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Showing posts with label Archbishop Rowan Williams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Archbishop Rowan Williams. Show all posts

Monday, April 9, 2012

British Catholic Leader Says No Need For Gay Marriage

Archbishop Vincent Nichols

The head of the Catholic Church in England and Wales has told Sky News that Prime Minister David Cameron's plans to legalise gay marriage are unnecessary.

The Archbishop of Westminster, the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, said he does not see the need to change the definition of marriage.

“He (David Cameron) seems rather intent in taking a step the reason for which quite frankly a lot of people don't understand,” he told Sky News presenter Colin Brazier.

“We have legal protection for the shape of the marriage that has served society very well around the world for many centuries and quite frankly we really don't see why it's important to change that legal definition."

Meanwhile, the leader of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury, said in his Easter sermon that young people's hostility towards faith is not as extreme as society perceives.

Speaking at Canterbury Cathedral, Dr Rowan Williams - who is leaving at the end of the year - said a number of young people appreciate the role religion plays in society and are keen to learn about it.

He warned that now was the "worst possible moment" to downgrade the importance of teaching religion in secondary schools.

"There is plenty to suggest that younger people, while still statistically deeply unlikely to be churchgoers, don't have the hostility to faith that one might expect," Dr Williams said.

"[They] at least share some sense that there is something here to take seriously - when they have a chance to learn about it."

In Rome, Pope Benedict XVI used his Easter Sunday message to urge the Syrian regime to end the bloodshed.

The Pope, sounding hoarse and looking tired, celebrated Mass on steps of St Peter's Basilica, before a crowd of faithful that swelled to far over 100,000.

He said: "May the risen Christ grant hope to the Middle East and enable all the ethnic, cultural and religious groups in that region to work together to advance the common good and respect for human rights.

"Particularly in Syria, may there be an end to bloodshed and an immediate commitment to the path of respect, dialogue and reconciliation, as called for by the international community."

On Saturday Benedict, who turns 85 next week, presided over a three-hour long Easter vigil in a packed St Peter's Basilica.

He told the gathering that mankind is groping in darkness, unable to distinguish good from evil. "Love is stronger than hate. Truth is stronger than lies," he said.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Rowan Williams to Step Down as Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has announced he is to step down after ten years as he admitted that the row over homosexuality in the Church has been a "major nuisance". 

Rowan Williams Photo: Tim Ireland/PA Wire
By John-Paul Ford Rojas

Dr Williams, 61, will leave at the end of December to take up a new role as Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge next January. The Queen, Supreme Governor of the Church of England, has been informed.

His reign has been plagued by bitter rows over gay clergy and women bishops that have left him struggling to prevent the Church from unravelling.

Explaining his reasons for leaving, Dr Williams admitted that "crisis management" was not his "favourite activity" but denied the rows over homosexuality had "overshadowed everything".

But he said: "It has certainly been a major nuisance. But in every job that you are in there are controversies and conflicts and this one isn't going to go away in a hurry. I can't say that it is a great sense of 'free at last'."

Dr Williams said his successor would need the "constitution of an ox and the skin of a rhinoceros". 

Read the rest of this entry at The Telegraph >>

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Britain's Bishops at War: Head of Catholics Leads Furious Backlash after Archbishop of Canterbury's Attack on Coalition

By James Chapman and Steve Doughty

The Archbishop of Canterbury is embroiled in an extraordinary war with David Cameron and rival Church leaders after a bitter attack on the Government.

In the most brazen political intervention by a head of the Church of England for more than two decades, Dr Rowan Williams questioned the democratic legitimacy of the Coalition.

He claimed 'no one voted' for flagship policies on welfare, health and education, which he said were causing 'anxiety and anger'.

The remarks prompted a furious backlash from the Prime Minister and the leader of England's Roman Catholics, Archbishop Vincent Nichols. Dr Williams's attack came in a leading article for the Left-wing New Statesman magazine which he had been invited to guest-edit.

Dr Rowan Williams, left, sparked a furious backlash from the Prime Minister and head of the Catholic Church in Britain, Archbishop Vincent Nichols
He dismissed Mr Cameron's Big Society initiative as 'painfully stale' and condemned 'punitive' action against 'alleged abuses' in the benefits system.

