Is it over for the Imam of Canterbury?

Is it over for the Imam of Canterbury?
by David Virtue

Rumors have been circulating for some time that the Archbishop of Canterbury might resign following the Lambeth Conference.

Sources in the UK have told VirtueOnline that mounting pressure from nearly all quarters in the church make his job untenable since he has single-handedly offended almost every group in Anglican Christendom.

But will he? In his latest missive, the Imam of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, called for Islamic law to be recognized in Britain. He declared that Sharia and Parliamentary law should be given equal legal status so the people could choose which governs their lives.

This raised the prospect of Islamic courts in Britain with full legal powers to approve polygamous marriages, grant easy divorce for men and prevent finance firms from charging interest.

His comments sparked a furor of responses, mostly negative from media, religious and secular pundits and some Islamic leaders, with one Church of England bishop calling on him to resign.

The Prime Minister, early on, distanced himself from Dr. Williams's remarks. Gordon Brown's spokesman said, "Our general position is 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."

Dr. Williams's words opened a chasm over Islam between Church of England senior leaders, who are already trying to deal with an Anglican war over gay rights which broke out after Williams was appointed archbishop.

Within hours of the BBC interview being posted to their website, hundreds of commentators had written in to the site protesting, some calling for Williams' to resign.

The Bishop of Rochester, Pakistani-born Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, said this, "English law is rooted in the Judaeo-Christian tradition and, in particular, our notions of human freedoms derive from that tradition. In my view, it would be simply impossible to introduce a tradition, like Sharia into this corpus without fundamentally affecting its integrity."

Nazir-Ali is under police protection after receiving death threats for writing in January that Islamic extremism had turned some British communities into "'no-go' areas" and that there are ongoing attempts to "impose an Islamic character on certain areas."

Damien Thompson, editor of the Catholic Herald newspaper and a blogger at the Daily Telegraph, wrote that the Archbishop's comments were the "most monumentally stupid thing I have ever heard an Archbishop of Canterbury say. In fact, it's more than stupid, it's disgusting.

"The idea that 'one law for everyone' is 'a bit of a danger', as Williams argues, goes against every tradition of English law and culture that the Primate of All England is supposed to uphold." Thompson wrote that if he had been quoted accurately, the Archbishop of Canterbury "is lending his support to the establishment of a non-Christian theocracy in Britain."

"Has the Archbishop gone bonkers?" asked Ruth Gledhill, the religion correspondent for the Times. Gledhill said that "commentators of every variety," have been "stunned into blunt expression by the Archbishop of Canterbury's uncharacteristically clear comments on Sharia in Britain." Williams, she wrote, "wants women, children, all of us in fact, to have to kow-tow to some of the strictest, harshest and most draconian laws dreamed up by any religious system, ever, anywhere in the world."

"There might not be no-go areas for non-Muslims in Britain...But this is certainly the way to go about creating them." Thompson pointed out that Williams' credibility "is in tatters" in his struggle with the Anglican leadership in Africa over acceptance of active homosexual ministers that has threatened to destroy the Communion. "Anglicans in parts of Nigeria live under what is, in effect, totalitarian Sharia.

"What will the Archbishop of Canterbury's fatuous remarks about Sharia do to his authority as head of the Anglican Communion? Pretty well finish it off, I should think," Thompson concludes.

Great summary of comments and what people are saying about Abp. Williams' statement on shari'a. Please do read it all.


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