Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams
An expert on the persecution of Christians around the world has issued an analysis that warns the “Islamization” of Britain would be greatly advanced if Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, the head of the 70-million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion, gets his way and sharia law is codified there.
“Seemingly innocent and gracious concessions to such demands on sharia contribute to building up an Islamization trend which could become unstoppable,” said Patrick Sookhdeo of the Barnabas Fund, which reaches out to persecuted Christians worldwide.
“Many Muslims also hope that ultimately Britain will grant Islam, its scriptures and founder, a privileged and protected position immune from criticism, a position not granted to other religions,” he continued. “Yielding to such demands will gradually erode the hard won freedoms and rights which are at present part of British society. It will open the door to a totalitarian and discriminatory system that denies individual rights and seeks to control both the public and the private spheres in ways typical of Muslim states.”
Williams said during a recent interview about the adoption of sharia, “It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of sharia are already recognized in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system.”
His statements immediately prompted other officials in the Church of England to call for his resignation. One, described by the Times Online as a “long-standing member of the church’s governing body, the General Synod,” reported he was shocked at Williams’ comments.
“I can only assume that all the Muslims he meets are senior leaders of the community who tell him what a wonderful book the Quran is,” the Times reported the leader saying.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown also reacted, having a spokesman confirm that in Britain, British law would be best observed.
Williams later tried to clarify his remarks, arguing that the British government must address how people of faith in an age of religious pluralism can stay true to their religious beliefs while remaining good citizens of the United Kingdom.
He said he found it troubling that a secular society might require people of faith to go against their religiously informed consciences.
“Many Muslim majority countries do distinguish clearly between the rights of citizens overall and the duties accepted by some citizens of obedience to Islamic law,” Williams asserted. “It is this that encourages me to think that there may be ways of engaging with the world of Islamic law on something other than an all-or-nothing basis.”
However, Ralph Webb, director of Anglican Action for the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington, D.C., suggested it may not be so simple.
“Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams is right to express concern over how religious freedom for all people of faith – whether Christians, Muslims, or adherents of any other religion – can best be protected in Western secular societies,” he said. “But in this case he has downplayed the real-life concerns and experiences of Christians and others persecuted under sharia law in non-Western nations.
“Many Anglicans of the Global South have found that sharia law, even if initially implemented in part, will lead to atrocities as the law expands,” Webb said. “Archbishop Ben Kwashi of the Diocese of Jos in Nigeria, recounting what has happened in several northern Nigeria states, recently said in a BBC News interview that any partial implementation of sharia law inevitably will lead to complete sharia law.”
In his analysis of Williams’ comments, Sookhdeo said while the archbishop “has the best of intentions in wanting to create greater cohesion and harmony in British society, his suggestions seem sure to result in the exact opposite.”
He said Williams’ view of sharia “is utopian and naïve.”
“He has claimed that sharia is not the monolithic system of detailed rules which most Muslims consider it to be, but rather an expression of universal principles… the reality is that for the vast majority of Muslims sharia is still viewed as God’s immutable divine law regulating all areas of life.
“It lays down a multitude of penalties, including imprisonment, beating, annulment of marriage, disinheritance and death, for Muslims who leave their faith,” Sookhdeo said.
“[Williams] seems to be blissfully confident that those who will implement the new structures are bound to be enlightened practitioners of the ideal reformed sharia he has in mind. Experience, of course, reveals that it is the more ‘repressive and retrograde elements’ (as he calls them) who usually come to the fore and take over such institutions, backed by the almost unlimited resources of oil-rich Wahhabism…” he said.
“Wherever sharia has been given expanded space in the legal systems of Muslim states, it has inevitably led to infringements of the rights of vulnerable groups such as women and children, non-Muslims, converts from Islam to other religions, and non-orthodox Mulsim communities… It has also negatively affected the intellectual debate, narrowing the limits of freedom and threatening dissenters,” said Sookhdeo.