The Archbishop also accused ministers of encouraging a 'quiet resurgence of the seductive language of “deserving” and “undeserving” poor'.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Pope to Canterbury: 'The Church is Called to be Inclusive, Yet Never at the Expense of Christian Truth.'

Address of Pope Benedict XVI

To the Archbishop of Canterbury

Lambeth Palace, London

17 September 2010

Your Grace,

It is a pleasure for me to be able to return the courtesy of the visits you have made to me in Rome by a fraternal visit to you here in your official residence. I thank you for your invitation and for the hospitality that you have so generously provided. I greet too the Anglican Bishops gathered here from different parts of the United Kingdom, my brother Bishops from the Catholic Dioceses of England, Wales and Scotland, and the ecumenical advisers who are present.

You have spoken, Your Grace, of the historic meeting that took place, almost thirty years ago, between two of our predecessors – Pope John Paul the Second and Archbishop Robert Runcie – in Canterbury Cathedral. There, in the very place where Saint Thomas of Canterbury bore witness to Christ by the shedding of his blood, they prayed together for the gift of unity among the followers of Christ. We continue today to pray for that gift, knowing that the unity Christ willed for his disciples will only come about in answer to prayer, through the action of the Holy Spirit, who ceaselessly renews the Church and guides her into the fullness of truth.

It is not my intention today to speak of the difficulties that the ecumenical path has encountered and continues to encounter. Those difficulties are well known to everyone here. Rather, I wish to join you in giving thanks for the deep friendship that has grown between us and for the remarkable progress that has been made in so many areas of dialogue during the forty years that have elapsed since the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission began its work. Let us entrust the fruits of that work to the Lord of the harvest, confident that he will bless our friendship with further significant growth.

The context in which dialogue takes place between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church has evolved in dramatic ways since the private meeting between Pope John XXIII and Archbishop Geoffrey Fisher in 1960. On the one hand, the surrounding culture is growing ever more distant from its Christian roots, despite a deep and widespread hunger for spiritual nourishment. On the other hand, the increasingly multicultural dimension of society, particularly marked in this country, brings with it the opportunity to encounter other religions. For us Christians this opens up the possibility of exploring, together with members of other religious traditions, ways of bearing witness to the transcendent dimension of the human person and the universal call to holiness, leading to the practice of virtue in our personal and social lives. Ecumenical cooperation in this task remains essential, and will surely bear fruit in promoting peace and harmony in a world that so often seems at risk of fragmentation.

At the same time, we Christians must never hesitate to proclaim our faith in the uniqueness of the salvation won for us by Christ, and to explore together a deeper understanding of the means he has placed at our disposal for attaining that salvation. God “wants all to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:4), and that truth is nothing other than Jesus Christ, eternal Son of the Father, who has reconciled all things in himself by the power of his Cross. In fidelity to the Lord’s will, as expressed in that passage from Saint Paul’s First Letter to Timothy, we recognize that the Church is called to be inclusive, yet never at the expense of Christian truth. Herein lies the dilemma facing all who are genuinely committed to the ecumenical journey.

In the figure of John Henry Newman, who is to be beatified on Sunday, we celebrate a churchman whose ecclesial vision was nurtured by his Anglican background and matured during his many years of ordained ministry in the Church of England. He can teach us the virtues that ecumenism demands: on the one hand, he was moved to follow his conscience, even at great personal cost; and on the other hand, the warmth of his continued friendship with his former colleagues, led him to explore with them, in a truly eirenical spirit, the questions on which they differed, driven by a deep longing for unity in faith. Your Grace, in that same spirit of friendship, let us renew our determination to pursue the goal of unity in faith, hope, and love, in accordance with the will of our one Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

With these sentiments, I take my leave of you. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor 13:13).

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Archbishops Hold Canterbury Summit Over Threat of Schism

By Ruth Gledhill

Anglican archbishops will hold an emergency meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury today to discuss the unfolding schism in the Church in America.

The meeting between Dr Rowan Williams and the primates of Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and the Southern Cone comes two days after conservatives in the US unveiled the constitution and canons of the new Anglican Church in North America.

