Thinking Anglicans

Sharia law in UK is 'unavoidable'

Updated: full text of lecture now available

The BBC reports:

The Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams says the adoption of Islamic Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidable”.

Dr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s World at One that the UK has to “face up to the fact” that some of its citizens do not relate to the British legal system.

Dr Williams argues that adopting some aspects of Sharia law would help maintain social cohesion.

For example, Muslims could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court.

He says Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.

In an exclusive interview with BBC correspondent Christopher Landau, ahead of a lecture to lawyers in London later on Monday, Dr Williams argues this relies on Sharia law being better understood. At the moment, he says “sensational reporting of opinion polls” clouds the issue.

He stresses that “nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that’s sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states”.

His comments are likely to fuel the debate over multiculturalism in the UK…

Update
Here is the full transcript of the BBC radio interview. Listen to the radio interview here.

More information about the lecture can be found here and also here (PDF).

Update
The full text of the lecture is available here.

And here is the Lambeth Palace press release about the lecture.

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Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

And then the Mormons … and the Scientologists … and the Roman Catholics …… A true son of Becket we’ve got here. The UK could do worse than compare its multicultural approach with the US “melting-pot” – which, before all Hell breaks loose, I’m not advocating as a panacea – and see which creates, over time, the greater social cohesion.

riazat butt
Guest

I’ve read the speech and re-read it. I don’t understand a word of it and unfortunately for us hacks he doesn’t replicate his BBC words in the bloody text. If anyone can tell me what he’s saying I’ll buy them a beer.

Pluralist
Guest

Channel 4 showed recently a programme of Sharia Law in action in the UK, where an Imam was deciding a dispute involving a chap and his two wives. Now I am married but there’s a lass down the pub I fancy getting hitched to, so I wonder if the Archbishop will do me the honour?

Simon Sarmiento
Guest

The full text of the lecture is due to be released at 6 pm tonight. I’ve read it too, and sympathize with Riazat.

It’s definitely in the “academic” genre of literature. I do wonder what the audience who only hears it read out will make of it. But then I think that about a great many academic “papers”.

Gerry Lynch
Guest

Well, so much for collegiality in the English House of Bishops – Nazir-Ali thinks that Muslims are all retreating into ghettos and this is a bad thing; Rowan thinks they’re all retreating into ghettos, we’ll jolly well have to get used to it, and the best solution is to introduce the Ottoman Empire’s ‘Milliyet’ system to allow them to introduce Shariah law. It’s fascinating that our bishops have such an insight into the thinking of the British Muslim community; would that they were blessed with such penetrating insight into the thinking of Anglicans… Actually, I can’t imagine a less helpful… Read more »

chrisc
Guest
chrisc

From the BBC report/interview:

‘But Dr Williams says the argument that “there’s one law for everybody… I think that’s a bit of a danger”.’

That seems clear enough.
And mad enough.
Different law for different groups…what a recipe for social cohesion that is!

L Roberts
Guest
L Roberts

‘He stresses that “nobody in their right mind would want to see in this country the kind of inhumanity that’s sometimes been associated with the practice of the law in some Islamic states”.
Rowan Williams

What mind is HE in ? What bloody planet is he on ?

Andrew Holden
Guest
Andrew Holden

Looks like our dear Archbishop has completely lost the plot this time. Even if he has some remote justification for thinking this surely his media advisor should have talked him out of saying anything remotely like it in public – look out for the headlines tomorrow!

Katherine
Guest
Katherine

Lapinbizarre, our melting pot over here may not be a panacea, but it’s working better than the present British efforts. By the third generation in the U.S., immigrant populations are totally integrated into the mainstream. It’s true that the mainstream is changed thereby, as are the immigrants, and that may make us a mongrel culture. This seems preferable to the creation of ghettoes whose inhabitants may harbor violent thoughts about those outside the walls. We’ve tried that over here (see Crow, Jim) and it’s a really bad idea.

poppy tupper
Guest
poppy tupper

here’s the thing. you take a little bit of book learning, a bit of poetry, a bit of mystical talk, and shaggy beard. you mix them together. you get rowan williams, and everyone says he’s a saint and a scholar. i’ve never gone along with that one, myself. he’s a man so far out of his depth in this job that he doesn’t even know how far from the sea bed he is. time to go.

