Bishop's support in Sharia row

PUBLISHED: 12:07 14 February 2008 | UPDATED: 12:57 06 May 2010

THE BISHOP of St Albans has stepped into the debate over controversial comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Sharia law. The Rt Rev Christopher Herbert sent out a St Albans diocese-wide letter in a bid to clarify the lecture made by the Archbishop R

THE BISHOP of St Albans has stepped into the debate over controversial comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury on Sharia law.

The Rt Rev Christopher Herbert sent out a St Albans diocese-wide letter in a bid to clarify the lecture made by the Archbishop Rowan Williams after receiving several angry, confused and dismayed letters from the public.

The Archbishop has faced widespread condemnation for seeming to suggest that Muslims should be able to live under Sharia law within the English legal system.

But Bishop Herbert said the Archbishop had argued that in a secular state the rights of religious groups should not be trampled over and the laws should be sensitive to them.

He added that the Archbishop had pointed out that the law already allowed doctors to choose whether or not they carried out abortions for religious reasons.

Bishop Herbert felt the Archbishop was very tentatively trying to suggest that it would be worth exploring if individuals should have the right, in certain circumstances, to choose a particular legal system to resolve problems such as financial transactions or marital issues.

The Archbishop had argued that the law should allow for people to have overlapping identities to prevent mutually-isolated communities that did not respect each others values.

Bishop Herbert said the Archbishop wanted to avoid what he saw as a potential clash between cultural and state loyalty.

And he added that the reaction to the Archbishop's lecture revealed that there was a level of unease about how a multi-faith and multi-cultural society could work which needed to be treated seriously.

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