Thursday, February 14, 2008

Archbishop pushes Islamic law?

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual leader of the world's 77 million Anglicans, poked a stick in a hornets nest last week. According to media reports, he said it "seemed unavoidable" that Britain would have to adopt elements of Sharia law, the Islamic legal code. Here's a good explanation of the controversy, from the Sunday Times of London.

A frenzied swarm of critics quickly emerged, from Prime Minister Gordon Brown to the tabloid Sun ("It's easy to dismiss Archbiship of Canterbury Rowan Williams as a silly old goat. In fact, he's a dangerous threat to our nation.") to fomer Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey ("His is a view I cannot share. Acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation.")

As the Times reported, "He produced one of the most unlikely coalitions seen in Britain in recent times. He was attacked by conservatives, liberals, all three leading political parties, fellow Christians, Jews and, indeed, some Muslims. "

The repeatedly stung archbishop attempted to clarify his remarks on his Web site, including links to the original speech and his interview with the BBC.

Rowan Williams is a brilliant man whose deep theological musings tend to be misunderstood when simplified into sound bites. I think it's clear that what he intended to say was far less radical than his critics accuse him of saying. A partial accommodation of religious law -- as is already done with the Orthodox Jewish community -- is far from the parallel legal system that some accuse him of advocating.

Still, even if it was the right thing to say, it was the wrong time to say it. At a time when Western democracies feel threatened by immigration's effect on culture and militant Islam's use of terror, suggesting that Britain's legal system make room for Sharia law was incredibly brave, stunningly oblivious or simply foolish.

What do you think?


Danbo59 said...
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Danbo59 said...

I vote for "foolish."

Citizenship (or even non-resident alien status) has its rewards, but it also carries with it responsibilities, duties and expectations. One of those expectations is that just laws are to be obeyed. To disobey a law, even as a form of protest against one which the individual feels is unjust, carries with it an expectation of consequence.

To consider creating special laws and/or courts for Muslims (or any other group of citizenry) is to deny said people equal and fair treatment under the law.

Of course, with regards to the general topic of this blog, we must bear in mind that laws should be fair yet reasonable, firm yet compassionate and that they should serve to provide for the general public protection from those who would exercise their rights at the expense of another's.

Anonymous said...

I say worse than foolish. There is no reason for England or any other western country to adopt Sharia law in any form. You would never see any Islamic country doing that for us. They abhore anything western but they expect us to repsect their laws.

Iztok said...

I would say any such attempt is step backward in time. It has been proven that secular laws have positive influence on religion and its diversity. Religion in US thrives because of separation of state and religion in such matters.

Sharia is nothing but a human concoction of medieval religious opinion. He lectures the UK on the benefits of sharia law – made by bearded men, for men – and wants the alternative legal system to be accommodated within UK democracy in the spirit of inclusion and cohesion. What he did on Thursday was to convince other Britons, white, black and brown, that Muslims want not equality but exceptionalism and their own domains. He would not want his own girls and women, I am sure, to "choose" to be governed by these laws he breezily endorses. And he is naive to the point of folly if he imagines it is possible to pick and choose the bits that are relatively nice to the girls or ones that seem to dictate honorable financial transactions.

Look around the Islamic world where sharia rules and, in every single country, these ordinances reduce woman's human value to less than half that is accorded a male; homosexuals are imprisoned or killed, children have no free voice or autonomy, authoritarianism rules and infantilises populations.

No, we don't need this in any modern society.

Thanks but no thanks!

Danbo59 said...

anonymous wrote, "You would never see any Islamic country doing that for us. They abhor anything western but they expect us to respect their laws."

Very true. My uncle worked for TWA back in the 80's, just after Reagan took office. He was stationed in the middle east. The first thing TWA told Americans when they arrived in the US "compound" was not to venture into town on Saturday (if I recall correctly) morning. To do so would get one a forced front-row view of the day's executions of petty thieves, drug users and pushers and the like. It was their way of telling Americans, "Watch your step, or this might be you."