Prior Aelred
Guest

OK — I can’t make any sense of this, either (rather par for the course for me & this ABC, alas), but the “sleepwalking to segregation” comments from The National Secular Society make sense to me:
“Our view is simple. You can’t have a country where you have separate laws for separate faith groups,” … “The same religious groups who are calling for integration are the same one who want segregation.”

Brant-n-LA
Guest
Brant-n-LA

‘But Dr Williams says the argument that “there’s one law for everybody… I think that’s a bit of a danger”.’

Absolutely wrong as to the civil and criminal law within a specific nation, but exactly the right approach to relationships between the churches of the Anglican Communion. He’s got it backwards, that’s all.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

What I think he is saying is that he believes that society needs to allow some level of discretion which allows religionists to opt out of particular laws which they disagree with – on much the same lines as exemptions for the church in terms of employing gays in relationships for a limited number of jobs

Similarly , aspects of sharia law particularly in the ‘private’ sphere should be viewed as acceptable for the same reasons – and are effectively already in operation.

--sheila--
Guest
--sheila--

“ABC It’s very important hat you mention there the word ‘choice’; I think it would be quite wrong to say that we could ever licence so to speak a system of law for some community which gave people no right of appeal, no way of exercising the rights that are guaranteed to them as citizens in general, so that a woman in such circumstances would have to know that she was not signing away for good and all; now this is a matter of detail that I don’t know enough about the detail of the law in the Islamic law… Read more »

Raspberry Rabbit
Guest

He’s never seemed like a ‘headline hound’ so I don’t think he’s trying to be outrageous. I don’t think Rowan’s very careful about what he says, though. ‘Thoughts in progress’ just sorta slip out. I think that the normal cerebral gatekeeper who prevents me and you from suddenly standing up and saying ‘Oh look – a fat lady!’ has not been doing his job for a long time and has made the poor man appear quite autistic.

Andrew Brown
Guest

mm has it right.

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I expect a “clarification” soon enough. No American politician, from the extreme social-conservative Republican to the extreme Trotskyite liberal, would advocate different laws for different people. Both extremes would like to control us, but they understand that they must pass it into law, a law for everyone. No religious leader, surely no Episcopalian, would suggest Sharia law for Muslims, general US and state laws for others. ABC’s office will have a “comment”, I guess, by tomorrow. I hope the Brown Government also has something to say. The American melting-pot continues its happy melting; the force is irresistible.

ettu
Guest
ettu

So– this is good? I see a day when easy transition between Islam and Christianity becomes possible – somewhat similar to obtaining a degree from an advertisement on the back of a pack of matches – no doubt lawyers will advise clients which court of law will view their issues more favorably and the choice of religion will then follow that advice. Yes, Rowan certainly enters on a path without looking down the road to where the curves and croosroads show up. He has now created a new niche within the legal profession and within Islam itself – all with… Read more »

Michael Keith
Guest
Michael Keith

I’ve lost all respect for the AoC. I live in the U.S. which derived it’s legal sytem from English Common law developed over a 1000 years. Any person whether citizen, resident or tourist of any country on this planet must abide by the laws of the country they are currently in. To even suggest more than one legal system would not bring social cohesion but anarchy.

John-Julian, OJN
Guest
John-Julian, OJN

Interesting!

The Archbishop thinks that local, cultural variations should be respected and allowed — except when those local, cultural variations involved the American Episcopal Church ordaining and marrying gays! We’re always the exception!

For some reason it seems that Muslims should have more rights than Episcopalians!