With a membership of 100,000, drawn from disaffected members of the Episcopal Church of the US and from churches that broke away over the women’s ordination dispute, leaders of the new “province” claim they are not splitting from the 75 million-strong Anglican Communion.

A formal proposal arguing for recognition as the 39th province of the Anglican Communion will be put before the primates at their meeting in Alexandria, Egypt, at the end of January.

However, a statement from Lambeth Palace last night made it clear that no request for recognition as a province had been made and seemed to indicate that this was unlikely.

The Palace said there are “clear guidelines” set out for the creation of new provinces. “Once begun, any of these processes will take years to complete,” it said, making it clear that in the case of the US conservatives no such process had begun.

The new church remains relatively small compared to the 2.2 million members of the Episcopal Church, which sparked the crisis in 2003 with the consecration of the openly gay Bishop of New Hampshire, the Right Rev Gene Robinson.

Today Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria, Bishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone (South American states), Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya, Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda and Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda will discuss the crisis with Dr Williams at The Old Palace, his home in Canterbury, in a meeting arranged at their initiative.

Bishop Venables said the meeting had been in the diary for some time. He said the founders of the new province wanted to maintain unity. He said: “It would be unthinkable if those who believe in original Anglicanism found there was no place for them in the new Anglicanism.”

However, Jim Naughton, of the Episcopal Church denied charges of unorthodoxy. He said: “There are small antigay Christian denominations all over the US and we have existed in the midst of these denominations for ages. At this point, this is just another of those small antigay Christian denominations. They are distinguished from other small antigay churches in the US by their global pretensions, but the relationships they have cultivated with a handful of like-minded leaders in Africa do not really change the dynamic here in the US.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Day of Reckoning for Anglicans Amid Split Over Women Bishops

From The Times (UK)
By Ruth Gledhill

The Church of England will today be plunged into one of the fiercest debates in its 400-year history as traditionalists go head-to-head with liberals over women bishops. Church leaders will attempt to avert new splits with a compromise plan for “super bishops” to minister to traditionalists who oppose women bishops.

Liberals will fiercely resist the plan, which is being seen as an
attempt to appease traditionalists in order to get women bishops consecrated.

Campaigners for women's ordination will respond with an all-or-nothing proposal to consecrate women that includes no safeguards or concessions at all for opponents.

More than 1,300 clergy have threatened to walk out if the Church goes ahead with approving the consecration of women bishops without statutory provision to safeguard the traditionalists' place in the Church.

Women and liberals insist that they would rather not have women bishops at all than have a new, extra-geographical diocese legally established as a safe haven for Anglo-Catholics.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Dr Rowan Williams and Dr John Sentamu, are understood to favour a compromise that would avoid an exodus of the Church's Catholic wing, but they do not want the consecration of women jettisoned altogether because of the difficulties in appeasing both sides.

Dr Williams yesterday described the “agonies and complexities” facing the Church as it struggles with the issues of homosexual priests and women bishops. Preaching to members of the General Synod at York Minster, he said that, were Jesus present in the debate, he would be with every faction of the Church, including traditionalists.

“He will be with those in very different parts of the landscape who feel that things are closing in, that their position is under threat and their liberties are being taken away by those anxious and eager to enforce new ideologies in the name of Christ,” he said.

“He will be with those who feel that their liberty of questioning is under threat, he will be with gay clergy who wonder what their future is in a Church so anxious and tormented about this issue.”

His sermon, which left some worshippers close to tears, restored some faith in its mission as a Christian Church to a Synod meeting where the misery has been almost palpable, as different factions struggle to remain in communion with each other while staying true to their beliefs.

In a last-minute rescue attempt, a senior bishop will urge the Church's governing body to placate traditionalists by considering the appointment of three senior clerics to lead a “Church within a Church”. The Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Right Rev John Packer, will propose an amendment that would allow the creation of complementary or “super bishops”. Traditionalist parishes would be allowed to opt into the care of the super bishops - as they can do now with flying bishops, who were set up when women were first ordained.

He is seeking a delay of eight months before the Church makes up its mind. His amendment will also allow the Church to fall back on straightforward legislation, with a code of practice, if the concept of super bishops cannot be made to work.

