Sunday, February 10, 2008

archbishop+sharia law

Rowan Williams is a very clever man.
He is a wise, spiritual man of great integrity.
However, following his speech at the Royal Courts of Justice when he indicated that the adoption of Sharia law in Britain seemed “unavoidable”, it would seem that he is also a very naive and, perhaps, misguided man. To my mind, it wasn’t so much what he had to say (although I have reservations about a number of issues), but how he said it.
Andrew Brown, in an excellent article in yesterday’s “Guardian”, gave a number of examples of what Williams said and what he felt he meant to say. Brown’s analysis also included the following:
There are people at Lambeth Palace who could have told Williams what the headlines were going to say this morning. My understanding is that some of them did, but he thought he knew better…. The archbishop may despise the media and we are often despicable. But we are the only instrument with which a sculptor of public opinion can work and the moment he decided to go on the “World at One” he put himself in our hands and should have known what would happen. It’s no use being an elitist if you don’t understand the constraints under which an elite must operate”.
As you might have noticed, I’ve been going on about “The West Wing” recently!
Strangely, my instant reaction to news of Williams’s speech was: “CJ would never have let him say that”!
(and I'm sorry if you know nothing about "WW" - CJ is the White House Press Secretary!)


Gareth Rae said...

I have just read Archbishop Rowan's speech in full. It is long and requires concentration. I had to turn off the music and read it 'aloud' in my head. Even so I am not sure I understood it all. But what I did understand of it made sense and deserved to be said/heard. It is extremely academic in its structure and language but we have to remember the audience, for whom it was entirely appropriate. We cannot expect the head of the Church of England to reduce his pronouncements to pithy soundbites to satisfy the gutter press hacks.

The Archbishop's role is traditionally seen as being one of holding the church together and when he fails to do so, as over the issues of female/homosexual clergy, he is considered to have failed. In my opinion, far more important is the need to make the historic church relevant to the contemporary world we live in, and if this means challenging us to reconsider our attitudes to other people and institutions then he is doing a good job and I am 100% behind him.

As I understand it he was attempting to bridge the ever widening gap between our state and the muslim community and if there was ever a time to do so it is now.

My ... I have gone on a bit. Do let me know what you think of it all.

If you haven't read the whole lecture it is at You'll need to turn your music off!!!

bigdaddystevieB said...

I agree with most of what you say, Gareth! I must stress from the outset that I’m a great supporter of Rowan Williams and continue to be so. Yes, I have now read the lecture in full (with no background music, as suggested!) and feel completely drained by the effort! It’s clearly wonderfully researched and, as he says attempts only “to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state”.
I agree that he was attempting to bridge the widening gap between our state and the muslim community (and that it was an appropriate time to do so). I agree with that it was entirely appropriate for its audience. I also agree that he should not be reducing his comments to “pithy soundbites to satisfy the gutter press”. I don’t care what the gutter press thinks, but I thought it was significant that what Williams said had been vilified by virtually all of the Bristish media.
It’s just possible that I might have been a little harsh when I said I thought he’d been “very na├»ve” and “misguided”! However, I do feel strongly that he should have anticipated how the media might react to his pronouncements (even if they didn’t fully understand them!) and worked with journalists in some way that ensured against the current knee-jerk reactions.
As it stands, whether we agree or disagree with the Archbishop, the majority of the general public have probably had their prejudices reinforced – the stereo-typical vicar-cum-monk with the white beard, “talking a load of tosh” from his own irrelevant world again; the Church is definitely not for me!”.
Over the weekend, I think I read that the two principal objectors from the General Synod were a Colonel and a Brigadier (I might have got that slightly wrong?). Now, if someone had told me that BEFORE I even knew what Williams had said, I’m sure I’d have INSTANTLY lined up on Williams’s side (pathetic I know)!!
Alex Kirby’s analysis on the BBC website contains this interesting, pithy comment: “There is a tradition in Christianity of holy men and women known ‘as fools for Christ’, innocents who often used unconventional or even shocking behaviour to challenge accepted norms. It seems an apt description of Rowan Williams”.

I thought the Archbishop’s comments at the Synod today were excellent…. but what do I know?

alan broadway said...

sharia or islamic law already operates in the uk, in the context of 'private law'. there is no particularly problem with that; local 'disputes' are better dealt with by 'arbitration' if at all possible, without recourse to the law. but national or 'public law' must prevail; in that sense such must be 'european law'.

rowan williams is an intelligent, thoughtful and honest man and an articulate speaker. his comments certainly have prompted debate...and thats a good thing, but why is such notice paid to the head of the church of england? in the uk, whilst 71% may describe themselves as christian only around 2% of anglicans on average attend church. with other religious assembly at around 2% catholic, 4% muslim, 2% other, it would appear that religion is not particularly relevant to 90% of the uk's population.

on the statistics available it would appear better to take religion completely out of law, education etc.