If Muslims should be allowed to follow their own Sharia law in England, then Episcopalians should be allowed to follow their own constitutional and canonical laws in the US.

ruidh
Guest
ruidh

Yikes! I’ve been a big supporter of Rowan Williams, but this statement just defies belief. Is he advocating striking off an offender’s hand for stealing? The death penalty by stoning for adultery? At least in the US, this would be viewed as “cruel and unusual punishment” which is strictly prohibited by our Constitution. Recalling my Locke, the law of the land must represent a compact among the people — all the people. If Muslims want to live under Sharia law, I know several places in the world where they can do so. Sharia is antithetical to the Western concept of… Read more »

Stephen Roberts
Guest
Stephen Roberts

Merseymike: “allows religionists to opt out of particular laws which they disagree with – on much the same lines as exemptions for the church in terms of employing gays in relationships”

A perfect example of why the parallel legal codes that Rowan suggests are legally unworkable. What happens when a Scottish Jew is taken to sharia court by an English Muslim over a business transaction? Which law do we apply, Scottish or English, Sharia or Levitical?

Wilf
Guest
Wilf

What’s he on about? Equality before the law is one of the principles on which justice is based in England and Wales. If, for instance, the Family Courts are having to apply different systems to different classes of people then that is a recipe for disaster. If, however, there is some sort of recognition of decisions made after arbitration or mediation according to certain (e.g. in this case) Muslim principles then that is not actually (in my humble opinion) bringing Sharia law into English law but allowing people to come to decisions that are recognised by law according to mutually… Read more »

winnowing
Guest

Lets just put the best face on it and say that Sharia has few conflicts with human rights or the law of a given country. Even assuming that, which I don’t, the foundation of a western liberal democracy is the principle of the ‘rule of law’. The law stands as an arbiter between people with all of their cultural and religious baggage. It appears foolish to me to abandon that principle for an ideal of social cohesion that may or may not be attainable, or frankly even exist in the real world. And quite frankly if it comes down to… Read more »

John Omani
Guest
John Omani

Gerry – an excellent post. The policy of ‘seperate but equal’ is a cornerstone of hardline Muslim opinion, and +Canterbury has played right into their hands. This will dismay that modest group of liberal Muslims who have been working hard to challenge these assumptions within the community. The questions you raise about a two tier legal system, and the pressures that will now be released within the Muslim community for all adherents to stay within the Shar’ia system are insightful, obviously too insightful for Dr Williams. ‘Separate but equal’ never works. It creates ghettoisation and discrimination by its very nature.… Read more »

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

I think the clue lies in this answer by the Archbishop: “That is why there is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law as we already do with some kinds of aspects of other religious law.” What I think he is referring to is the fact that English law gives some form of recognition to decisions of Jewish religious courts. (This is a million miles from any area in which I can claim expertise, and I can’t give any kind of detail.) If he does mean that there should be equality… Read more »

Anthony W
Guest
Anthony W

In order to be nondiscriminatory you would have to give everyone the option of which system of law they will be tried under. So you would have to create a dhimmi class for the non-Muslims who might prefer or settle for Sharia law in certain cases. And how would cases be settled when one party opts for Sharia law and the other for English law?

Richard Lyon
Guest
Richard Lyon

Just when I think that Rowan Williams couldn’t possibly get his foot any deeper into his mouth, he is once again able to amaze me. This man has to be one of the most politically incompetent leaders in the history of the western world.

Frank Durkee
Guest
Frank Durkee

The ABC has just demonstrated that he has given up on the reality of a ‘common good’. No wonder the Anglican Comunion is falling apart on his watch.

