What did the good Archbishop actual say?
- Dr Rowan Williams said that the introduction of parts of Islamic law here would help to maintain social cohesion and seems unavoidable.
- Sharia courts exist already.
- We should “face up to the fact” that some British citizens do not relate to the British legal system, he said, and that Muslims should not have to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.
- A lot of what is written on this confusing subject suggests “the ideal situation is one in which there is one law and only one law for everybody”. He went on: “That principle is an important pillar of our social identity as a western liberal democracy.” “It’s a misunderstanding to suppose that that means people don’t have other affiliations, other loyalties, which shape and dictate how they behave in society, and the law needs to take some account of that.”
- “An approach to law which simply said there is one law for everybody and that is all there is to be said . . . I think that’s a bit of a danger.”
Sadly what Dr Williams omitted to say, seriously undermines his argument. He did not celebrate the fact that our long established legal system - combines both statute law and common law, nor indeed did he mention that the central tenet of our legal framework is equality.
From the moment of your first breath to your very last breath everyone is equal under our law and before our courts.
Dr Williams is a seasoned intellectual and a trained academic - naturally his instincts are to look deeper and broader at the theological questions of the day and try and shape an inclusive Christan consensus around his personal sense of values and direction.
As the leader of the Anglican Church, this is indeed what he must do, lead his flock.
But leadership demands an understanding of your subject and your flock. On both counts Dr Williams was simply wrong and instead of raising a debate he has fuelled a row. To suggest, as he did, “other affiliations” within a revised legal framework could be accommodated is simply unworkable. Our principles of judicial independence would be compromised and we would lose our systems universal respect. Such a suggestion is intellectually flawed.
Dr Williams has seriously misunderstood the mood of a normally tolerant British society which sadly will come to haunt the remainder of his term in office.
To many reasonable and fair minded observers, the establishment of which Dr Williams is a pillar continually gives the impression that British culture and values is something to be ashamed of and must be devalued to accommodate cultures far less tolerant than ours.
I have no doubt Dr Williams is a good man, who allowed his heart to rule his head. On this occasion, he was completely and utterly wrong.
We should forgive him for he knows not, what he has truly done.