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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

debating the wrong things...

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Various people, over the last couple of days, have asked me what I think of the Archbishop of Canterbury's remarks regarding Sharia law and British law, and I've avoided doing so because, to be totally honest with you, any comment would be made out of relative ignorance. I don't claim to be an expert in any way on Sharia law and I'm pretty sure that most of the voices we've been hearing recently are in the same boat! What do they say about ignorance breeding contempt?!

And so, with my reluctance to comment noted, here's what I wrote in an email to one such inquiry...

Re: Rowan’s speech – I haven’t read it in full (which is the problem with most comments being made about it!). That said, I’m not sure I totally agree with his conclusions BUT (a very important 'but') I find it very sad that most of the debate that has ensued has had little to do with what he actually said or with what he wanted people to be debating. I think he has some very good points – my concern is where it may end or what it could lead to, rather than with what he suggested per se.

I get really angry though with people who use one interpretation of Sharia to whip up a frenzy of anti-Islamic sentiment. That is the worrying thing, and it seems to be happening a lot at the moment - one example is the completely misleading and downright prejudiced comments of Douglas Murray (from the
Centre for Social Cohesion - how on earth did he get that job?!) on last night's Newsnight program. On the other hand Prof Tariq Ramadan spoke a lot of sense on the same program. He confirmed that most British Muslims are not calling for Sharia as a separate code of law, stating that "equality before the law is our Sharia". In other words, Prof Ramadan was arguing that for the majority of British Muslims, British law is already in keeping with Sharia and so is sufficient.

I guess the Archbishop wanted to take things slightly beyond this though and raise some discussion concerning family law in particular. But why are people going on about public flogging and hands being cut off – that has nothing at all to do with what Rowan Williams was talking about, and just serves to direct the discussion away from the important, if uncomfortable, issues that he was raising!

The Archbishop's website has posted a very helpful article, What did the Archbishop actually say? (with a link to the full text of the original lecture) and there are several measured posts from people more qualified than me to comment such as those from Richard Sudworth, Kester Brewin and Maggi Dawn. If you missed last night's Newsnight, you can read about it and watch it again from 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:12 PM


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