhelpful.”

“Of course the important principle is one of equality, and we must ensure that people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law,” she said. “But let’s be absolutely clear: All British citizens must be subject to British laws developed through Parliament and the courts.”

The folks over at the Telegraph think that these remarks may very well end the Archbishop’s ability to serve:

What will the Archbishop of Canterbury’s fatuous remarks about Sharia do to his authority as head of the Anglican Communion? Pretty well finish it off, I should think.

[…]Anglicans in parts of Nigeria live under what is, in effect, totalitarian Sharia. It goes without saying Williams does not defend the stoning of adulterous women and other charming Islamic practices. But, in his interview with the BBC, his condemnation of “bad” Sharia is deeply buried in acres of Vichyite waffle about the need to see Sharia “case by case within an overall framework of the principles laid down in the Koran and the Hadith”.

For the Archbishop of Canterbury to propose an extension of British Sharia in the same week that we learned of the extent to which the Sharia authorities cover up “honour crimes” reveals a degree of ineptitude that even George Carey never managed.

And, talking of George, watch this space. Lord Carey of Clifton is no fan of his successor, but a very big fan of African Anglicans persecuted by Sharia. I would be very surprised if he can resist intervening in this dispute.

Thinking Anglicans of course has their typically exhaustive coverage of British reactions.

Paul Vallely, in particular, makes an interesting point:

Rowan Williams bridles when anyone suggests that he is the Anglican church’s equivalent of the Pope. But he has made the same mistake in discussing sharia law that Pope Benedict XVI made in his ill-fated foray on the subject of Islam at the University of Regensburg two years ago, which sparked protests around the world, the murder of a nun and much else.

The error is assuming that the leader of a major church has the same intellectual freedom that he had when he was merely an eminent theologian. The cold fact is that the semiotics are entirely different. An academic may call for a nuanced renegotiation of society’s attitudes to the internal laws of religious communities. But when the Archbishop of Canterbury does that the headline follows, as night follows day: “Sharia law in UK is unavoidable, says Archbishop.”

This is not what he was saying, and yet it is. News has little room for the subtleties of academic gavottes around delicate subjects. A canny religious leader – or at any rate his press office – ought to know that.

(hat tip to Jody Howard for drawing attention to this)

We’ll be updating this post throughout the day. You can find more links (like this one to Dave Walker’s blog) below.

In this excellent commentary, Andrew Brown writes: “Dr Rowan Williams’ interview with the BBC’s World at One, in which he called for greater public recognition of some aspects of sharia law, is entirely characteristic. It is the product of deep thought; reasonable, thought-provoking, and in parts quite astonishingly silly.”

Ruth Gledhill asks “Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?” She also points out there are some who have praised the Archbishop’s words.

“Will B” points out that separate but equal has never worked as a method of governance.

Mark Alexander is one of many online voices calling for the Archbishop’s resignation today. Here’s another one from “Harry’s Place

The Church Times has moved its article on the row out from behind the subscriber firewall and it’s now available.

Kester thinks the Archbishop is raising an important point, and hopes that people can see past their reactivity to consider what he’s suggesting.

The BBC has a Q&A page up on the legal ramifications of the question that Rowan Williams has raised.

Ben Myers points out the reasons that “Williams is right.”

ACNS (Anglican Communion News Service) has posted an article “What did the Archbishop of Canterbury actually say?” in response to the reactions that have been stirred up.

Dave Walker from “Cartoon Blog” has some British reactions that he’s found particularly useful.

Simon Sarmiento’s comprehensive round-up is here.

Craig Uffman asks “Could Rowan have a point?

Past Posts