Pat O'Neill
Guest
Pat O'Neill

On one level, I understand this, having lived in and near an orthodox Jewish community in Brooklyn for several years. Divorces, as an example, were handled by rabbinic courts within the orthodox community before being “ratified” (for want of a better term) by the civil authorities. On another level, though, the orthodox Jews of Brooklyn never assumed that they had the right to, for example, stone an adulterer. The problem is that you first have to have agreement among the religious community in question as to what issues are appropriately handled through the religious courts and what ones are appropriately… Read more »

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“We’ve tried that over here (see Crow, Jim) and it’s a really bad idea.” But Katherine, there are other options besides Jim Crow and cultural absorption. We Canadians haven’t adopted the melting pot idea, we value the cultural mosaic. Now it isn’t ideal either, and we have had recently to deal with the threat of Sharia Law in family court situations. Thanks be to God clearer minds prevailed. I am appalled that the ABpofC would actually advocate the adoption of laws that deprive half the population of justice in areas of family law. This is the first time I’ve actually… Read more »

toujoursdan
Guest

They proposed this in Ontario, Canada. The loudest opposition came from Muslims themselves (esp women’s groups.) The government dropped it. Everyone assumes all Muslims are of one mind on this… they aren’t. Most moved to Canada (and the UK, presumably) to get away from these laws.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Guest
Cynthia Gilliatt

It’s one thing to allow Old Order Mennonites to educate their kids only up to 8th grade, or to allow students to be absent on their own religious holidays. Christian Scientist parents have been taken to court to force them to treat gravely ill kids – with mixed results, I believe. It’s quite another thing to excuse people from large areas of civil law – divorce and marriage for example. The Mormons abandoned polygamy, if I remember correctly, as the possibility of statehood for Utah loomed. They knew that could not come in as the one state allowing it. The… Read more »

IT
Guest
IT

This isn’t just about the Muslims. I don’t htink he’s really thought through things like honor killing, stoning, or polygamy, wearing the hijab, or … or…. or…. . This is about he wants an “out” for conservative Christians too, in regard to gays and women. Once the state’s laws don’t apply to everyone, they essentially apply to no one. Political correctness (an issue I have with the British left) to the n’th degree. I remember some years ago that a storybook about a girl taming a horse was dismissed as racist by the London Council, because the girl was white… Read more »

Maduka
Guest
Maduka

We tend to forget that Williams is also the leader of a world wide communion whose membership includes Sudan and Nigeria (which have suffered heavily under Sharia law).

He is either naive or confused and clearly not up to the job.

Joe Cassidy
Guest

I think there are advantages and disadvantages to Rowan’s suggestion. In Canada, there have been experiments using Native people’s conflict resolution systems to address problems that would otherwise be settled in court. They’re especially good at addressing the problem of restitution to victims of crime. Civil courts are generally hopeless at restitution: people may get punished, but restitution is rarely even given a second thought. On that basis, one can imagine other local forms of conflict resolution. However, such local methods of conflict resolution need checks and balances: they need the possibility of appeal. I would be hard-pressed to imagine… Read more »

Dale Rye
Guest
Dale Rye

Members of the secular society are allowed to “opt out” of the secular laws and secular courts on a routine basis, through contracts that provide for binding arbitration and define the rules that are to be applied. England already allows voluntary recourse to some Orthodox Jewish and Church of England courts. Why should Muslims not have the same ability? Are they not entitled to the same rights as a credit card company? If you read the article and listen to the interview, +Rowan is perfectly clear that sharia would only apply when all the relevant parties voluntarily submitted to its… Read more »

david wh
Guest
david wh

I suspect Merseymike has correctly highlighted one aspect of +Rowan’s motivation. He seemed pretty upset last year that the government appears to have abandoned the idea of accommodating consciencious objection. (Not +Rowan’s conscience (which is in line with the SORs) but the conscience of others – particularly the Roman Catholics (who he thinks are wrong!!!)

david wh
Guest
david wh

… ps I just thought of an idea for the Lambeth Conference. How about the Bishops choosing the first representatively selected ABofC from among the Primates?

That should get everyone to come!

Lapinbizarre
Guest
Lapinbizarre

When I said that the US “melting pot” is not a panacea, Katherine, I was not dismissing it out of hand – personally I also think that it’s working better – far better – than the British attempts at a multicultural system – I just didn’t want to open the door to diverting the thread to discussion of the pros & cons of the American system, as can easily happen. Incidentally I, like you, live “over here”.

