Politicians dismiss Archbishop’s Islamic law comments

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The Prime Minister’s spokesman has distanced him from comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury concerning the introduction of aspects of Sharia law in the UK.

Dr Rowan Williams said earlier today that a “constructive accommodation” must be found over issues such as divorce and added that people should not imagine “we know exactly what we mean by Sharia and just associate it with Saudi Arabia.”

A Downing St spokesman said that aspects of Islamic law, under which homosexual acts carry the death penalty, could never be justified for breaking UK laws.

“There are instances where government has made changes, for example on stamp duty, but the general position is that Sharia cannot be used as justification for committing breaches of English law nor can its principles be used in civil courts,” he said.

The Conservative spokeswoman on social cohesion, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, who is Muslim, branded the Archbishop’s position unhelpful.

“Of course the important principle is one of equality and we must ensure that people of all backgrounds and religions are treated equally before the law.

“Freedom under the law allows respect for some religious practices.”

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said that said that “we cannot have a situation where there is one law for one person and different laws for another.

“There is a huge difference between respecting people’s right to follow their own beliefs and allowing them to excuse themselves from the rule of law.”

Homosexuality is punishable by death under Sharia and more than hundred of gay men have been put to death in Iran since the Islamic revolution in 1979.

Dr Williams told BBC Radio 4’s World At One:

“It seems unavoidable and, as a matter of fact, certain conditions of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law, so it is not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system.

“There is a place for finding what would be a constructive accommodation with some aspects of Muslim law as we already do with aspects of other kinds of religious law.”