New poll: Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right?

by Stephen Tall on February 8, 2008

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has sparked controversy with his lecture yesterday arguing that the adoption of some parts of Sharia law in the UK is “unavoidable”:

it might be possible to think in terms of … a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that ‘power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents’. This may include aspects of marital law, the regulation of financial transactions and authorised structures of mediation and conflict resolution … a universalist Enlightenment system has to weigh the possible consequences of ghettoising and effectively disenfranchising a minority, at real cost to overall social cohesion and creativity. … But if what we want socially is a pattern of relations in which a plurality of divers and overlapping affiliations work for a common good, and in which groups of serious and profound conviction are not systematically faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty, it seems unavoidable.“

The media reaction has been trenchant (The Sun: What a Burkha!) certainly more so than Dr Williams’ often opaque views on this issue. Lib Dem blogger of the year James Graham has taken him to task here: Does Rowan Williams have any more idea of what he’s going on about than I do. Fellow bogger Brian Sloan meanwhile has written In Defence of Dr Williams.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg has released a statement arguing the Archbishop is wrong:

Equality before the law is part of the glue that binds our society together. We cannot have a situation where there is one law for one person and different laws for another. There is a huge difference between respecting people’s right to follow their own beliefs and allowing them to excuse themselves from the rule of law.”

What do you think? LDV’s poll is now open (right-hand clumn), asking the simple Yes/No question: Is the Archbishop of Canterbury right to say that adoption of Sharia law is unavoidable?

Results of last poll:

LDV readers are Obama-maniacs, with two-thirds of you backing Barack to become the first black President of the USA, ahead of the first woman (Hillary Clinton), the oldest ever incoming President (McCain), and the first ever Mormon (Mitt Romney). Here’s what you told us:

Who do you want to be the next President of the USA?

Sen. Barack Obama (Dem): 65% (215)
• Sen. Hillary Clinton (Dem): 26% (86)
• Sen. John McCain (GOP): 8% (28)
• Gov. Mitt Romney (GOP): 1% (2)

Total Votes: 331; Polling: 31st January – 8th February