Dr Miranda Thelfall-Holmes, chaplain at Durham and representing the universities on the General Synod, will put down a rival amendment designed to remove altogether any protection for traditionalists and to have women consecrated by a simple measure or law allowing them to become bishops.

Christina Rees, of the lobby group Watch, which has campaigned for women bishops and who will speak in support of Dr Threlfall-Holmes's amendment, criticised Bishop Packer's proposal as unnecessary. She said: “We do not need further time. Synod is ready to make up its mind about how it wants to proceed. I am in favour of simple statutory arrangements to allow women to be bishops. Anything that muddles this and makes it more complex or changes the nature of what it means to be a bishop in the Church should be resisted.”

Under the compromise tabled by Bishop Packer, the new super bishops would have powers similar to flying bishops but with more authority. He said the proposal meant that the Church would not be divided. “The parishes that put themselves under the care of a complementary bishop would still be part of the local deanery and diocese and would continue to be funded through the diocese and to be in a structure of fellowship with their neighbours.”

The super bishops would care for traditionalist bishops and congregations in the same way flying bishops have done to date, but would also perform consecrations as well as ordinations and other pastoral duties for Anglo-Catholic parishes. This means that, in the eyes of Anglo-Catholics, the “apostolic” ministry would not be “tainted” by the hands of a woman. Traditionalists believe that the actions of Jesus in appointing 12 men as His disciples - as well as centuries of Church tradition - mean that women bishops go against Church order.

The move for a compromise came as a senior Roman Catholic priest cast doubt over claims of high-level consultations that are said to have taken place between Church of England bishops and Vatican officials in Rome. Monsignor Andrew Faley, ecumenical officer to the 22 Catholic bishops of England and Wales and the Catholic observer at the General Synod, said that no information had reached him or his bishops about such a meeting, although informal meetings took place regularly between bishops and lay members of both churches.

Bishops from both the Church of England's evangelical and Catholic wings are said to have held a secret meeting in Rome to discuss the Church's difficulties over women and gays. Up to six bishops, who have not been named, bypassed leaders of the Roman Catholic Church in Britain to hold the consultation with officials from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith at the Vatican.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Schism over Shari'a in the Church of England

From American Thinker
David J. Rusin

The debate over the trajectory of the Western sociopolitical system and its strained relations with Islam is the most pivotal of our time, as approaches decided upon today will impact billions not yet born. Two prelates in the ever more fractious Church of England provide a microcosm of this discourse.

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-Ali have emerged as central combatants in the dispute between two fundamentally opposed models of social organization: multiculturalism and universalism. The former bestows equal standing upon different cultures in the public square. The latter bestows equal standing upon individuals who wield a common set of rights and responsibilities. Which system prevails will ultimately determine the level of danger that homegrown Islamists pose to Britain, Europe, and the broader West.

Nazir-Ali believes that Britain's campaign to reconstitute itself as a multicultural society has failed, and he explained why in a January 6 op-ed. By emphasizing differences over common values, his country has promoted alienation among Muslims, many of whom are "living as separate communities, continuing to communicate in their own languages, and having minimum need for building healthy relationships with the majority." Since segregation breeds extremism, Islamist-dominated "no-go areas" now dot the map.

Indeed, as Britain increasingly accommodates the strictures of Islamic law in both welfare and finance, the radicalization of its Muslims continues apace. According to a 2006 Channel 4 survey, nearly one-quarter see the 7/7 London bombings as justifiable. A 2007 Policy Exchange poll found that 40% of Muslims under 24 prefer to be governed by Shari'a, while a shocking 36% believe that apostates from Islam should be "punished by death." Extremist views are far more common among younger Muslims, portending trouble on the horizon.

The death threats that followed Nazir-Ali's essay only bolstered his thesis. "The irony is that I had similar threats when I was a bishop in Pakistan," he noted, "but I never thought I would have them here." The rejection of reason is particularly disturbing to this learned man: "If you disagree, that must be met by counterarguments, not by trying to silence people. It was a threat not just to me, but to my family. ... It gave me sleepless nights."

