On the anniversary of the interview in which Dr Rowan Williams said it “seems inevitable” that some parts of sharia would be enshrined in this country’s legal code, he claimed “a number of fairly senior people” now take the same view.
He added that there is a “drift of understanding” towards what he was saying, and that the public sees the difference between letting Muslim courts decide divorces and wills, and allowing them to rule on criminal cases and impose harsh punishments.
However critics insist that family disputes must be dealt with by civil law rather than according to religious principles, and claim the Archbishop’s comments have only helped the case of extremists while making Muslim women worse off, because they do not have equal rights under Islamic law.
The Archbishop, the most senior cleric in the Church of England, faced calls to resign last February when he said it was likely that elements of the religious principles based on the Koran, concerning marriage, finance and conflict resolution, would be enshrined in British legislation one day.
But in July he was supported by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, who was then the Lord Chief Justice, while it later emerged that five sharia courts are already operating mediation systems under the Arbitration Act, and that the Government allows Islamic tribunals to settle the custody and financial affairs of divorcing couples and send their judgements to civil courts for approval.
When asked at a recent conference of Anglican leaders in Egypt whether he feels he has been vindicated, Dr Williams replied: “It’s been quite interesting to see how a number of fairly senior people have observed that certain kinds of limited aspects of Muslim law are imaginable within a British legal framework, without upsetting the apple cart of undermining human rights.
“People are maybe beginning to distinguish the general question of Muslim law, and the extremes of appalling practice which disfigure it in so many parts of the world or the extremes of trying to push Sharia law upon an entire society.
“So I think there is a drift of understanding of what I was trying to say, perhaps I like to think so.”
But Douglas Murray, the director of the Centre for Social Cohesion, said: “He has started a process which is deeply dangerous, damaging to Britain and to Muslim women in Britain.
“It was a wicked move because it undermines the progressives and gives succour to the extremists.
“How does the Archbishop of Canterbury know, sitting in Lambeth Palace, that a woman in Bolton has volunteered to give up half her inheritance to her brother?”
Neil Addison, a barrister who specialises in religious discrimination cases, said: “I think the Archbishop has failed to give a justification for sharia law. What’s the advantage it would bring to British Muslims and to British law?
“I believe his speech was deeply harmful to British Muslims because it helps the separation of them from the rest of society.
– From Prophecy News Watch