Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dr Rowan Williams's words were understood

[...] In spite of his words of mitigation, there are still grounds for doubt about whether Dr Williams fully appreciates how justified was the anger that his original remarks provoked.

Certainly, some of his supporters have been quick to blame the media for a "knee-jerk" reaction to what they describe as a "serious piece of academic work", implying that the tide of criticism that has enveloped Lambeth Palace has been simple-minded or deliberately obtuse.

The Vicar of Putney, Rev Giles Fraser, has likened the press to "a pack of dogs" who had not even tried "to understand what [Dr Williams] said". This is quite untrue: the serious media have examined both Dr Williams's lecture and his BBC interview and focused their critique precisely on the legal and theological significance of his views.

It would seem that some of Dr Williams's apologists are simply failing to come to grips with the enormity of what his (perhaps badly chosen) words implied.

There are two quite separate points of legitimate concern. One is that the archbishop - who heads a national institution with a constitutional function - explicitly called into question the most fundamental principle of British justice: that we have a single system of law that applies equally to everyone.

The other is that, at a time when British cultural assumptions and institutions are under threat from a particularly aggressive interpretation of Islam, the head of its Established Church is unprepared to offer a robust defence of its values, apparently preferring to concede to the demands of what is in fact a minority, even among the Muslim community.

Dr Williams is guilty, at the very least, of arrogant insensitivity. His self-inflicted injury may yet prove to be fatal. Read more

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