Danbo59 said...

Iztok states, "...[Sharia Laws] reduce [a] woman's human value to less than half that is accorded a male; homosexuals are imprisoned or killed, children have no free voice or autonomy, authoritarianism rules and infantilises populations."

As the Brits would say, "Spot on!" This is where any religion can fail its purpose -- when it advocates a position short of compassion and decency in dealing with one's fellow human beings.

This goes back to my opinion that it is acceptable to pass judgment on actions and behavior but it is less than desirable to pass judgment on a person.

Danbo59 said...

Jane, I hope you will allow the following post.

In the past few days I have done some serious soul-searching and I have found myself wanting in many respects. I have spoken with some people I trust and admire with regards to what has been transpiring on this blog and my frequent loss of temper with one or more of my fellow posters.

I have come to the conclusion that I owe a sincere apology to Iztok, Pornstudent, DJ and probably a few others as well. It is herein offered with a humble hope that you will forgive my past outbursts and allow me to resume serious and mature discussion with each of you.

I respect each and every one of you and the positions you offer here. I've come to the conclusion that each of you is struggling, as am I, finding your own way in this life and trying to live a life of which you can be proud.

I'd also like to apologize to the author of this blog, Jane, for having to put up with me and for wasting her time forcing her to remind me of that which I know so well.

I hope we can all find more common ground than we do differences.

Sincerely submitted,


Anonymous said...

Rowan Williams is an idiot who is systematically overseeing the destruction of the Anglican and Episcopalian Churches. As an Episcopalian myself, it worries me greatly that he has done nothing but allow the moral foundations of the church to be eroded since he became Archbishop. And I'm not the only one: Entire congregations here in the US have left the official Episcopalian organization, and the Anglican congregations in Africa have protested vehemently over decisions like allowing gays to openly be ministers and even bishops. This latest debacle demonstrates that he should be removed from his position; failing that, the Episcopal Church here in the US should move to sever all ties with the Church of England.

He's a crummy representative of a faith that he leads. For him to say what he said is like the Pope endorsing Lutheranism; it simply isn't done.

Iztok said...

Danbo, we all disagree on just about every aspect of religion. It is hard to find two Christians that would agree on everything about their religion. It is even harder to find anyone who can speak openly on what they truly believe. Most of us here are passionate in our endeavors in and outside of this blog. I don't take it personally (well not too much :)

I still think that people condemning homosexuality are bigots. But at the same token I realize that some of my remarks about religion can be perceived just as bigoted from your perspective.

Having said that, I would have no hesitation to sit down with just about every one of you posting on this blog and have a drink. Hey I would even buy a round for those who are very active here (like Danbo, pornstudent, Jane, and others). I just wish they would at least use their first names as form of identification on these blogs. Would make it easier (at least for me).

Anyway, I don't feel you have anything to apologize in regards to me.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok wrote, "I still think that people condemning homosexuality are bigots."

By the same reasoning, would people condemning pedophilia be considered bigots? If not, why?

Is bigotry in the eye of the beholder. If bigotry can be reduced to the difference between what two people believe on a common subject, are we not all bigots? And if so, is this necessarily a bad thing, then?

Iztok said...

Danbo, so you are saying that pedophilia and homosexuality are on the same level? If you approve one you must approve the other? If not, why not?

As for me. Homosexuality is a loving at between two consenting adults. It is something that is completely in line with the golden rule. On the other hand pedophilia is not. It is not act between two consenting adults. It is asymmetrical relationship.

I can understand why you would like to present pedophilia on the same level, considering certain Christian branch clerics practicing "no child's behind left" and protecting its members doing so.

