Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rowan - The Aftermath

Since my last post, I’ve had time to go through Dr Rowan Williams’ speech at the Royal Courts of Justice and look more closely at his comments on Sharia law.

The first thing I want to say is that it was hard going. As one journalist said to me this morning, “you could go over some paragraphs four or five times and still not understand what he was trying to say.” In parts, it read as if one half of his brain was talking to the other and it was anybody’s guess as to how his thoughts should be interpreted. I do find it slightly alarming that someone supposed to be the leader of an international organisation, someone who has preached countless sermons and delivered countless lectures in his lifetime can be so unintelligible. It is hardly surprising he is said to have been ‘misunderstood,’ given the nature of his lecture.

But has he really been misunderstood? While it is clear the real damage was done on his interview with The World at One, with his worrying comment that having one law for everyone was a bit of a danger, rather than in his lecture, there was an unequivocal underlying assumption made in his presentation that there is a place for Sharia within Britain and, in particular for Sharia family law.

I cannot accept this. I do not believe there is a place in equitable British society for a scheme that allows men to have four wives and to divorce any of them simply by saying one word three times, without the same reciprocal rights for women. I can't imagine the Archbishop actually accepts this either, which makes his comments all the more concerning.

He peppered his lecture throughout with appeals to the need for universality and all due consideration of human rights, and stated that of course no one wants to see the punative, physical punishments so often associated with Sharia. This shows naivety. The head of The Islamic Sharia Council in Britain, speaking on Channel 4 recently, advocated the chopping off of thieves’ hands and the stoning of adulterers in Britain on the grounds it would stop immediately the problems this country has with thieving and adultery.

There is no doubt The Islamic Sharia Council would prefer to live in Britain as an Islamic state, with Sharia the law applicable throughout the land. Attempts are already being made to get Sharia imposed in areas where there is a high Muslim population. The Archbishop must have known this and he has fed and watered these demands in his ill-advised speech.

Most significantly of all, he has failed to stand up for the faith he heads and support those of his flock who are persecuted in many Muslim countries.

I still think he should consider his position, or at the very least, re-think his views on the matter, accept he was wrong and meditate hard on how, in future, he can do a better job of standing up for the Church and religion he leads.

Labels: , ,

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The End of the Road for Rowan?

I was delighted when Dr Rowan Williams was appointed Archbishop of Canterbury. A learned theologian with progressive views, he seemed the ideal choice to inject some strong leadership and common sense into the squabbling Church of England.

Today, his comments on Sharia law question whether he is fit to hold his post. Far from being a progressive voice uniting the Church, he appears to be, to put it bluntly, tearing it further apart, not just internally, but from the State too.

First, in the eyes of many of his flock he behaves treacherously over the planned appointment of Geoffrey John as Bishop of Reading. In refusing to stand by him, despite earlier comments in favour of gay clergy, he lay himself open to allegations of hypocrisy. Then he suggested the C of E may have to “think again” on the ordination of women.

Now, he has effectively condoned the ill-treatment of gay people, women and by default members of the Jewish community, by giving credence to the idea that the practice of Sharia law is acceptable in British society; Sharia law, a system undeniably at odds with British equality laws. His comments, that “it could help social cohesion,” and that we must "face up to the fact" that some citizens do not relate to the British legal system, make him appear little short of certifiable.

There have always been people who have not accepted the British legal system. Such people are called criminals. Why should criminals with a faith position be treated any less leniently? And social cohesion? With one law for one community group and another law for another?

A man holding views as extreme and disloyal as this cannot, surely, remain at the head of a British state institution? Maybe it is time for him to go.

Labels: , ,