The Rowan Williams Comments: When Christian Leaders Promote Dhimmitude

Dhimmitude is the condition of second class citizenship that Christians and other minorities experience when living under countries with Islamic rule. This near slavery-like condition has been amply described and documented by many. Two volumes by Bat Ye’or should be consulted here: The Dhimmi: Jews and Christians Under Islam (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), and, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2001.)

It is not a condition any Christian should wish upon another. Yet that appears to be exactly what the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury has just done. Dr Rowan Williams has just announced that he expects at least some elements of sharia law to be adopted in the UK. He said the UK had to “face up to the fact” that some citizens do not relate to the British legal system, and argued that officially sanctioning Sharia law – in the areas of marriage and divorce, for example – would improve community relations.

There are many problems with the idea of allowing sharia law to co-exist in a democratic nation. It seems rather incredible that the Archbishop is either unaware of these major problems, or does not consider them to be much of an obstacle. Let me examine just a few of the major shortcomings here.

First, a nation cannot be ruled by two sets of law. Either we accept the law as found in a Western nation, or we adopt sharia law wholesale, but the two cannot peacefully coexist. In good measure this is because many aspects of Islamic law are decidedly opposed to and in competition with Western democratic law.

Indeed, the radical Muslims know this. Anjem Choudary, a former senior figure in the radical group al-Muhajiroun, said this: “Some element of family law or social and economic law will not work, it has to be adopted wholesale. Sharia has been promised by the Prophet Mohammed and it will come either by embracing Islam because it is the fastest growing religion in the country or by an Islamic country conquering Britain or by elements embracing Islam and imposing it.”

And why go down this path in the first place. It seems that no moderate Islamic group has been making such demands for sharia law. As Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission said, “As far as I am aware no serious body of Muslim opinion supports the idea of special treatment, or exemption from the law of the land based on some vague ‘conscientious objection’. Raising this idea in this way will give fuel to anti-Muslim extremism and dismay everyone who is working towards a more integrated society. However, his implication that British courts should treat people differently based on their faith is divisive and dangerous. It risks removing the protection afforded by law, for example, to children in custody cases or women in divorce proceedings. This is the opposite of what modern multiculturalism should mean.”

Second, this simply drives a nation further apart. It certainly does not bring people together. Social and racial harmony comes by ethnic communities integrating into mainstream society, not by becoming even more isolated and distanced. All citizens of a nation must be subject to the law of the land. To start granting special exemptions for religious or ethnic bodies is to tear apart the rule of law and social cohesion. Instead of integration we end up with segregation.

Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, put it this way: “Equality before the law is part of the glue that binds our society together. 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 peoples’ right to follow their own beliefs and allowing them to excuse themselves from the rule of law.”

Third, we really do not want to see Sharia law implemented. What version of sharia law will be enacted? The Saudi Arabian version? Will polygamy be legalised (with men allowed to have four wives)? Will amputation as punishment be legalised (with the hands of thieves hacked off)? Much of sharia law is simply incompatible with Western democratic law and humanitarian principles.

And just who will benefit by such laws? Even some Muslim leaders have admitted that sharia law is far from helpful to many. Sheikh Michael Mumisa, an Islamic scholar and theologian at Cambridge University said: “I believe that the introduction of personal status laws, such as marriage, divorce and inheritance, within the UK will undermine the rights of Muslim women, the poor and anyone who doesn’t really understand Islamic laws. The people who interpret these laws are male scholars and I know from experience that they always disadvantage women. Moreover, some senior Muslim clerics in the UK want more than just the personal status laws and would prefer that the penal laws were introduced as well.”

Fourth, this is simply more appeasement and capitulation to radical Islam. Instead of caving in to the demands of militant Islam, we should be standing up for the freedoms we enjoy. Democracy and the rule of law are not to be whittled away in the name of placating and appeasing anti-democratic Muslims.

