- Let the record1 show that Ruth Gledhill had the only news this morning, and that her analysis piece actually moved forward our understanding of the story. She is the only person who has actually explained how the catastrophe happened — not that her version makes Rowan look very much better. In particular, she has
foundbeen forwarded a quote from a letter to Irene Lancaster from Rowan’s interfaith adviser, Canon Guy Wilkinson, who explained that the lecture would be “a response to rising concerns about the extent to which Sharia is compatible with English civil law, especially in the extensive Muslim neighbourhoods where informal Sharia councils are widely in operation. In areas such as marriage and divorce, there is evidence that there is no proper connection with the civil courts and that women in particular are suffering.”
If Rowan had said those words on the radio there would have been no story
It is obvious to anyone who reads the lecture that this is one of the things he was trying to say. Had he placed his radio interview (clarified after lagomorphic comments below) in the context of enabling good Islam against bad Islam, which is undoubtedly the frame in which he was thinking, he would still have upset a lot of people, but not the same lot, and much more productively. That he did not do so is not a testament to cleverness or unworldliness. I’m not one to use “Intellectual” as a term of abuse; but Academic arrogance is a fair description of his attitude, and so is stupidity, because this is, after all, about the fourth time he has made the same mistake.
Two further small points emerge from her piece. One, that his staff deal with Irene Lancaster. Two, that Lord Carey reads (presumably for pleasure) the News of the World.
- The Telegraph news desk is currently staffed — as the Mail would see it — with rejects from the Daily Mail and it shows. Their only understanding of this story is that if the Archbishop has screwed up, he must resign. That is the narrative that the BBC started, and it’s pointless. But whereas the Mail has quickly grasped that it is not going to happen — it is a very feeble lead indeed to say that The Archbishop of Canterbury is expected to face calls for his resignation when the Church of England’s general synod meets today. — the Telegraph is still flogging the dead horse, or bashing the dead bishop: Dr Rowan Williams has faced fresh calls for his resignation and claims from within the Anglican Church that confidence in him had “plummeted”. Jonathan Petre, who wrote that, knows perfectly well that it is irrelevant. But in his case, at least, it is a complete defence to say that he was only obeying orders.
- Looking at the weekend’s papers, it was not surprising that the FT had the best leader, one which both understood Rowan’s underlying position and rejected it clearly on principle. But I was surprised that two of the best comment pieces were in the Independent, both for and against. Deborah Orr gave much the most sympathetic reading of the speech; Yasmin Alibhai Brown much the best feminist response. To the extent that the Archbishop did stir up debate, rather than vituperation, those columns are where you will find it, though on the general matter of religion in a secular age, Parris and Barrow (earlier referenced) are the ones to go to.
1 Well, this immensly influential and widely read blog, and perhaps, even the Church Times too.