Rowan Williams’ Address to General Synod

by Richard on February 11, 2008

“We are not talking about parallel jurisdictions; and I tried to make clear that there could be no ‘blank cheques’ in this regard, in particular as regards some of the sensitive questions about the status and liberties of women. The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity.

So the question remains of whether certain additional choices could and should be made available under the law of the United Kingdom for resolving disputes and regulating transactions. It would be analogous to what is already possible in terms of the legal recognition of certain kinds of financial transactions under Islamic regulation (including special provision around mortgage arrangements). And it would create a helpful interaction between the courts and the practice of Muslim legal scholars in this country.

If – and please note that word – this were thought to be a useful direction in which to move, there would be plenty of work still to be done, with the greatest care, on what would and would not be possible and appropriate areas for such co-operation. I noted, for example, that traditional Muslim attitudes to ‘apostasy’ posed a very serious question (recognised by many Muslim scholars today), and that honest discussion of this was imperative.

I have had a fair amount of recent first-hand contact with Christian minorities in Muslim majority countries which has left me with no illusions about the sufferings they can and do face, even when there is a national legal framework that fully recognises their liberties. But I noted that 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. 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.

Read the whole thing…

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }


ee 02.12.08 at 3:08 pm

Sadly, that speech will be read by about 1000 people, and the ignorant negative headlines of the accumulated press will be read by millions.

As usual with Rowan Williams, the main thing you’re left with is admiring his humility and intellect in equal measure.

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