Looking over the net and the media over the past couple of days, some commentators have given Rowan Williams a hefty dose of the benefit of the doubt, variously crediting his comments as being 'naive', incorrectly interpreted, or overblown, and have criticised those comments in response as 'knee-jerk'.
In summary: A kind of slightly batty but benign intellectual cleric, who has been a victim of muddled PR judgement and has been unfairly criticised by detractors who aren't intelligent enough to understand what he was really saying.
It's attractive, but that kind of delusional and revisionist nonsense won't wash.
Williams may have made an idiotic misjudgement of the PR consequences of his words, which could see him out of a job by Easter - but he's an idiot with an agenda.
Williams is an intellectual who measures every single word he writes and says. He's been criticised for citing Sharia law in example, but it's really just a straw man. It's easy to be drawn into arguments over Sharia but it's just a sideshow; this issue isn't just about laws based on clerical interpretation. It's much more fundamental than that - it's about weakening British law to defer to religious sensitivities.
Don't believe me? Then take it from Rowan Williams himself. He said that the Muslim community shouldn't be "faced with the stark alternatives of cultural loyalty or state loyalty". Remember, he's using 'Muslims' as a code. Williams is really talking about the right, under law, for some to follow their own moral code (or whatever passes for one) and be judged by it.
He didn't say it just once though, he reiterated that:
"What we don't want either, is I think, a stand-off, where the law squares up to people's religious consciences."
...and then again:
"But I think it is a misunderstanding to suppose that means people don't have other affiliations, other loyalties which shape and dictate how they behave in society and that the law needs to take some account of that."
He referred to this concept THREE times. That's no misjudgement or coincidence. It's a clear and specific agenda.
It can't be a coincidence that Williams makes these remarks whilst the Catholic church is under pressure to recognise gay rights and the Anglican Church and various other Christian groups not just fight the loss of the blasphemy laws but call for new ones.
Williams' supporters claim in defence that we already have laws which respect religious culture. True. We have laws which permit the mutilation of children's genitals and laws that allow normal animal welfare rules to be bypassed - all for religion. It's a morally subjective and dangerous argument to follow. Just because British law has been already twisted to the tune of religion it doesn't make it right.
This isn't some call for equal rights or cohesion as some of Williams' apologists are claiming - it's a call for different rights, based upon a legally enshrined expectation of respect for religions as philosophical and moral equals (at least in general relativistic terms) to secular laws.
The so-called 'moderates' who have come out to defend Williams have revealed their secret fundamentalist desire to theocratise our legal system, turning justice into some medieval freak show.
Religious laws and courts, whether it be by Sharia, Beth Din or Inquisition are tainted by the religious-cultural bias and agenda of those who would judge others and make a mockery of equality, democracy, liberty and reason.
A truly equitable and cohesive society is best served by one secular legal system which is shared by all participants and which protects everyone. Equally.
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