Sharia Law in Britain: Rowan, Primate of All England, in favor
We can say things in the family circle that are not appropriately said at the Town Hall Meeting. The Rector can say things to the Church Vestry that are not appropriately part of the announcements on Sunday. The academic can propose ideas and policies in the Senior Common Room that are not suitable for a public lecture. A parent does not speak to the five year old child in the same way as to a teenager. Human beings have long been aware that not every thought—good or bad—in the mind requires expression in words in any company on any occasion. We are to discriminate between what to say, when to say it, how to say it, where to say it and to whom to say it.
In his tenure as Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan has from time to time made public statements in such areas as sexuality, international politics and American foreign policy, that are perfectly rational in themselves if delivered to friends in an Oxford Common Room; but—with an attentive media and the Web—are read by many in politically populist or common sense way. That is, any subtleties or sub-themes are missed and his statements with little context are sent into the world to be understood at one level only—the crudest one.
With this experience under his belt, it is amazing that Rowan went a few days ago before the legal establishment in England and argued that it was time to allow the use of Muslim Sharia Law within British Law, just as Orthodox Jewish Law is allowed in certain areas. All perfectly reasonable and reflecting an appreciation of the powerful traditions of Islam—but a position which is a minority position in Church and State. Further, the Archbishop was not speaking to friends inside Lambeth Palace but publicly, with the press there to listen and report. Further, he was speaking within a country where tensions between Muslim areas and neighborhoods around them are ripe for explosion. Then also he was speaking as the leader of the bishops of the Anglican Family, and many of them live in situations where they face all kinds of difficulties and problems caused by the local imposition of Sharia Law.
Rowan did not have to make this speech and say what he did. By this one speech, Rowan has lost much support in Britain, the Church of England, and the Anglican Communion of Churches. It appears that he is not able to discriminate between when to share his (complex) thoughts with his friends and when to share them with the world. This failure to discriminate would seen to disqualify him from high office. Regrettably, this business casts another cloud over the forthcoming Lambeth Conference, weakening his leadership and making it now very difficult to persuade the Nigerian Bishops to attend!
Oh how very, very sad! More chastisement of the Lord upon the Anglican Family, already in such pain and confusion.
firstname.lastname@example.org www.pbsusa.org Lent 2008;