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Last Updated: Friday, 8 February 2008, 14:03 GMT
Reaction in quotes: Sharia law row
There has been a mixed reaction to Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams' comments about adopting Sharia law in Britain from politicians, spiritual and cultural figures in the United Kingdom.

IBRAHIM MOGRA, MUSLIM COUNCIL OF BRITAIN

"We're looking at a very small aspect of Sharia for Muslim families when they choose to be governed with regards to their marriage, divorce, inheritance, custody of children and so forth.

"We also have other examples... in our high streets we have compliant financial packages which have benefited our country's economy tremendously, so there is scope here for debate.

"It is very complex, it is not as straightforward as saying that we will have a system [in Britain]. We do not wish to see a parallel system or a separate system of judiciary for Muslims.

"We've seen examples of this in Ontario in Canada and in Singapore, where systems have worked very well."

THE RIGHT REVEREND DR TOM BUTLER, BISHOP OF SOUTHWARK

Dr Tom Butler
The Bishop of Southwark: "No place" for Sharia law

"I think Sharia law as we know it, or as it's portrayed to us, has no place at all but I don't actually think that's what the archbishop is saying.

"I think he's saying parts of Sharia law, and I think he's talking about marital disputes and property disputes - I don't think he's talking about chopping people's hands off."

SHAISTA GOHIR, GOVERNMENT ADVISER ON MUSLIM WOMEN

"If the Jewish community have a choice to operate their own courts in the UK, it is not surprising that Muslims are now asking for Sharia courts too. So perhaps this debate should also include whether any form of religious arbitration should be allowed.

Shaista Gohir, government adviser on Muslim women
Gohir: "many Muslims are likely to be against Sharia"

"But I personally think that we should not have Sharia courts as the majority of Muslims do not want it. Many Muslim commentators and the media are wrongly assuming that all Muslims want Sharia law in the UK.

"Various polls have so far indicated that around 40% want Sharia law. Although this is a significant percentage, why ignore the views of the other 60%?

"Many Muslims are likely to be against Sharia because the interpretation and implementation... varies throughout the Islamic world.

"As Muslims in the UK are from across the world and therefore very diverse, it is unlikely all Muslims would ever agree to a single interpretation or implementation."

"What's more, I think it is unlikely that women would be included in any arbitration council. Although Islam gives women numerous Islamic rights, many Muslim women would fear discrimination due to patriarchal and cultural reasons. Muslims, particularly women may be pressurised by families and communities into using Sharia courts."

DAVID FREI, REGISTRAR OF THE LONDON BETH DIN

"I do believe that under the present legal system so far as arbitration is concerned there is nothing preventing Muslims today resolving their civil disputes by consent under Sharia law.

"The arbitration acts provide that people can resolve their disputes in this country under arbitration and they can choose which system to use as well."

NICK CLEGG, LIBERAL DEMOCRAT LEADER

Nick Clegg
Nick Clegg: "A certain set of values"

"We have to accept that whatever your views, whatever your faith, whatever the great cultural diversity - which I celebrate in this country we have - there's got to be a certain set of values that we all subscribe to, otherwise the whole thing falls apart.

"You need a glue that holds us all together, even if there are then differences, and I think respect for the same body of law is part of that glue that holds a democratic society together."

BARONESS WARSI, SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMMUNITY COHESION

"Under the rule of law in this country, we recognise religious practices.

"I'm absolutely clear in my mind that what is right for Britain is that we are all subject to the same law, criminal and civil, and that we are, whatever our differences are, treated equally before that law."

DAVID BLUNKETT, FORMER HOME SECRETARY

David Blunkett
David Blunkett: "Nothing to do with common citizenship"

"[The archbishop] should have understood the difference between civil society - tribunals that seek to arbitrate or to mediate - and the civil law under which we all work.

"The fear I think is that there is a tendency for those, if you like, well-meaning liberals... to actually believe that we have to accommodate something which is external to our country and not to do with the development of a common citizenship."

SUHAIB HASSAN, UK ISLAMIC SHARIA COUNCIL

"In a secular society - which is very much applauded by the people here - that society itself demands that the Muslims live according to their religious beliefs.

"If the Jews can live according to their religious beliefs, why not the Muslims?"

ANDY BURNHAM, CULTURE SECRETARY

Culture Secretary
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham: "Recipe for social chaos"

"This isn't a path down which we should go... the British legal system should apply to everybody equally.

"You cannot run two systems of law alongside each other.

"That would, in my view, be a recipe for chaos, social chaos."

DR GHAYASUDDIN SIDDIQUI, MUSLIM INSTITUTE

"I see his statement as a challenge to the Muslim community that they have to convince the wider society that we are at par with everybody in terms of human rights and so on and so forth."

TREVOR PHILLIPS, EQUALITY AND HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION

Trevor Phillips
Trevor Phillips: "Absolutely divisive"

"There is no serious body of Muslim opinion which either thinks that Muslims should have special treatment, or that there should be some exemptions.

"It's reasonable of him to want to have a debate about the limits of religious law and how much that should be recognised by the court.

"But the suggestion that a British court should treat people differently according to their faith - whether that's being Jewish, or Christian, or Muslim, is absolutely divisive, and I think, really rather dangerous."

PROFESSOR TARIQ RAMADAN, OXFORD UNIVERSITY

"These kinds of statements just feed the fears of fellow citizens and I really think we, as Muslims, need to come with something that we abide by the common law...

"And within these latitudes there are possibilities for us to be faithful to Islamic principles."

TAJI MUSTAFA, HIZB UT-TAHRIR

"The response to Dr Williams' comments illustrate both the profound level of ignorance in Britain about the Islamic Sharia and the near total blindness of some to the flaws within secularism and the harms it has caused in its implementation across the world."



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