Press Release: UK – Shock at Backlash Against Archbishop of Canterbury

Islamic Human Rights Commission

8 February 2008

Press Release: UK – Shock at Backlash Against Archbishop of Canterbury
Criticism of Rowan Williams Indicative of Levels of Anti-Muslim Sentiment

IHRC is shocked at the level and nature of criticism of Dr. Rowan Williams remarks regarding the accommodation of some forms of Islamic law into British law.

Whilst Dr. Williams remarks made clear he was speaking about some aspects of personal law, media coverage and public and political discussion has raised the spectre of hudood (i.e. capital) punishments, in a nonsensical manner. Further the claims by commentators that these comments undermine the idea of one law for all suggest either a lack of knowledge of the British legal system as it is, or a deliberate misrepresentation of it. The Synod itself is a form of religious court with its own jurisdiction. Beth Din courts for the Jewish community have existed for hundred of years.

IHRC notes that many Muslims – notably Muslim women – already refer to Sharia councils in Britain, as the Jewish community does with Beth Din courts, for issues of marriage, divorce and inheritance. According to IHRC’s research, enshrining these rulings in the law would give Muslims a greater sense of legal status as citizens of Britain.

Head of Research and co-author of ‘Law and British Muslims: Domination of the Majority or Process of Balance'[1], Arzu Merali said:

\\\”Muslims are talking about incorporating minor issues in family law. Yet all the talk in the wake of Dr. Williams comments, raises pictures of people being flogged and arms being amputated. I think it\\\’s a very shocking response to his comments which focussed as much on revisiting the stereotypes and mythologies of a secular society, including Islam and the Enlightenment.”

For more information, please contact IHRC on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or (+44) 7958 60 74 75 or email

Notes to Editors:

[1] ‘Law and British Muslims: Domination of the Majority or Process of Balance’ is report by Saied R. Ameli, Beena Faridi, Karin Lindahl and Arzu Merali for the Islamic Human Rights Commission, 2006. ISBN 1-903718-32-5, £8 pp 101.

The fifth report in the British Muslim Expectations of Government series has been commissioned to highlight how certain laws and the experience of Muslim communities of these laws is discriminatory and Islamophobic, whereby some major questions arise; can the legal system of any country be neutral as to religion, race and even gender? If so, in the United Kingdom, are we almost there or is this work in progress?

A summary is available at:

The full report can be ordered at:

For a soft copy in PDF please contact the IHRC office on or (+44) 20 8904 4222.


The Islamic Human Rights Commission is an NGO in special consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

Islamic Human Rights Commission
PO Box 598
United Kingdom

Telephone (+44) 20 8904 4222
Fax (+44) 20 8904 5183