|Rowan Williams strongly denied reports that he was advocating a dual justice system of justice for Britain. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg News)|
LONDON - Fellow Anglicans greeted the archbishop of Canterbury with a standing ovation yesterday, despite his recent controversial statements about the role of Islamic law in Britain.
Rowan Williams twice asked members of the Church of England's governing body, the General Synod, to stop clapping so he could begin his talk about the furious response to his advocating the incorporation of some elements of Sharia law into British society.
Williams had been criticized by British media and politicians for his comments last week, in which he said that the introduction of parts of Islamic law, known as Sharia, were "unavoidable." Even some Anglicans had called for his resignation.
But speaking from the podium at Church House, near the British Parliament and Westminster Abbey, Williams strongly denied media reports that he was advocating a dual system of justice for Britain.
"We are not talking about parallel jurisdictions," he said.
Williams said that his words had been distorted but that he took responsibility for the lack of clarity in his pronouncements about Sharia in a radio interview and a speech.
"I must, of course, take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text or in the radio interview, and for any misleading choice of words that has helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large and especially among my fellow Christians," he said.
Williams said in a British Broadcasting Corp. interview aired Thursday that some aspects of Sharia law, a venerable Islamic code of conduct, already fit easily within the British legal system, and he agreed when asked if its implementation was inevitable.
Britain's media took the statement as broadly backing Sharia law, which delighted some British Muslims - and outraged almost everyone else.
Bishop Stephen Lowe said after the speech that the long ovation was an indication of the strong backing Williams can expect from the membership of the synod, despite the controversy.
"The respect with which he's held in the Church of England was reflected in the ovation and the applause at the end of his speech," he said. "I think the speech ought to have quieted any of the criticism of the last few days."
However, Williams continued to receive harsh treatment in the press Monday. The afternoon London Lite newspaper published a string of negative comments from readers who believe Williams is proposing unwanted changes to Britain's judicial system.