Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

André Carrel, "Audi Alteram Partem: The Archbishop's Sharia Law ," Democracy & more, March 20, 2008.

We need a fair amount of ‘deconstruction’ of crude oppositions and mythologies. — Rowan Williams

If the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, intended to open a debate on civil and religious law in England with his February 7th foundation lecture at the Royal Courts of Justice, he succeeded, but not in the way he intended. Politicians, pundits, and editors throughout the western hemisphere reacted immediately and forcefully to the Archbishop’s suggestion that the time has come for Britain to engage in a dialogue with Muslims about the role of sharia law in British society.

Many of the reactions to the Archbishop’s lecture implied that he considered the adoption of sharia law as a parallel legal system in Britain to be inevitable. It was as if Dr. Williams had said that Britain should allow the stoning to death of women for infidelity. The full text of the Archbishop’s lecture can be found on the Internet ( It is a 6,200-word essay, carefully researched and thoughtfully reasoned. The purpose of the lecture is, in the words of Dr. Williams, “to tease out some of the broader issues around the rights of religious groups within a secular state.” The Archbishop’s lecture is about the juxtaposition of political philosophy and political theology. It is about the role of religion in family relationships and cultural communities. And it is about the boundaries of discretion and tolerance that should apply to the separation of church and state, no less a pivotal principle of a modern democracy than is respect for the fundamental right to freedom of religion and worship.

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