Rowan Williams was likewise losing sleep -- over the "damage" done by Nazir-Ali's frank assessment of multicultural pieties. Speaking to the BBC on February 7, he ignited a firestorm of his own by suggesting that the official acceptance of some facets of Shari'a not only "seems unavoidable," but could actually improve social cohesion. To Williams, the idea that "there's one law for everybody and that's all there is to be said, and anything else that commands your loyalty or allegiance is completely irrelevant in the processes of the courts -- I think that's a bit of a danger."

In one sentence, Britain's most influential cleric effectively discarded the primary achievement of Western civilization: a system in which all live as equals before a single standard of law. The logical consequences of his worldview were underscored by Melanie Phillips: "If there is no one law, there is no one national identity and therefore no society but instead a set of warring fiefdoms with their own separate jurisdictions."

Williams and Nazir-Ali also illustrate how one's preferred method of social organization -- multiculturalism or universalism -- frequently boils down to whether one acknowledges the righteousness of the Western enterprise. Preoccupation with the real and imagined crimes of the West can serve as a gateway to Islamist apologetics. And the archbishop is Exhibit A.

Regarding the free market, Williams sees only suffering: "Every transaction in the developed economies of the West can be interpreted as an act of aggression against the economic losers in the worldwide game." And America's role on the international stage is, of course, the height of iniquity. In contrast, he often excuses horrors committed in the name of Islam. While condemning terrorism, he has suggested that terrorists can "have serious moral goals." He also laments the challenges faced by Middle Eastern Christians, but portrays them as victims of Western policies rather than of the Islamists threatening their lives.

Unlike Rowan Williams, Michael Nazir-Ali witnessed the realities of Shari'a law and radical Islam firsthand as a young Pakistani. These experiences eventually led him to Britain's shores -- and to an admiration for the freedoms nurtured in the West. Like Magdi Allam, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Abdullahi Ahmed An-Na'im, Salman Rushdie, and Ibn Warraq, the future bishop escaped the stifling oppression of Shari'a to become an outspoken champion of Western values.

Shari'a "would be in tension with the English legal tradition on questions like monogamy, provisions for divorce, the rights of women, custody of children, laws of inheritance and of evidence," Nazir-Ali said in response to Williams' BBC interview. "This is not to mention the relation of freedom of belief and of expression to provisions for blasphemy and apostasy." His statement reveals a keen understanding of the two groups that suffer an inferior status under Shari'a: women and non-Muslims.

Not satisfied with abstract musings, Nazir-Ali applies this knowledge to contemporary problems. In March he quizzed a Home Office minister on whether women threatened by forced marriages are being adequately protected, and last year he urged Muslim leaders to condemn violence against apostates. Williams, in contrast, has said little about either issue. The bishop of Rochester has also criticized amplification of the call to prayer, demanded that Britain carefully scrutinize foreign imams, and spoken out against face-covering veils -- even as Williams insists that an attempt to limit them would be "politically dangerous."

Nazir-Ali contends that the Western ethos did not arise by chance, but proceeded from "the Bible's teaching that we have equal dignity and freedom because we are all made in God's image." Islamist encroachments are therefore symptoms of a more fundamental problem. "The real danger to Britain today is the spiritual and moral vacuum that has occurred for the last 40 or 50 years. When you have such a vacuum something will fill it," he recently warned. "Do the British people really want to lose that rooting in the Christian faith that has given them everything they cherish -- art, literature, architecture, institutions, the monarchy, their value system, their laws?"

Only time will tell.

Historians may one day look back on these two prelates and the church they serve -- a body faced with plummeting attendance and approaching disestablishment -- as symbols of the early twenty-first-century discourse over the future of the West. For now, Michael Nazir-Ali and Rowan Williams illuminate the diverging paths before us: one paved with an ardent defense of Western liberties, the other with a nihilism that leads inexorably to dhimmitude.

David J. Rusin is a research associate at Islamist Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum. He holds a Ph.D. in Physics and Astronomy from the University of Pennsylvania. Please feel free to contact him at

Monday, February 18, 2008

Archbishop Vindicated. British Government Prepared to Say Yes to Sharia Law

From The Brussells Journal

Britain is to become the first Western nation to issue bonds approved by Muslim clerics in line with sharia law, which bans conventional loans involving interest payments as "sinful". The scheme would mark one of the most significant economic advances of sharia law in the non-Muslim world.

