Sharia law comments criticised
Last Updated: Thursday, 07 February 2008, 20:08 GMT
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Dr Rowan Williams says there's a place for sharia law
Religious and secular groups have criticised the Archbishop of Canterbury after he said the adoption of elements of Islamic sharia law in the UK "seems unavoidable".
Dr Rowan Williams said there was a place for finding a "constructive accommodation" in areas such as marriage - allowing Muslim women to avoid western divorce proceedings.
But his comments have been criticised by Christian and secular groups, while a spokesman for Prime Minister Gordon Brown insisted British law would be based on British values, and sharia law would be no justification for acting against national law.
Mr Brown's spokesman said: "Our general position is that sharia law cannot be used as a justification for committing breaches of English law, nor should the principles of sharia law be included in a civil court for resolving contractual disputes.
"If there are specific instances like stamp duty, where changes can be made in a way that's consistent with British law and British values, in a way to accommodate the values of fundamental Muslims, that is something the Government would look at."
He added: "There is always going to be a debate about this issue. In general terms, if there are specific instances that can be looked at on a case-by-case basis, that is something we can look at. But the Prime Minister believes British law should apply in this country, based on British values."
Alistair McBay, spokesman for the National Secular Society said: "In a plural society, all citizens are equal under the law and the Archbishop's comments directly undermines this.
"We have segregated schools, segregated scout groups and even segregated toilets for Muslims, and now the Archbishop says we should have different laws, it's madness. On the one hand religious groups say they want to integrate, but actually they want to segregate."
Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice said: "This is a Christian country with Christian laws. If Muslims want to live under sharia law then they are free to emigrate to a country where sharia law is already in operation. Any accommodation with sharia law does nothing to help social cohesion. Christian law has been eroded by secularism and this country was founded on Christian values."
Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said Dr Williams' comments were "muddled and unhelpful". http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org(Archbishop of Canterbury)