You need to explain why act between two loving consenting adults is wrong. We had similar discussion (or exact same one) when it was mentioned that sexual act should only be done if there is a chance of procreation. By the same note two heterosexuals shouldn't be practicing if they are sterile and know it. So that argument is clearly not the right one. You are free to say that it is because your particular god/scripture says so (which you've failed to clearly state). In such case you have all the right to do so, but you don't have the right to impose such rule to those who do not believe in your god/scripture.

Danbo59 said...

Iztok wrote, "I can understand why you would like to present pedophilia on the same level, considering certain Christian branch clerics practicing "no child's behind left" and protecting its members doing so."

I'll skip taking the bait, thank you.

Iztok said...

Danbo, so why did you bring pedophilia vs. homosexuality to the same level then? Do you agree that pedophilia is abuse of kids by adults while homosexuality is a consenting act between two loving adults on the same level as heterosexuality is? That the only difference between heterosexuality and homosexuality is that in one case you have two different gender adults and in the other two same gender adults. No other practical difference.

So if no other difference (if there is, you would need to provide what it is in the extend that can't be applied to heterosexuals), why do you still think homosexuality is wrong? (Short of your scripture telling you so.)

Anonymous said...

If we want our laws to be moral and if we only know what is moral because God and/or scripture tells us, then God and/or scripture must be the basis for our laws. What is a democratic, free, society to do if its citizens disagree on what God and/or scripture is? Compromise? War? Imprison the Minority? We should, and do, have another basis for our laws - the freedom to do what we want as long as it doesn't infringe on another's freedom.

Danbo59 said...

pornstudent opined, "We should, and do, have another basis for our laws - the freedom to do what we want as long as it doesn't infringe on another's freedom."

Pornstudent, I agree with your assessment of how our society's laws should be determined. Good point.

Jane Pope said...

I'd like to remind everyone to keep your comments civil and in good taste.

Iztok, the third paragraph of your 9:24 a.m. comment crosses that line.

Iztok said...

Jane, why does it cross the line? Isn't it not true that certain branch of Christianity clerics are practicing pedophilia and their institution is covering for them?

Here is just one link:

"Roughly two-thirds of top U.S. Catholic leaders have allowed priests accused of sexual abuse to keep working, a systematic practice that spans decades and continues today, a three-month Dallas Morning News review shows. The study - the first of its kind - looked at the records of the top leaders of the nation's 178 mainstream Roman Catholic dioceses, including acting administrators in cases where the top job is vacant."

"Most protected priests were accused of sexually abusing minors - primarily adolescent boys, but also younger ones, and a sizable number of girls of various ages. The newspaper's study also covered behavior that indicated a sexual attraction to minors, such as viewing child pornography or, in one case, trading sexually charged e-mails with someone a priest believed was a minor."

So tell me how is stating facts crossing the line? I would say that acts of those clerics is what is crossing the line and protection of such sexual abusers of our children is what crosses the line.

Jane Pope said...

Iztok, the facts are not at issue. Yes, there is a problem with pedophilia in the ranks of Catholic priests and the church has covered for them. That is beyond question. My problem with that paragraph ("I can understand why you would like to present pedophilia on the same level, considering certain Christian branch clerics practicing "no child's behind left" and protecting its members doing so."):

1. The phrase "no child's behind left" is tasteless.

2. The wording made me think you were trying to smear danbo59 by association with the pedophilia scandal just because he's Catholic. It wasn't blatant or I would have deleted the post. I just want you to be aware that it was questionable.

I received more than one complaint about your post.

Iztok said...



The phrase is a word play on "no child left behind" obviously.

Wonder why no one objected on Danbo's comparison of homosexuality with pedophilia. It is clearly an immoral act to compare two loving adults with acts of child abuse. I would like to hear what was the justification of doing so. (I assume his statement was smearing of practicing homosexuals and trying to bring them down to the level of pedophiles. What do you think?)

Anonymous said...

I believe that we have started to stray off Topic. The posting talked about Sharia law being allowed in tadem with British laws not sexual preference. I dont believe or condone any of that behavior but it certainly is not require here.

