Friday, February 08, 2008

Williams 'shocked' at Sharia row

The Sun discussion here.
Story from BBC:
Williams 'shocked' at Sharia row
Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams
Dr Williams has been taken aback by the response to his comments
The Archbishop of Canterbury is said to be overwhelmed by the "hostility of the response" after his call for parts of Sharia law to be recognised in the UK.

Friends of Dr Rowan Williams say he is in a state of shock and cannot believe the criticism from his own Church.

All the main political parties, secular groups and some senior Muslims have expressed dismay at his comments.

However, the Bishop of Hulme, the Rt Rev Stephen Lowe, criticised the "disgraceful" treatment of Dr Williams.

The BBC understands from sources who work on Christian-Muslim interfaith issues that Dr

Williams has faced a barrage of criticism from within the Church and has been genuinely taken aback by how his words were received.

Resignation call

Islamic Sharia law is a legal and social code designed to help Muslims live their daily lives, but it has proved controversial in the West for the extreme nature of some of its punishments.

Culture Secretary Andy Burnham said moves such as those suggested by the archbishop would create "social chaos".

The Reverend Rod Thomas, chairman of evangelical Church group Reform, said the archbishop's comments were unhelpful.

"The Church at the moment, and the country, needs a clear lead. The country is itself in a debate about its own sense of identity," he said.

It would be most helpful for the leader of the Church to be able to explain to people how the values we cherish stem from our Christian tradition
The Reverend Rod Thomas

"The moral values that we pursue are ones that we need to know are clearly grounded, and it would be most helpful for the leader of the Church to be able to explain to people how the values we cherish stem from our Christian tradition."

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten said it would be the "thin end of the wedge" and

called on the archbishop to resign.

He said: "I think he's shown he is totally unfit for the role he undertakes. He's not fit to be Archbishop of Canterbury, he doesn't seem to know what his own business is, and he's not fit to sit in the House of Lords. I think he should go."

'Hysterical misrepresentations'

However, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it was grateful for the archbishop's "thoughtful intervention".

The organisation added that it was saddened by the "hysterical misrepresentations" of his speech, which would only "drive a wedge between British people".

Sharia law is Islam's legal system
It is derived from the Koran and the life of the prophet Mohammed
Sharia rulings help Muslims understand how they should lead their lives
A formal legal ruling is called a fatwa
In the West, Sharia courts deal mainly with family and business issues
English law recognises religious courts as a means of arbitration

Muhammed Abdul Bari, Secretary-General of the MCB, said:

"The archbishop is not advocating implementation of the Islamic penal system in Britain.

"His recommendation is confined to the civil system of Sharia law, and only in accordance with English law and agreeable to established notions of human rights."

Bishop Lowe said

the archbishop had been "ridiculed" and "lampooned" by some people.

"We have probably one of the greatest and the brightest Archbishops of Canterbury we have had for many a long day," he said.

Catherine Heseltine, from the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, said some people might be getting the wrong end of the stick.

"I'm concerned this debate is getting out of control because people hear the word Sharia and instantly scary images of beheadings," she said.

"But this is not what British Muslims want and it's not what British Muslims are asking for in any way."

'British values'

She added:

"Sharia in our everyday lives means things like certification of halal meat, in the same way as Jewish religious bodies will certify kosher meat. No-one's forced to eat it but it's a choice if consumers want to buy it."

There is, and should only be, one law which covers all people and to suggest it can be otherwise is to seriously damage our rights
Patricia London, UK

Dr Williams told BBC Radio 4 on Thursday that he believed the adoption of some Sharia law in the UK seemed "unavoidable".

In an interview with BBC correspondent Christopher Landau, Dr

Williams said Muslims should not have to choose between "the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty".

Gordon Brown's spokesman said

the prime minister "believes that British laws should be based on British values", but that the archbishop was perfectly entitled to express his views.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said to fundamentally change the rule of law and adopt Sharia law would be "fundamentally wrong."

Shaista Gohir, a government advisor on Muslim women, said the majority of British Muslims did not want Sharia courts.


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Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he did not agree with the archbishop him on the issue.

Under English law, people may devise their own way to settle a dispute in front of an agreed third party as long as both sides agree to the process.

Muslim Sharia courts and Orthodox Jewish courts which already exist in the UK come into this category.

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