archnumpty of canterbury

Okay, so Rowan Williams’s position is slightly more nuanced, according to recent BBC reports, than the headline version I saw earlier today.

Still, it is disgraceful. Sharia law is a byword for oppression and injustice – and not only would it be an utterly massive retrograde step for this country to come under it, but it is being used on a daily basis to oppress multitudes of our fellow human beings – in this country and around the world. Women, non-Muslims, ex-Muslims – even thinking of the situation right here in the UK, we’re seeing honour killings, blanket provision of halal food in some institutions, violence and aggression towards people who turn from Islam to Christianity or anything else – and this in a context where fundamentalist Islam is a minority. People are being jailed, tortured, killed, and penalised in all sorts of ways, all over the world constantly in Muslim-majority situations, where sharia law is implemented.

Rowan Williams, as official spokesman for a religious body which ostensibly seeks to promote (Judeo-)Christian values and ethics for the good of individuals and societies, should be the last person to even give the appearance of endorsing, licensing, or condoning the option of this moral/ethical and social nightmare even for Muslims in our communities.


11 thoughts on “archnumpty of canterbury

  1. I completely agree – this sense of betrayal is nothing new from him. Even if the imposition of sharia is inevitable, it’s something which should be resisted and its evils exposed with all vigour – for everyone’s benefit.

    I see Cranmer has rather a lot to say on this.


  2. It’s considerably more than “slightly nuanced”. When you read what he’s said it’s apparent that the headlines have made a different story from what he said. He doesn’t even give the appearance of endorsing or condoning the worst excesses of sharia; just a very limited flying of the kite that some family and inheritance law might accommodate to Muslim cultural customs. He said he felt it was ‘inevitable’ not necessarily ‘desirable’. As it happens he’ll probably turn out to be wrong if Canada’s experience is anything to go by and the vox pop’s with Muslims and interviews on breakfast news are anything to go by: Muslims won’t be able to agree how and what to implement.

    I suspect that it was an unwise comment, but hindsight is usually 20:20 in a way foresight isn’t. One might hope for more of the integrity of reporters and editors. And Christians should perhaps be less quick to diss a brother in Christ on the basis of inaccurate reporting of non-believers?


  3. PS to the foregoing: note this from the Independent report.
    “There were questions about how it interacted with human rights, he said.

    “But I do not think we should instantly spring to the conclusion that the whole of that world of jurisprudence and practice is somehow monstrously incompatible with human rights just because it doesn’t immediately fit with how we understand it.”

    Dr Williams said Orthodox Jewish courts already operated in the UK, and anti-abortion views of Catholics and other Christians were “accommodated within the law”. ”

    I think you’ll agree that that puts a different complexion on things. For further reference read the whole transcript.


  4. Hmm, i have to confess i haven’t read the links yet, but based on the limited amounts of snippets of news i’ve seen/heard since yesterday,
    1) it was a mistake to go by the BBC report
    2) still, & even speaking as a presbyterian, i have more respect for the office than for the man
    3) reliance on civil tribunals &/or informal community consultations identified by their religious or ethnic background *need* not be a bad thing when it’s done in a context where the existing judeo-christian-inspired law of the land is respected and where political subjugation of the rest of the community is not an aim or a subtext [presbyterian: establishment principle: ecclesiastical courts should have independence from the machinery of the state: islam doesn’t have a concept of the church, as such – everything is religiopolitical – not healthy]
    4) we have no guarantee that that’s how sharia courts would operate if they were installed/legitimated, and indeed reason to fear that it’s not how things would work
    5) i’ve been working my wee socks off all week and too tired to even know what i think any more :S


  5. Hot off the press:

    the Barnabas response:

    “While the Archbishop has the best of intentions in wanting to create greater cohesion and harmony in British society, his suggestions seem sure to result in the exact opposite. …
    His view of shari`a is utopian and naïve. He has claimed that shari`a is not the monolithic system of detailed rules which most Muslims consider it to be, but rather an expression of universal principles being implemented flexibly according to context by means of ijtihad (individual effort at interpretation). While this expresses what liberal Muslim reformists would like to see happen, the reality is that for the vast majority of Muslims shari`a is still viewed as God`s immutable divine law regulating all areas of life. Furthermore, it discriminates against women (for example, in divorce and inheritance) and against non-Muslims. It lays down a multitude of penalties, including imprisonment, beating, annulment of marriage, disinheritance and death, for Muslims who leave their faith.