JayCee said...

Another famous Brit would have said: “Much Ado About Nothing (New)”. While the Archbishop says he is not suggesting “the introduction of parallel legal jurisdictions”, they were introduced in Europe long ago. One of the few benefits of being a Jew in Medieval times was that the Christian church-state usually let Jews seek justice under their own religious courts, and in their own ghetto communities.

And as the Archbishop notes, that has continued to some extent with present-day British Orthodox Jewry, although there no longer are official ghetto boundaries. So why not within the closely-knit Muslim community?

All the good cleric is trying to do is to get a nation of people to think about juggling religious freedom, cultural differences and secular law to derive the best from each.

This nation has dealt with similar dilemmas from time to time. The Amish don’t believe their children need to attend school beyond a certain level. The state of Ohio took a different stance quite a few years back. I think some sort of legal compromise was worked out. Some fundamentalist Mormons still practice polygamy. The federal government says it’s a crime. So when do you turn your back and let the individual communities exercise their beliefs, like some are doing in Utah, and when do you get tough on them?

As a human being and an American, I think that religious and social organizations should be free – within their churches, homes and private meetings – to do what they want, with the understanding that secular, Constitutional law trumps all. If you don’t want homosexuals marrying in or attending your church, no one’s forcing you. At the same time, if secular, federal law allows certain tax and legal benefits to married couples, faithful homosexual couples should have the right to marry in civil unions and reap those same benefits.

To deny them that right is not only outrageously unfair, it is a blatant attempt to impose private religious law and beliefs on the secular, public side of our nation. A couple is a couple.

And as an Episcopalian, I think the problem with Rowan Williams is that he’s too brilliant for itty-bitty, narrow-minded, fundamentalist, reactionary evangelicals to comprehend. And so was Jesus.

Edie said...

Thank you Jaycee.

Your answer was perfect. I wasn't quite sure how I wanted to address some of the comments that seem like a knee-jerk reaction to a religion many fear here (and in Europe).

I am not an Islamic expert, nor would I want to be tried under Sharia law, but the chance of that is far from what I believe Rowan Williams was suggesting.

ThinkingMan said...

I'd like to weigh in here, too. I know Danbo, Iztok, and some others from the Forum Comments board, and respect their views, though I often disagree with some from each of them.

The Archbishop specifically stated in his remarks that he was not advocating the imposition - or even adoption - of the specific Sharia laws as practiced by Saudis, Iranian, etc. He was using the term "Sharia" to describe a class of laws based on Islamic teachings. The specifics of those laws would be reviewed, and would have to be approved by legal officials in the UK before they could be accepted as an alternative method, similar to the Hebrew laws available to British Jews.

Danbo59 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danbo59 said...

The Archbishop's comments reinforce the necessity of keeping religious officials out of government. "Render to Caesar what is Caesar's, and render to God what is God's."

England's "state" religion makes it all too easy for this type of slippery slope to be oft-traveled.

The Catholic Church, while imploring its laity to remember their Christian principles in holding any type of public office, frowns upon its clergymen holding positions in government.

One need only to remember the image of Pope John Paul II chewing out Father Ernesto Cardenal in Nicarauga in 1983. Cardenal thought that by kneeling on the tarmac and kissing the Pope's ring that the Pontiff would set aside his anger at him for holding the position of Minister of Culture of the Sandinista regime. Pope John Paul II scolded him right then and there, in full view of the cameras -- for all the world to see.

Anonymous said...

Some feel that their own moral judgement is or ought to be the law. However, since the law must apply to all equally, there are some limits that reasonable people agree on. These become laws. In America, we rely heavily on the law in England years ago and that came largely from th Bible.

For clergy of a Christian church to endorse Islamic law seems to be a contradiction and should call for a review by his church. If he no longer believes what his church has taught for years, he should have the grace to resign and join those who want Isamic law.

Anonymous said...

The Pope said it best here:

more later