Todays articles related to the Archbishops speech

Jewish Beth Din could be Archbishops model

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s message was not that there should be one law for Muslims and another for the rest. What he seemed to be positing was that the secular legal system should accommodate the traditional sharia councils which exist around the country, dealing with family and other disputes. One model could be the Beth Din, the rabbinical courts set up by a UK statute more than 100 years ago, which means they are recognised within the legal system.
They mainly deal with disputes between Orthodox Jews, although anyone can use the courts. Two individuals agree to have their dispute handled by the Beth Din rather than the ordinary courts. The judges, or dayanim, who preside are rabbis. If a dispute is over a contract under English law or another country’s civil law, the court can “incorporate” some of the rules of the civil law into Jewish law. In reality, the proceedings are a form of arbitration. The majority of Beth Din awards that are contested are enforced by courts in the UK, although they can be overruled.

Williams defiant over Islamic law speech

The Archbishop of Canterbury last night defended his remarks about sharia law and clarified his position amid mounting criticism, saying he was not proposing Islamic law in Britain, nor was he recommending its introduction as a parallel legal system.
Williams, the most senior figure in the Church of England, has faced a barrage of criticism since making the remarks, first in a BBC interview and then in a speech at the Royal Courts of Justice, that the adoption of sharia law in Britain seemed “unavoidable”.
According to Lambeth Palace, the archbishop “sought carefully to explore the limits of a unitary and secular legal system in the presence of an increasingly plural (including religiously plural) society and to see how such a unitary system might be able to accommodate religious claims”.
His office said Williams had no intention of resigning. His lecture was “well-researched” and involved consultation with legal experts, especially people with knowledge and experience of Jewish and Islamic legal systems.

Obscure Phrasing and Bad Timing Blamed for Uproar?

What did the Archbishop say?

Dr Williams said that it “seems unavoidable” that some aspects of Sharia would be adopted in Britain. He urged that the law do more to accommodate the religious convictions and practices of other faith groups .

Why have his comments prompted such a furore?

Sharia is controversial in the West because – as the Archbishop put it – it calls up “all the darkest images of Islam”. He added: “What most people think they know of Sharia is that it is repressive towards women and wedded to archaic and brutal physical punishments,” such as stoning, flogging and amputation.

Timing is another factor: his comments come during heightened tensions over fundamentalist Islam’s link with terrorism, along with growing concern that English law, influenced by political correctness, is bending over to favour or accommodate minority ethnic beliefs, practices and sensitivities in a way that it would not for mainstream Christian ones.

Another reason is that Dr Williams, a highly erudite man, expresses his thoughts in nuanced and complex language that is not easily accessible and open to widespread misunderstanding. Many commentators are unclear exactly what he said, and even those who attended his lecture agreed that they would have to go away to digest its contents.

Why is the Archbishop so concerned about Muslims – what about other groups?

Throughout his lecture, the Archbishop was at pains to say that the issues he raised applied equally, for example, to Orthodox Judaism and other faith groups. They affected the rights, for instance, of Roman Catholic adoption agencies not to place babies with gay couples. But as Dr Williams was inaugurating a lecture series on Islam in English law, he focused his arguments on Muslim issues.

‘Make one law for Muslims, one for everyone else’

POLITICIANS have moved to distance themselves from claims by the Archbishop of Canterbury that Sharia law would inevitably be introduced in parts of Britain.
Dr Rowan Williams, the leader of the Anglican Church, said recognising Sharia law would improve community cohesion.

Its introduction would mean Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims no longer having to choose between “the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty”.

Dr Williams’ remarks in an interview on the BBC’s World at One programme provoked a furore and Downing Street quickly rejected the idea, insisting that British law had to be in tune with “British values”.

Alex Salmond’s office also said there were no plans to incorporate Sharia law into Scots law.

But Dr Williams stressed that Sharia law was too often seen through biased media reports solely as decreeing brutal punishments such as beheadings.

He said it could instead be “constructively accommodated” to resolve marital disputes rather than the divorce courts.

“In some cultural and religious settings, they (Sharia laws] would seem more appropriate.”

He added: “It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system.

“We already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justifying conscientious objections in certain circumstances.”

Dr Williams said Orthodox Jewish courts already operated in the UK, and anti-abortion views of Catholics and other Christians were “accommodated within the law”. But the remarks provoked alarm in the government yesterday, and Downing Street quickly moved to dismiss the possibility of Sharia law having any jurisdiction in Britain.

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 that British law should apply in this country, based on British values.”

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