Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why the Archbishop of Canterbury is not a bleeding heart liberal

"Yet what is truly significant about the Archbishop’s statement is not his apparently liberal tilt towards respecting the customs of a competing faith. Although the focus of Williams’ speech was on the place of Sharia law in Britain, its main purpose was to argue for the re-legitimation of the role of religion in British society. As head of the Anglican Church, Dr Williams is painfully aware of the diminishing significance and influence of his institution. In Britain, there are now more Christians practising Catholicism than Anglicanism. Islam appears to motivate and inspire people in ways that many ordinary Anglicans find difficult to comprehend. The Church of England is haunted by dissension over sexual and lifestyle issues and continually struggles to uphold its international authority over the world’s 77million Anglicans.
The Anglican Church faces a crisis of authority. It finds it difficult to assert its role as the ‘established church’. And instead of looking within itself and asking probing questions about its own meaning and purpose, it prefers to blame the onward march of materialistic secularist culture for its institutional demise. Sometimes it presents itself as a beleaguered minority faith victimised by a cruel secular crusade. Some Anglicans have joined with their Catholic colleagues to decry the attempts by anti-religious forces to ban Christmas and other religious customs. Dr Williams’ speech was only the latest attempt to win more space for the exercise of religious authority in Britain. But instead of asking for greater recognition of Anglican sensibilities, Williams instead chose to put the case for the exercise of ‘religious conscience’ through demanding greater recognition of Sharia law.


In other words, he is not simply demanding more recognition for Sharia but for all forms of religious law."

Frank Furedi, Spiked, 11 February 2008
With all the right-wing paranoia about the archbishop, it is apt to get some other views.
(Ironically, not from the left)
"Many commentators are mistakenly seeing demands like the Archbishop's as “liberal”, “progressive” or “PC gone mad”. They are anything but.
Properly understood, the effect of devolving national law and national morality to local and group level is profoundly conservative. Dr Williams's ideas really represent the wilder fringes of a bigger idea: communitarianism. Communitarianism can come in a surplice, a yarmulka or from a minaret and is all the more dangerous because armed with a divine rather than a local loyalty. It almost always proves a repressive and reactionary force, fearful of competitors, often anti-science, sometimes sceptical of knowledge itself, and grudging towards the State.
There is absolutely nothing “left-wing” or woolly-liberal about empowering it. A Britain in which Muslim communities policed themselves would be more ruthlessly policed, and probably more law-abiding than today. But it would be a Britain in which the individual Muslim - maybe female, maybe ambitious, maybe gay, maybe a religious doubter - would lose their chances of rescue from his or her family or community by the State.

Matthew Parris, The Times, February 9, 2008

Btw. I really loved the introduction of Matthew Parris' article:

"You say,” said Lord Napier (confronted as Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in India by locals protesting against the suppression of suttee) “that it is your custom to burn widows. Very well. We also have a custom: when men burn a woman alive, we tie a rope around their necks and we hang them. Build your funeral pyre; beside it, my carpenters will build a gallows. You may follow your custom. And then we will follow ours.”"

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