Merseymike
Guest
Merseymike

I really should add that I was trying to explain RW’s stance, not justify it. I don’t agree with it. But – I hope that evangelical Christians will accept the logic of rejection by agreeing to give up their religious exemptions to laws they do not approve of. otherwise, they really don’t have any coherentr arguments against this suggestion other than ‘my religion is better than your religion’

Which simply isn’t part of a contemporary secular democracy. No exceptions from the law for religious reasons. It should apply to all.

Leonardo Ricardo
Guest
Leonardo Ricardo

I think it’s time the Archbishop of Canterbury ought try and concentrate on the discrimination, persecution, demoralization and criminalization of fellow Christians at the Anglican Communion.

Speaking out against injustice, exclusion and the demoralization/abomination of fellow Christians at all levels of Churchlife ought begin at HOME at The Body of Christ.

Spirit of Vatican II
Guest

We in the West must be true to our tradition and give good example to Muslim countries that we wish to lead away from integrism and toward democracy. That means we must uphold the painfully established principle of the separation of Church and State. Britain could give the lead here by disestablishing the Church of England, the last bastion of the Union of Throne and Altar.

Jerry Hannon
Guest
Jerry Hannon

ruidh posted: “Recalling my Locke, the law of the land must represent a compact among the people — all the people. If Muslims want to live under Sharia law, I know several places in the world where they can do so. Sharia is antithetical to the Western concept of law and human rights. It should not be permitted anywhere Liberty is desired.” Amen. If I want to drink wine with dinner at a restaurant, or go skinny dipping at the beach, I can’t expect to live in Saudi Arabia. And if a conservative Muslim wants to apply Sharia law to… Read more »

Sharia Law?
Guest

The Archbishop is a dangerous buffoon, His suggestion is divisive and dangerous.

Christopher Shell
Guest
Christopher Shell

The Ab’s suggstions, if carried out, would probably prove unworkable and chaotic in the extreme. But well done to him for inadvertently raising the issue of legal monopoly. If there is some uniform dogmatic law that applies to a whole country (as there needs to be) then people are less likely to want alternatives if the said law is coherent and based on truth rather than legal fictions. After all, for every point that could be brought against sharia law on divorce for example, at least one or two could be brought against our existing divorce laws: (1) Divorce involves… Read more »

Alan Harrison
Guest
Alan Harrison

Andrew wrote: “the extreme Trotskyite liberal”.

Duh???? What on earth would a “Trotskyite liberal”, extreme or moderate, look like? Having been active in left politics for about thirty years, I have some basic acquaintance with Trotsky’s thought and followers, and I’m totally flummoxed by the idea that either the theory or its adherents have any connection with liberalism.

Ford Elms
Guest
Ford Elms

“Why should Muslims not have the same ability? Are they not entitled to the same rights as a credit card company?”

Are Muslim women not entitled to the same rights as other women? Should a Muslim woman be at risk of destitution with no hope of protection if her husband wishes to divorce her? Should she automatically lose her children in that instance? As has been said, we have been through this in Canada, and there’s as many human rights issues around women’s rights under Shari’a as there are issues of the religious rights of Muslims.

Robert Ian Williams
Guest
Robert Ian Williams

Is the key word ” inevitable ” as Surely Rowan is right….Muslims could through sustained immigration and a higher birth rate become the majority a hundred years from now,as the rest of us, produce neagtive population growth due to contraception,abortion and an attitude that children are a burden.We are sitting and reaping a demographic time bomb and that is why a blind eye is being shown to Eastern European immigration.

Rowan Williams is NO duffer

Justin Lewis-Anthony
Guest

It’s a shame that TA doesn’t have a CAPTCHA facility that would prevent anybody who hasn’t read the Archbishop’s speech from actually commenting on it. Honestly; the number of people today (and not just here) who come up with sophomore “trick” questions to prove that the Archbishop is an idiot, or mad, or dangerous! *Read the speech*, and then comment. (And don’t say you can’t understand it either. I’ve got no legal training and precious little philosophical training, and I managed to get the gist of what he said.)