Williams under pressure to resign

Outrage has been voiced among senior Church of England clergy and politicians after comments were made about accommodating Islamic Sharia law in Britain by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Catholic News Agency and the BBC report the Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams suggested, during a radio interview, it was "unavoidable" that some form of Sharia law would be introduced in Britain.

Dr Williams said that Sharia and parliamentary law should be given equal status in some areas so that people could choose which governs their lives.

"This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions,
and authorized structures of mediation and conflict resolution," Dr Williams said.

He noted that analogous Jewish courts already operate in Britain and took care to distance his proposal from the "severe punishments" and "inhumanity" of the law in some Islamic states.

Weighing in on the debate was Dr Williams predecessor Lord Carey who said the suggestions are "a view I cannot share".

However, he said Dr Williams should not be forced to quit.

"There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights.

"His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation."

Britain's Catholic leader Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said he was "saddened" by the way the archbishop had been misunderstood.

"I think he did raise a point of considerable interest and concern at the moment, namely, the rights of a religious group within secular state.

"Everyone in Britain must obey the law and therefore the question of how one can be a loyal British citizen and a faithful member of a religious group is a very pertinent question," he said.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that "Sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of Sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes."

"The Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values," the spokesman said.

Tory politician David Davies, who is also Anglican, said he was "astounded" by Dr Williams comments.

"He is a nice enough man, very intellectual, but he has clearly lost the plot," Mr Davies said.

"He's one of the most influential Christian prelates in the world and he's supposed to be standing up for Christianity.

"What he's doing is abandoning his own religion."

Anglican clergymen uhappy with archbishop's proposal of Sharia in UK (Catholic News Agency 10/02/08)
Carey weighs into Sharia law row (BBC 10/02/08)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archbishop of Canterbury
Sharia Law (Wikipedia)

11 Feb 2008