It will lead to the ownership of Government buildings and other assets currently belonging to British taxpayers being switched wholesale to wealthy Middle-Eastern businessmen and banks. The Government sees sharia-compliant bonds as a way of tapping Middle-East money and building bridges with the Muslim community.

But critics say the scheme would waste money and could undermine Britain's financial and legal systems. […] Other Western nations have been reluctant to issue Islamic bonds. In the United States the bonds are banned partly as a result of claims that the money could be linked to terrorism. […]

However, The Mail on Sunday has established that Chancellor Alistair Darling is ready to give the go-ahead to sharia-compliant bonds – known as "sukuk", an early Arabic form of cheque. Treasury officials have been working behind the scenes for months on the plan. […] Treasury officials say the aim is to attract big investors as well as making it easier for British Muslims to invest in National Savings products at banks and post offices. The Government has already backed Islamic car loans and mortgages.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Christian Leaders Should Not Advocate Sharia Law - Moscow Patriarchate

Geneva, February 14, Interfax - The values of other religions, just as secular ones, should not be advocated by the heads of Christian Churches, said Bishop Hilarion of Vienna and Austria, who represents the Russian Orthodox Church at European international organizations.

"Our role is not to protect Sharia law, to glorify an alternative style of behavior or to preach secular values. Our sacred mission is to announce what Christ announced, to teach what his disciples taught," Bishop Hilarion said at the opening of a session of the World Council of Churches (WCC)'s Central Committee in Geneva.

He was commenting on a recent statement by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams that it was inevitable that several aspects of Sharia law will have to be included in British law. His speech caused a public uproar in the UK.

"Many Christians around the world are looking up to Christian leaders with hope that they will defend Christianity against all the challenges it faces," Bishop Hilarion said.

He also criticized ‘liberal’ and ‘politically correct’ Christianity which Protestant and Anglican communities started promoting several dozens years ago. The Russian Church’s representative said that the gap between ‘traditional’ and ‘liberal’ Christianity grows so dramatically that today it's impossible to speak about one moral system preached by all Christians.

‘Politically correct Christianity will die. We have already been watching the process of liberal Christianity’s gradual decline as newly introduced moral norms lead to splits, discrepancies and confusion in several Christian communities,’ the bishop said.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Archbishop Faces Fresh Pressure Over Queen’s ‘worry’ at Sharia Speech

The Times

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.”

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.

The Prince of Wales, a champion of good relations with Islam, has told friends he is concerned that the Archbishop’s speech is in danger of being taken out of context and distilled into scaremongering headlines.

The Prince fears that the misinterpretation of the Archbishop’s comments that Sharia was inevitable in Britain could harm relations with Islam and the Islamic world.

The Archbishop admitted on Monday that his intervention on the issue had been “clumsy" but refused to back down. He apologised to the Church of England for any “misleading choice of words” but made clear that he stood by his right to tackle such issues.

The Queen’s affection for the Commonwealth is well known and many Commonwealth countries with large Muslim populations, such as Nigeria, are incredulous at the Archbishop’s apparent appeasement of Islam.

The Queen is reported to have intervened previously in Anglican affairs over the appointment of an openly homosexual priest as the Bishop of Reading in 2003. She is said to have twice raised the issue with Tony Blair, then the Prime Minister.

The Queen has become increasingly interested in multi-faith issues. She used her last Christmas speech to call for all religions to work together to bridge the divide between young and old. The broadcast also featured unprecedented scenes from a mosque, a Hindu temple and a Jewish reception.

The content was seen as moving her closer to the Prince of Wales’s strongly held view that the monarch should be the “defender of faiths”.

The Queen emphasised that it was easy to focus on the differences between religions rather than what they have in common. “The wisdom and experience of the great religions point to the need to nurture and guide the young, and to encourage respect for the elderly,” she said.

