Joan Smith, reacting to the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement that sharia courts could rule on family issues in England, said that British women are already suffering because Islamic law. She also said: “Only someone as out of touch with modern Britain as the Archbishop of Canterbury could possibly think otherwise, or line up so willingly with the forces of reaction. Just because someone looks like an Old Testament prophet, he doesn’t have to think and speak like one as well.”
In a very eye-opening article, Smith presents several cases of violence against women in England because of religious laws. Because Smith’s argument is important to understand the reason the Archbishop of Canterbury does not speak with prophetic voice, I have reprinted an excerpt of Smith’s article as it appears in The Independent:
There are moments when public debate in Britain appears to take place in a vacuum. As the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a convincing impression yesterday of a man suffering the torments of the Inquisition, the debate was moving away from his actual observations about Islamic law, sharia, to the question of his fitness (or otherwise) to hold his office. Rowan Williams claimed that his remarks about the unavoidability of adopting some aspects of sharia in this country had been misunderstood, prompting an interesting response from his critics: the cleric was a brilliant man, they said, but his utterances were simply too opaque for hoi polloi (especially the media) to comprehend. This prompts an obvious question – if no one understands what the Archbishop is saying, how do they know how intelligent he is? – but it also diverted attention from something much more important. Williams’s clarification of his remarks seemed to suggest that he wasn’t calling for a parallel legal system for Muslims, more a recognition of something that is already happening. Yet there has been a strange reluctance to ask a real expert who has seen the way sharia operates in this country: someone like Rahni Binjie, project manager of Roshni Asian Women’s Aid in Nottingham.
I urge you to read the article in its entirety by clicking here.
After you read the article in its entirety, you will understand the meaning of Smith’s words: “Only someone as out of touch with modern Britain as the Archbishop of Canterbury could possibly think otherwise, or line up so willingly with the forces of reaction. Just because someone looks like an Old Testament prophet, he doesn’t have to think and speak like one as well.”
Emeritus Professor of Old Testament
Northern Baptist Seminary
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