Friday, 22 February 2008

The Archbishop and Sharia Law

The other day the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, stirred up a lot of controversy with his comments on Islam's Sharia Law. There was a great deal of outrage much of it emanating from the tabloid press. Now I don't pretend to understand the nuances of the arguments that have arisen. But I would first like to make a couple of observations. They are these: Dr Williams is very much an academic and his deep thoughts and somewhat convoluted language do not make for easy hearing or reading and so are open to misinterpretation and with certain quotations being recorded out of context. Not that his presentation style is totally wrong because there is the other problem prevalent today of too much dumbing down. This leads to my second point - you can bet that the tabloid editors and commentators with their tight publishing schedules haven't really understood what the good Archbishop has been driving at.

I think it was last week that the Western Morning News published an article by Daily Mail columnist Melanie Phillips in which she had a right old go at Dr Williams. I wouldn't say that I would always disagree with what Melanie says or writes but she is a busy writer and is the sort of person liable just to write from her gut instincts and not forensically look at her subject. And I don't know whether it's just me but her hectoring style of talking (I've seen her on TV and heard her on the radio) is quite irritating. The WMN is using Daily Mail articles more frequently these days, I think they come from the same stable, but to their credit allowed a similar length article from another writer to put forward an opposing view.

So in yesterday's paper it was the turn of former North Cornwall MP Lord Paul Tyler to rebut the argument from Ms Phillips. Lord Tyler refers to the fact that he's read the Archbishop's "long, complicated and thoughtful lecture". He doubts that Ms Phillips has and I suspect he's right on that. Lord Tyler goes on to make some well reasoned points in his piece and although I don't have the time to fully read what Dr Williams had to say and the huge number of subsequent comments on blogs and elsewhere I would lean by instinct to what Lord Tyler says rather than the rantings from the tabloid press.

Finally just a thought about Paul Tyler and his fellow Lords and Ladies in the Upper House. These people are often worth listening to. They are of more mature years generally than their counterparts in the Commons and thus have a more rounded view on life. Not having the constant concern of keeping their constituents sweet or of levering themselves up through the ranks to become government ministers by being 'yesmen' helps them to apply commonsense to matters of the day. This is quite refreshing.

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