The Archbishop of Canterbury was facing a crisis of confidence in his leadership yesterday after calling for parts of Islamic law, or Sharia, to be introduced into Britain.
Amid growing calls for his resignation, including from members of the General Synod of the Church of England, Dr. Rowan Williams hastily backtracked, claiming he had never called for a parallel jurisdiction of Sharia for Muslims.
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But his moral authority, already undermined by the dispute over homosexuality, looked further in jeopardy as prelates from overseas provinces of the Anglican Communion joined in the criticism.
Weblogs and other sites have been overwhelmed by comments from the public, Anglicans and nonAnglicans, the vast majority being highly critical of Williams and his apparent appeasement of Islamism. The Prince of Wales, Britain’s foremost champion of good relations with Islam, has distanced himself from the Archbishop’s views. Privately, he is concerned that the speech is in danger of being taken out of context and distilled into scaremongering headlines.
Although the Queen is head of the Church, her spokeswoman declined to comment.
Alison Ruoff, a Synod member for London and a member of the Bishop of London’s diocesan council, said: “He has done the Anglican Communion and the Church of England no favours. He should go.”
Dr. Peter Akinola, the Primate of Nigeria, where Christians are regularly persecuted by Muslims, called the remarks “most disturbing and most unfortunate”.
The timing of the Archbishop’s call for a “supplementary jurisdiction” of Sharia for aspects of marital and financial law and for mediation and conflict resolution could not have been worse. It has come as the Synod prepares to meet at Westminster on Monday; on the agenda will be the crisis over homosexuality and the pending schism between liberals and conservatives.
Insiders are wondering if Williams’s moral authority has now been damaged beyond repair.