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Archbishop raises Islamic Law Controversy

Printer-friendly version The Archbishop of Canterbury attracted widespread criticism last week by suggesting that the accommodation of certain aspects of Islamic Sharia law was ‘unavoidable’ in British law. His comments were contained in a Radio 4 interview which


Outcry after Rowan Williams questions the role of Sharia in UK law

The Archbishop of Canterbury attracted widespread criticism during early February by suggesting that the accommodation of certain aspects of Islamic Sharia law was ‘unavoidable’ in British law. His comments were contained in a Radio 4 interview which preceded a lecture he gave on the subject at the Royal Courts of Justice later the same day. (See links below.)

Whilst the Archbishop did not advocate a dual or parallel legal system, as some media reports have suggested, he did seem to support the idea that some aspects of Sharia law had a role to play and should be ‘accommodated’ within British law. However, the Islamic Sharia Council, UK, who already run Sharia ‘councils’ dealing with matters such as divorces, are asking for their decisions to be given the force of law.

The promotion of Sharia law in this way is concerning for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is a fundamental principle of our legal system and democratic society that all are equal before the law. No-one is exempt from the law, and the law must apply equally to all people.

In suggesting that certain aspects of Sharia law can be accommodated in British law the Archbishop fails to appreciate that there is no equality in Sharia law; women are not given equal rights to men, and non-Muslims are not given equal rights to Muslims. This inequality permeates Sharia rules on divorce and inheritance, the very issues the Archbishop was commending. (For more information about the incompatibility of Sharia law with human rights see the LCF paper linked to below.)

Links on Sharia Law

The Archbishop’s comments

Sharia Law and Human Rights

Media Links

In the Press

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Bishop of Hereford ordered to pay £47,000 damages for refusing to employ homosexual youth worker

John Reaney, the youth worker whose employment was blocked by the Bishop of Hereford because he was a practicing homosexual, has been awarded £47,000 in damages. Bishop Anthony Priddis has also been ordered to undergo equal opportunities training.

During Mr Reaney’s interview Bishop Priddis told him that a person in a sexual relationship outside marriage would be turned down for the post, irrespective of their sexual orientation. The Bishop stated to the tribunal that Mr Reaney’s behaviour was contrary to church teaching and could impact the spiritual, moral and ethical leadership within the diocese. However, the tribunal decided Bishop Priddis had unlawfully discriminated against Mr Reaney on the grounds of sexual orientation, stating that he should have only considered the present lifestyle of Mr Reaney (who is single) and should not have speculated about potential future relationships.

The real concern with regard to this ruling is the chilling effect of the decision. The damages awarded are significant, and in our view the order to undergo equality training is unreasonable as the Bishop’s actions were clearly motivated by deeply held religious and ethical beliefs about sexual behaviour rather than any discriminatory attitudes.