    Even Tariq Ramadan, who is referred to positively in the Archbishop`s lecture, could not bring himself to advocate changing the strict hudud laws of shari`a which demand stoning, amputation and flogging. The most he could suggest was a moratorium on these punishments for the time being, until a perfect Islamic society arises that could implement these laws in a fair and just manner. For this innovation he was severely attacked by many famous Islamic religious scholars from across the Muslim spectrum who accused him of bordering on heresy. They claimed that the hudud laws are immutable and that severity is a valued hallmark of Islamic shari`a.

    The Archbishop excludes hudud punishments from the areas of shari`a which he recommends to be practised in the UK. However, had he a fuller understanding of shari`a, he would realise that no hard and fast line can be drawn between these two areas of shari`a because of Islam`s apostasy law. The array of punishments for leaving Islam include not only death, but also matters of family law, the very part of shari`a which the Archbishop wants to see applied in the UK, such as annulment of marriage, loss of access to children, and loss of inheritance.

    Dr Williams is aware of the danger that the introduction of state-sanctioned shari`a courts could encourage the most conservative and radical elements in Islam and disadvantage vulnerable individuals within the Muslim community such as women. Nevertheless he seems to be blissfully confident that those who will implement the new structures are bound to be enlightened practitioners of the ideal reformed shari`a he has in mind. Experience of course reveals that it is the more “repressive and retrograde elements” (as he calls them) who usually come to the fore and take over such institutions, backed by the almost unlimited resources of oil-rich Wahhabism and the various forms of Islamism it supports.

    Wherever shari`a has been given expanded space in the legal systems of Muslim states, it has inevitably led to infringements of the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children, non-Muslims, converts from Islam to other religions, and non-orthodox Muslim communities such as the Ahmadiyya and the Bahai. It has also negatively affected the intellectual debate, narrowing the limits of freedom and threatening dissenters with shari`a sanctions.

    Embedding shari`a in British law will negatively impact many vulnerable members of the Muslim community: women, children as well as secularists and liberals. They will all face increasing pressure to comply with traditional shari`a norms. Once shari`a is in place, community and religious pressure will make it exceedingly difficult for them to opt to be judged by English law. The Archbishop also ignores the many Muslims who have fled repressive shari`a states to find refuge in a free and democratic British society. The empowerment of shari`a courts will endanger their newly found liberties.

    The fact is that Britain has already come a long way along the Islamisation road. Many informal shari`a courts are operating in the Muslim community; there is a parallel shari`a compliant financial system; shari`a regulations such as those to do with halal food, Islamic dress and gender segregation in physical exercises are complied with in schools and educational institutions. Some of these regulations also operate in public services such as the police, the NHS and the prison system.

    The addition of shari`a courts whose sentences are binding and enforceable by the civil legal system will take Britain much further along the Islamisation track, which is the long-term goal of many Muslim organisations. Contrary to the Archbishop`s expectations, it will narrow the space for free discussion and legitimate criticism, limit the freedoms and rights available to individual Muslims, and empower the more traditional, Islamist and radical tendencies in the Muslim community.

    Furthermore for the many Anglicans and other Christians living in contexts where shari`a is being applied and causing untold misery and suffering, for example in parts of Nigeria and parts of Sudan, the Archbishop of Canterbury`s suggestions are not just unwise, but insensitive to the point of callousness.”


  6. What are “(Judeo-) Christian values” and why would the A of C be propagating them rather than just Christian ones?

    I never see the point in that phrase. To me it implies either a false view of the Bible or a false view of the current state of the Jews, or both. If a Jewish value is worth keeping (not abolished along with the ceremonial law) it should be incorporated in Christianity.

    It also implies late 20th century American lowest-common-denominator religion.

    Maybe I’m being hard on you, and maybe you used it for a good reason!



  7. Funny you should ask – I did start off with just “Christian values”, on the basis that that’s what you’d primarily expect an officebearer in a Christian church to uphold, but then as an afterthought i added in “(Judeo-)”. I suppose partly because these values are not just New Testament values, but the same as the Old Testament values which OT believers operated with – so there’s a continuity in these principles that stretches back way beyond the establishing of the NT church, which we shouldn’t undermine for the sake of a temporary or contemporary desire to appear sympathetic to some Muslims’ disengagement with whatever aspects of our society are founded on them.

    Also perhaps implicitly to express solidarity with the Jews, who are also targets of oppression under Sharia principles – (i) we’re not ashamed of our links with Judaism, however offensive that might be to antisemitic strands within Islam, and (ii) many more people than just Christians have a stake in resisting the imposition of sharia law.

    I completely agree about the non-ceremonial aspects of the OT law :) Would you be interested in saying more about what you think about the current state of the Jews and lowest common denominatorism? :)


  8. Pingback: The importance of checking sources « Friendly Humanist

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