When even the religion reporter for the Times of London has to ask if the Archbishop of Canterbury has gone bonkers, the question has become rhetorical. The answer is all too obvious.
Last Thursday morning, February 7, Rowan Williams -- the Archbishop of Canterbury, top man in the hierarchy of the Church of England -- took to the airwaves. In a BBC Radio Four interview, he said that the United Kingdom will eventually have to adopt Islamic Sharia Law -- on a limited basis -- on the premise that this will create social cohesion.
His words have had quite an impact -- perhaps best compared to the effect of dropping a suitcase nuke into the room at high tea in Buckingham Palace. If there were any English still sleep walking through the destruction of their national identity, the ultimate wake up call just came.
When Henry the 8th wanted a divorce and the Catholic Pope would not give it to him, the Church of England was born. Henry not only broke the bonds of fealty to the Pope, he seized all the property held by the Roman Church, dissolved their monasteries, killed or banished the Catholic clergy, and forced all surviving remnants of Catholicism in England underground for centuries.
While he was at it, Henry ended all foreign ecclesiastical jurisdiction over his Kingdom and made all future monarchs the titular head of the Anglican Church. Henry’s daughter, Queen Elizabeth the First, fleshed out this policy. She decreed that the break with Rome restored to the Crown, “the ancient jurisdiction over the state -- ecclesiastical and spiritual -- abolishing all foreign power repugnant to the same.” This is not just an opinion. It is an Article in the founding document of the Church of England.
The Times’ religion editor, Ruth Gledhill, reviews this history and then adds her own ironic observation. “And now Queen Elizabeth II's very own Archbishop -- and let's not forget she is his Church's Supreme Governor - wants to introduce a new jurisdiction into this realm of England. And an Islamic one at that!”
For those who might not be up to speed on Sharia law, it is not like The Ten Commandments or the Bill of Rights. It is not just Holy Law; it is wholly Holy secular law too. It is the all-inclusive law as imposed by a theocratic state. It governs everything from banking to marriage. And it carries some pretty heavy penalties, from cutting off the hands of thieves to stoning women caught in adultery, even if the adultery stems from a gang rape. It also looks the other way when fathers, brothers, or uncles kill family females who dare to date outside of Islam. These are known as “honor killings.”
The Archbishop of Canterbury supports his partially pro-Sharia law position by citing the inherent inequity which ensues when Catholic adoption agencies discriminate against gay couples. Of course, there are no gay people in Iran according to Ahmadinejad so that isn’t the best illustration the Archbishop might have chosen to make his point. In fact, instances of sharia law being carried out within British Muslim communities have been reported. A young man who knifed someone was judged by a Sharia court and let out on the streets when his family compensated his victim financially.
You might wonder what the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom has said in reaction to this statement by the head of the Anglican Church. Surprise! He hedged his bets. Gordon Brown was already on record as saying that there are small areas in which concessions to Sharia Law could be made, but also stipulated that Sharia Law could not be used as a justification for breaching English law. To this apparent contradiction a spokesperson added: “The Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values.” Right. Clear on that are we?
The Archbishop has elaborated on Gordon Brown’s stance by stating: “it is a misunderstanding to suppose that people don’t have other affiliations, other loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and the law needs to take some account of that.” And in another quote, the Archbishop claims: “…there are ways of looking at marital disputes, for example, which provide an alternative to the divorce courts as we understand them.”
This led one person in the Telegraph’s comment section to ask if attendees to Sharia stonings in the UK would have to buy tickets or would they be open to the public?
The furore (British spelling) had reached such a fever pitch that on Friday the BBC World Service devoted its one-hour call-in program -- “Have Your Say” -- to this topic. (The program can be downloaded from the BBC.co.uk website). Calls came in from around the world and perhaps the most compelling was from a man in Saudi Arabia who wanted to know when the Archbishop would be visiting that nation, one in which Christian churches are not allowed. Over and over again, people keep asking the bleeding obvious question. “When is the Archbishop of Canterbury going to stand up and represent the Christian faith?
This is not the first time that Rowan Williams has done something which suggests he is bonkers. Before he was “enthroned” as the ABC, Williams had himself inducted into the Druids, an ancient pagan faith group. More recently, he argued for the abolition of the blasphemy law - as long as it was replaced by something even more severe. People should be punished for daring to voice thoughts that were hurtful to others, he said, even when that hurt was unintentional.”
This sounds like a description of the nanny state dressed as a dominatrix. And yes, one is aware that a line has been crossed when the Archbishop of Canterbury and Britney Spears appear to be exhibiting the same self destructive and delusional bipolar behaviors. If he is hearing all the voices, Williams cannot have missed those who are calling out: “Off with his head.” By Saturday, photos of the man with a pair of the wildest eyebrows in Christendom were splashed across the front pages of British broadsheets and tabloids. The Archbishop of Canterbury seemed genuinely incapable of understanding the calls for his resignation. Even the second most powerful cleric in England, the Archbishop of York, a native of Africa, Dr. John Sentamu, has said sharia law in England would never happen. The best Rowan Williams got by way of support came from The Muslim Council of Britain and all they did was to characterize his ideas as “thoughtful.” Damned with faint praise if you ask me. And rightly so.
Treason? Certainly. But in these mad days, to paraphrase the aphorism, treason prospers so none dare call it treason.