Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Canterbury Tales: The Archbishop's Prologue

The Right Reverend Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, is in the center of "a row," as the Brits like to say (I might call it "a fracas," others might say that he's getting himself "b***ch-slapped") because he said in an interview on the BBC that he believes that British law needs to remain open to modification in order to remain inclusive. Unfortunately, he advocated Islamic Sharia law in order to "maintain social cohesion" for the growing Muslim communities in the U.K.  Now, he's not saying that Sharia law will (or should) replace British law; he's just saying that it should be an option for those who wish to use it.

British law already allows for parties to use whatever legal means they choose to resolve differences, so long as both sides agree to the process. This includes Islamic Sharia and Jewish Beth Din courts. So it's difficult to see what Dr. Williams' would see being done differently. He specifically says that he doesn't mean Sharia as it is more zealously applied in many Muslim countries; I'd be interested to know specifically which additions he believes might be useful. 

My overall feeling, however, is that all of the British politicians who are criticizing the Archbishop for his statements are guilty of playing into people's ignorance and fears. And the Archbishop is guilty of choosing the wrong medium—a radio interview—to begin a dialogue on an incredibly complex subject. It's taken me almost an hour just to write a three paragraph blog post outlining the subject; he's going to be able to make a persuasive argument speaking extemporaneously in a broadcast studio?

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