Buckingham Palace refused last night to confirm or deny that the Queen had expressed concerns about the Archbishop’s views. A spokes-woman 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 Prince of Wales, who will take the title Defender of the Faith when he becomes king, has said previously that he wished to be seen rather as a defender of faiths. However, his wish for a multi-faith coronation was dismissed by the Church of England which asserted the importance of a Christian-only service designed by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

A history of conflict

—— Thomas à Becket and Henry II: when Henry reasserted his ancestral rights over the Church, Becket refused to comply. Four knights murdered Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170

—— Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII: the Cardinal fell from grace when he was unable to persuade the Pope that Henry should be granted a divorce from Catherine of Aragon

—— Thomas Cranmer, who compiled the first English Book of Common Prayer, was the first Protestant Archbishop. Queen Mary had him burnt at the stake for heresy and treason in 1556

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Real Clear Politics

The United Kingdom, from common language and shared heritage, offers us our best window into what is happening in Europe. This is especially so when we try to come to grips -- if we have the courage to do so -- with the historically sudden irruption, and rapid spread, of Islam across Europe.

There are parallel developments in all the nations on the Continent: high immigration rates from Islamic countries, comparatively high birth rates among that immigrant population, and the radicalization of their young in Wahabi mosques financed by the oil wealth of Arabia. But for many English-speaking Canadians, it is the British experience that brings the phenomenon home.

The demographic issue is at the centre of much controversy. There can be little dispute over the statistical facts, which are quite dramatic, and as exhilarating from an Islamist point of view, as they are ominous for those who fear the loss of everything associated with western civilization. For, owing to the prior triumph of the leftist "multicultural" ideology, which holds that one "culture" is as good as another, and therefore it is wrong to preserve our own way of life, there is considerable opposition to discussing these facts.

We have seen this in Canada, where journalists Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant have been hauled before "human rights tribunals" -- kangaroo courts in which defendants are stripped of all the traditional protections of court law, and where judgments may be passed against them by people with no legal qualifications on the basis of whim and hearsay.

Mr. Steyn, in particular, stands accused of having openly discussed demographic questions. Mr. Levant stands accused of having published materials the mainstream media had been cowed into suppressing by the fear of Islamist violence.

In both cases, the journalists are being prosecuted by Muslims who advocate the imposition of Shariah law, but are using an apparatus that was designed by the Left for the persecution of those expressing right-wing views.

The British system works differently, and the media in Britain remain more robust than the media in Canada, and willing to report things that would be studiously ignored in a Canadian newsroom. On the other hand, by sheer force of numbers, and the intimidation value of several Islamist atrocities on London's streets, the "fear factor" in Britain is much higher, and the Labour government has proved much more responsive to Islamist demands.

The chief, and most consistent Islamist demand, is for the imposition of Shariah law, at least for Muslims, but ideally by the whole state. In fact, many Shariah courts are already operating informally in Britain, dealing mostly with routine civil questions of marriage, divorce, inheritance, and financial disputes, but sometimes with crime. For instance, a Shariah court in the London district of Woolwich was allowed recently -- apparently with the co-operation of police -- to pass judgment on unnamed Somali youths in a knifing incident. (The assailants were released in return for an apology to their victim.)

In various other ways, Shariah is being recognized, semi-formally. For instance, although bigamy remains nominally a crime in Britain, the Labour government has approved new social provisions by which extra welfare payments, council housing privileges, and tax benefits may be claimed by polygamous households, and the cash benefits to which the extra wives are now entitled may be paid directly into the account of their husband.

At a higher level, the (Anglican) Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, publicly called this week for the recognition of "some form of" Shariah law for Muslims in Britain, and said it should be given equal status with parliamentary law. While Archbishop Williams has a long history of muddled pronouncements, and is widely observed to be emotionally unstable, the strength of his office is now engaged on the Islamist side.

Muslim groups such as the Ramadhan Foundation responded luke-warmly, welcoming the suggestion but criticizing the archbishop for having failed to punish his Bishop of Rochester, Michael Nazir-Ali, who is under police protection after recently suggesting that various Muslim districts in Britain had become "no-go areas" for people who are not Muslim. (The Anglican Archbishop of York is also under fire, for making remarks critical of radical Islam.)

The saddest part of this, is that so many "moderate" Muslims emigrated to Britain (as to Canada) expressly to escape from societies in which Shariah law is normative. And what they are learning now, is that, thanks to the triumph of multiculturalism in the West, "you can run but you can't hide."