As Mark Pritchard, the Tory MP for the Wrekin in Shropshire put it: “It is naive and shocking. The Archbishop should be standing up for our Judeo-Christian principles that underpin British criminal law that have been hard fought for. He should be concentrating on winning souls into the Church of England rather than getting involved in politics.”

Fifth, in the West, separation of church and state (in the proper understanding of the phrase) is a given. Islam does not believe in such distinctions. Islamic law applies to all of life: the political as well as the personal and/or religious. To implement sharia law is effectively to break down this fundamental principle of Western society.

Jesus himself established this principle by saying we must render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. This has been the cornerstone of the modern concept of keeping the secular and sacred realms more or less distinct. True, Christians have not always observed this principle, but it has been the mainstay of democratic governance, and it is light-years apart from the Islamic conception which sees no division between sacred and secular whatsoever. In Islam, everyone submits to the rule of Allah, be it in the private realm, the social realm, the political realm, or the religious realm. It is all one in Islam.

And what about the Judeo-Christian values and beliefs which have so much formed the basis of modern Western democracies? Are we to abandon all that in the interests of placating the Islamists? Stephen Green, the national director of Christian Voice: “This is a Christian country with Christian laws. If Muslims want to live under Sharia law then they are free to emigrate to a country where Sharia law is already in operation. Any accommodation with Sharia law does nothing to help social cohesion. Christian law has been eroded by secularism and this country was founded on Christian values.”

In sum, the calls by the Archbishop to at least consider having some aspects of sharia law implemented in the UK are appallingly foolish. They are both undemocratic and unchristian. The Archbishop is effectively renouncing the Christian heritage of the UK, and calling for its replacement by Islam. Interfaith dialogue is one thing, but putting up the white flag of surrender is quite another. Dr Williams really needs to determine if he is representing the Christian faith, or the faith of Islam. And he needs to decide whether he thinks a democracy is preferable to an Islamic theocracy.

[1279 words]

20 Replies to “The Rowan Williams Comments: When Christian Leaders Promote Dhimmitude”

  1. The Archbishop is a theological liberal and a theological liberal is one who claims to be a believer but does not believe. They that God created by making the world create itself by natural processes. They claim that Jesus rose from the dead but is still in the grave. So why would anyone expect a liberal to say anything sensible, sound, or safe?
    Tas Walker

  2. Hi Bill,
    So too the Uniting Church in Australia. It also promotes dhimmitude. Consider the recent Religious Vilification trial in Victoria. Moreover, consider the failed motion of nineteen or so years ago, moved by a former moderator, to change the doctrine of the church where it was offensive to Jews and Moslems. That denomination has too often acted as if the motion was carried. Again look at the so called ‘A Common Word’ push. These are just as starters. The REAL enemy of the CHURCH is the small c church.
    Stan Fishley

  3. Hi Bill,
    I imagine it would also be a logistical nightmare. What would happen when the two parties were not both Islamic, or not both non-Islamic, which law would apply? Or would it be a bastardised cross-breed of both that would apply? And also could one not pick and choose and say, well today I’m a Muslim because it suits me better to try my case under Sharia law than British law, or vice versa?

    The Islamic agenda is pretty clear – much like that of the protests in Paris when they were wearing those “2020” tshirts.

    P.S. It is also a fairly obvious outworking of postmodern thinking – if there is no absolute truth and we can all believe what we want and it’s “true for us”, makes sense that the next step would be to have this spill over from just being about personal beliefs to everything about the way one lives their life.

    God bless,
    Bec New

  4. But there is even more bad news about Williams: It looks like a Druid, walks like a Druid and talks like a Druid:


    I recommend that everyone stick this on the fridge door and read three times a day.

    This is from Churchill’s 1899 book, The River War, written when he was 24 years old:
    “How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries! Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy. The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.…A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity. The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property, either as a child, a wife, or a concubine, must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
    Individual Moslems may show splendid qualities … but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it. No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith. It has already spread throughout Central Africa, raising fearless warriors at every step; and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled, the civilisation of modern Europe might fall, as fell the civilisation of ancient Rome. [The River War, first edition, Vol. II, pp. 248-50.]
    Please note that the Islam that Churchill is describing as inherently a slave system, as inherently presenting an ongoing threat to Europe, is not “radical” Islam, not “political” Islam, not “Islamo-fascism.” It is traditional, normative, orthodox Islam.”

