The Archbishop keeps digging – on his own

It was ominous today to hear on the radio that the Archbishops own advisers at Lambeth Palace are briefing that they warned against his remarks on Sharia law.

The Archbishop’s current defence is that he was misunderstood – that he never wanted Sharia law to be a kind of parallel system in the UK. Yet if you examine the text of what he said, helpfully put out by the Church of England (which may undermine him further), it is clear. There are two important remarks:

1. In response to a question putting to him "the application of Sharia Law in certain circumstances…seeems unavoidable" he agreed.
2. He also said "Individuals might choose in certain limited areas whether to seek justice under one system or another".

It is difficult to say he has been misrepresented. Agreeing to a leading question – or failing to say "No" to it – counts as your statement. Any of us who have been through the media mill know that if someone tries a leading question the safest thing to do is to preface your response by "No", or "I can’t agree with that" or "That is not what I said" before exploring whether there are any words you could use that could bring you nearer to the questioner if you wish to go that way.
The statement on seeking justice under an alternative system was not sufficiently hedged. If he had said that everyone had to obey the same law, but religious groups could set up their own arbitration systems under the common law if all parties to the process were volunteers to it he would not be in the trouble he is now in.

I would suggest that he should withdraw these two remarks, and restate his position, making it clear that there has to be one common law agreed by an elected Parliament. There should then be maximum toleration under that law for different religious groups to act as they wish, where their attitudes and practises are compatible with the general law.

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4 Comments

  1. APL
    Posted February 9, 2008 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    It really does not surprise one to hear Williams wittering on in this fashion. As a former adherent to the church of England, it is just too depressingly familiar.

    One should be clear what Williams has said, the rule of the Crown in the United Kingdom should be optional to certain groups!

    We should not forget who he is, neither who his temporal boss is.

    So, does he witter with some authority?

    OR,

    Is he not fit to hold his position?

  2. Nick
    Posted February 9, 2008 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Why does there have to be one law?

    There may be one overriding legal set up with primacy, but that doesn't mean you can't have multiple legal set ups.

    The reason parallel legal systems have sprung up, and people want systems like sharia law goes back to the failure of politicians and its a failure to deliver justice at a reasonable cost.

    It is your failure.

    The evidence is there. The Bloody Sunday inquiry, 180 million. No justice, at a ridiculous cost That's an example at the top end.

    Equitable life where the treasury is still fighting to not pay compensation, in spite of a 6 nil loss in the courts. If the courts don't enforce, there is no justice.

    Down to the bottom end, where government by passes the courts for things like speeding and parking tickets. Here, if you appeal a parking ticket, the local authorities either dismiss or accept, with no consideration of the facts.

    You then have cases like Wendy Alexander where her team says "we broke the law" and the Electoral commission says "not enough evidence".

    Nick

  3. Cliff
    Posted February 9, 2008 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I think you are spot on. There must be one law for all in this nation of ours. It should be a sufficiently broad law to allow groups to have their own codes within that legal framework. For example, as a Catholic, I would not wish to have anything to do with abortion and therefore there should be no legal compulsion for me to take part in it. I say this as a former nurse.
    The question then arises as to how much the state will interfere in peoples and organisation's private matters. I think for example, the recent government legislation that will compel Catholic adoption agencies to place children with homosexual couples.
    I see no problem with Muslims adopting Sharia law providing there is free agreement between the parties concerned and providing that our own national criminal law has not been broken. For example, Sharia law on divorce etc may be acceptable to both parties concerned and could be one approach for those that are sincere in their religious beliefs. It would be similar to agreeing to binding arbitration (unless you are the Home Secretary of course re:police pay) the problem then arises as to the legal position of that arbitration or Sharia court's judgement in relation to enforceability under our law.
    May I state that I would not want to see Sharia law taking precedence over our existing law or just Sharia law in our country. As the birth rate of Islamic people continues to grow faster than that of non-Muslims, then the latter is a real possibility in the future.

    I wonder if The Archbishop was just clumsy in his use of words or if he was stating what many of us feel, i.e. we are seeing the creeping Islamification of our nation.

    I feel the Archbishop is confusing tolerance and appeasement. I am surprised that someone that is clearly an intelligent and academic man could make such a faux pas, however at least it brings the whole topic out for debate and perhaps that was his intention, however we need to keep that debate sensible and rational, without the media stirring up either anti Christian or anti Islamic feelings, sadly I doubt that the media will be able to resist inflaming the situation to sell copy or fill the twenty four hour news programmes.

  4. Posted February 9, 2008 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    The much misquoted Archbishop may need media training, but he has been misunderstood and turned on by much of the media who seem to enjoy blaming Islam for problems caused by some bad leaders like Bush, Hussain and Blair.

    Q1 is alrady done when consented by both parties in some cases so he wasnt wrong to state it.
    Q2 See Q1.

    See http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/news/wato/archbishoptranscri...

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, He graduated from Magdalen College Oxford, has a DPhil and is a fellow of All Souls College. A businessman by background, he has been a director of NM Rothschild merchant bank and chairman of a quoted industrial PLC.

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