Lord Carey: 'Shari'a is a view I cannot share'
Lord Carey unequivocally states: ‘There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights. His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous for the nation.’ And the Head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, has echoed these sentiments, saying: ‘I don't believe in a multicultural society. When people come into this country they have to obey the laws of the land,' (though even he was making a plea for religious exemptions from ‘the law of the land’ just a few months ago).
But Lord Carey said that Dr Williams should not be forced to resign over his remarks, adding: ‘He is a great leader in the Anglican tradition and he has a very important role to play in the Church.’
To talk of a ‘great’ leader ‘in the Anglican tradition’ is becoming something of an oxymoron, for Cranmer is inclined to believe that greatness is an elusive leadership quality in the Anglican Church, and to bestow it upon Dr Williams is like talking of ‘excellence for all’. Superlatives are being debased by their normative applications.
When Rowan Williams was enthroned as Archbishop of Canterbury five years ago, his supporters believed that his academic, mild-mannered, thoughtful but determined approach was exactly right for an Anglican church which faced schism over homosexuality and the ordination of women. Five years later, the entire Anglican Communion is profoundly disappointed. The schisms have deepened, not merely because of the Archbishop’s personal support for women bishops, but because of his appalling handling of the issue of gay clergy. One day Canon Jeffrey John is Bishop of Reading, the next day he is withdrawn; one day gay bishops are coming to the Lambeth Conference, the next day they are not. Instead of leadership, there has been vacillation, hesitation, and a lot of wooly theology.
And while his pews have been emptying, and while the numbers attending Roman Catholic churches have surpassed those attending the Church of England for the first time since the Reformation, Dr Williams has busied himself attacking the Iraq war, berating the United States of America, and preaching of ‘humanity’s selfishness’ as he adopts the Mother Earth save-the-planet zeitgeist which Pope Benedict XVI has been clever enough to repudiate.
Yet he insists that his Radio 4 interview (and Cranmer is NOT talking of the actual lecture) was an attempt ‘to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state’. But his language was unclear and his thinking was muddled, and he failed to understand that it is not what one actually says that is important, but what one is perceived to have said. And his suggestion that the British state should recognise different kinds of justice, including shari’a, because that would enable people with different religious convictions to feel ‘loyal’ to British society, is absurd. It is, as has been widely observed, ‘a recipe not for the social cohesion and unity which he says he craves, but for separatism and conflict. Far from overcoming cultural conflict, its primary effect would be to enforce division by emphasising it’.
Yet he insists: ‘An approach to law which simply said there is one law for everybody and that is all there is to be said… I think that’s a bit of a danger’.
A danger for whom? Should ‘female circumcision’ be permitted because it is a cultural norm in parts of Africa? Should the bruises and beatings endured by Victoria Climbié be tolerated because they are consistent with the principles of African discipline? Where is the debate about matters of concern such as the practice of many Muslims in Britain of marrying first cousins, leading to a high proportion of babies with birth defects?
It becomes increasingly difficult to maintain religio-cultural opposition to such practices when the Government has sold the moral pass on polygamy: husbands with multiple wives in the UK are now entitled to state benefit payments for each wife. It is, of course, Muslims who will benefit, while bigamy and polygamy remain illegal for everyone else.
In the midst of all this moral confusion and relativism, it is the job of the Archbishop of Canterbury to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law; to assist Her Majesty, as she promised in her Coronation Oath, to govern the British people ‘according to their laws and customs’
As the Bishop of Rochester observes, shari’a is quite antithetical to British traditions, and so Dr Williams is causing the Supreme Governor of the Church of England to compromise her oath, which was sworn before God, and is guilty of leading the weak astray (Rom 14:21); potentially causing his brothers and sisters to stumble (1Cor 8:13), for he is eating food offered to false gods, and thereby discrediting his ministry and his office (2Cor 6:3).