Wednesday, February 13

More on Archbishop of Canterbury's voter registration drive for the British National Party

(Note to attorneys for Mark Steyn and Maclean's: you can file this one under Mohamed Elmasry's #25 point in BCHRT complaint.)

"Pundita! I've tried three times to read the archbishop's speech but he talks in 100 word sentences. By the time I get to the end of one sentence I'm so confused I have to start reading from the beginning. At this rate I'll never understand the speech, let alone the speech he gave to explain the speech. Please can you provide a CLEAR translation of what he was saying??
Sleepless in St. Louis"

Dear Sleepless:
It's a snap to understand what Rowan Williams was saying once you have my handy Serpentine Jabber Decoder, which I sell for $29.98 plus shipping and handling. If you're too cheap to spring for the decoder you can go to Wikipedia and read up on Britain's Parliament. There is no separation of church and state in Britain. The Archbishop of Canterbury sits in the House of Lords. With that in mind here is a clear translation of the archbishop's Sharia speeches:
13 June 2006
Speech by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Rt Hon Gordon Brown MP, at the Islamic Finance and Trade Conference, London

Assalamu alaykum. Let me start by saying what a pleasure it is to be here this morning at this important and groundbreaking conference, a conference that not only brings together so many distinguished leaders in commerce, business and community life, but sets the important long term ambition - and an ambition that I share with you - to make Britain the gateway to Islamic finance and trade. [...]

[T]he foundation for making Britain the gateway to Islamic trade, is to make Britain the global centre for Islamic finance. [,,,] Today British banks are pioneering Islamic banking - London now has more banks supplying services under Islamic principles than any other Western financial centre.

British professional services firms are leading the way in Islamic business services - with English commercial law now the law of choice. And I want to thank all of you for your innovation and enterprise. And I want to thank also the Muslim Council of Britain and the many of you here who have worked with the Government through our tax and regulatory reform to support the development of Shari’a compliant finance:

> first, three years ago, for mortgages, enabling the expansion of the Islamic mortgage market to over half a billion pounds - growing by almost 50 per cent in the last year alone;

> then last year, for savings and borrowing and providing proper consumer protection for Ijara products;

> this year, for business finance, with last week Parliament approving measures in the Finance Bill for diminishing musharaka and wakala;

> and now, working with us, to look at international finance, Islamic securitisation and sukuk - and I am pleased that London was the financial centre chosen recently to advise on one of the largest sukuk deals ever done. ...
Clear enough? Any more questions on the archbishop's Sharia speeches you can forward them to Citigroup, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Lloyd's TSB, HSBC, or Sheik Yousef Al-Qaradawi.

Readers looking for a good deconstruction of Williams's Sharia speech can turn to Melanie Phillips, who attended the speech and asked Williams a key question. Phillips also analyzed the archbishop's attempt to 'clarify' his speech, which he posted on his website under the title What did the Archbishop actually say? Here are central passages from Phillips's analysis:
[...] A statement on [the archbishop's] website attempting to defend himself is disingenuous to the point of being downright misleading in trying to pretend he didn’t say what he actually had said.

It insists, for example, that he did not call for the introduction of Sharia as a parallel jurisdiction to the civil law. But in his lecture, he said in terms that the state should recognise Sharia as a ‘supplementary jurisdiction’, and that individuals should be able to choose which system they wanted. That means two parallel systems with equal status.

Worse still, he actually advocated that English and Islamic law would thus ‘be forced to compete for the loyalty’ of British Muslims -- who were faced with the ‘stark alternatives’ of allegiance to their culture or their country.

Alas, it is indeed the case that, according to Lord Carey, up to fully 60 per cent of British Muslims want to live under Sharia. But is it not astonishing that the head of the Anglican church should effectively suggest as a remedy that, if such Muslims refuse to live under Britain’s own laws, Britain will have to become partly Muslim?

Furthermore, there are many British Muslims who are entirely loyal to Britain and who most certainly do not want the state to recognise Sharia. Just where does the Archbishop’s suggestion leave them?

Puzzlingly, the Archbishop’s ‘clarification’ on his website statement also compounds a significant error by him. To bolster his claim that there was nothing novel about his proposals, Dr Williams said the state already delegated aspects of law to Jewish religious courts.

The statement repeated that there were ‘overlapping jurisdictions’ between English and Jewish law and that British Jews could choose between two systems of justice. But this is totally untrue. Jewish law has no legal authority in Britain, and British Jews have never asked for it.

Jewish religious courts can arbitrate in disputes only on a voluntary basis, and Jews must be married and divorced according to the same law of the land as everyone else. The distinction is crucial.
And here's today's news from Britain about the controversy:
The Archbishop of Canterbury faces renewed pressure today after the Queen was reported to be concerned about his comments on the use of Islamic law in Britain. The Queen was said to be worried about the continuing controversy surrounding Dr Rowan Williams’ belief that it was “unavoidable” that aspects of Sharia would be incorporated into the English legal system.

The Times has learnt that the Prince of Wales has already distanced himself from the Archbishop’s speech last week, fearing that his comments have damaged multi-faith relations. According to The Daily Telegraph today, the Queen is also distressed over the controversy which she fears threatens to undermine the authority of the Archbishop and damage the Church of England, which already faces schism over homosexual clergy. [...]

A royal source told the newspaper: “I have no idea what her view is on what the Archbishop said about Sharia. But the Queen is worried, coming at such a difficult time in the Church’s history, that the fallout may sap the authority of the Church.”

Buckingham Palace refused last night to confirm or deny that the Queen had expressed concerns about the Archbishop’s views. A spokeswoman said: “I have never heard a view expressed by the Queen at all. We are not confirming or making any comment on this story.” Lambeth Palace and the Church of England also declined to comment.

The Queen, as Supreme Governor of the Church of England, is the only person with the power to dismiss the Archbishop of Canterbury, but she would not act unless instructed to by the Prime Minister.

However, Dr Williams’ position would become untenable if it became known that he had lost the monarch’s confidence.

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