    David Skinner, UK

  5. For those sufferers of high blood pressure I have extracted this comment from the link above :

    “A few days ago, the Archbishop argued also for the abolition of the blasphemy law – as long as it was replaced by something even more severe. People should be punished for daring to voice thoughts that were hurtful to others, he said, even when that hurt was unintentional. Now it seems he wants women, children, all of us in fact, to have to kow-tow to some of the strictest, harshest and most draconian laws dreamed up by any religious system, ever, anywhere in the world.”

    At this very moment the House of Lords in Britain are debating the Homophobic Hatred Offence bill, which Rowan Williams refers to and the dangers of which Robert Gagnon clearly present in this article :
    Homosexuality, abortion, stem cell research, Britain becoming a part of the European Federation, and many other issues are like the warning eruptions before the main volcano blows. Maybe we have got him wrong, maybe it is a ploy on the part of Gandalf Williams to force the issue as to which world view we are going to follow. British politicians, left , right and centre are saying that we need to follow one set of values if we are to have a cohesive and united society. Wow! Well which one? Is it evolutionary humanism or Jesus Christ?

    David Skinner, Remnant of the UK

  6. Bill

    You characterised this man’s comments as “appallingly foolish”, I would add “appallingly arrogant”, I mean, to think that he should presume against a rule of law that has existed for nearly a millenium in Britain and has served that country well. Not to mention it has served many countries that are the benefactors of colonialism.

    But lets not see Williams for anything other than he his; a leftist dressed up in religious garb.

    Damien Spillane

  7. It would appear the Archbishop needs to dust-off his Bible, and revisit Jesus of Nazareth, asking Him to show him who He is.

    Jesus also had to contend with those who imposed supposedly “God” inspired laws. The Archbishop should take Jesus’s example, who wasn’t backward in coming forward to call the kettle black, when indeed it was very black. The Islamists will be rubbing their hands with glee, with the addition of another churched convert to Sharia, comfirming the infirmity of the church.

    We need to be much in prayer for repentance & revitalising of His people everywhere, especially in the West, or be prepared to live as dhimmi’s, even in our lifetime.

    Grant Weedall

  8. I just penned a small commentary on this.

    I basically point out that this Archbishop is arrogant to presume against English common law that has stood the test of time over the last millenium and conservative thinkers have always pointed out that the past is a wonderful guide as to what a governing body ought to do. As Roger Scruton points out in The West and the Rest (2003)

    “Membership defined through place encourages people to see law as “the law of the land.” This effect is amplified in the English and American case by the common law. Although common to the whole territory this law arose from local judgements and not from decrees issued by the sovereign, whose tenure was traditionally regarded as conditional on his undertaking to uphold and adhere to the law of the land. The vast body of this law was, and remains, unwritten, except in the form of reports and commentaries. It is known as “case law,” since it derives from the judgments delivered in individual cases. But it is not invented case-by-case, by the judges appointed to decide them. Rather, it advances by a process of discovery, in which evils are identified and remedies proposed, guided by principles of judicial reasoning that have their root in natural justice.”

    Damien Spillane

  9. In an otherwise perceptive article cited above, Churchill errs with “and were it not that Christianity is sheltered in the strong arms of science, the science against which it had vainly struggled”.

    He was most likely relying on two notorious century anti-Christian bigots who had published books not long before, John William Draper (1811–1882) and Andrew Dickson White (1832–1918). Draper wrote History of the Conflict between Religion and Science (1874) as a poorly informed polemic against the Church. White was the founder of Cornell University as the first explicitly secular university in the United States, and published the two-volume work History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom (1896).

    However, it was really a matter of science v. science not science v. religion. However, even the late atheist and Marxist Stephen Jay Gould wrote of these books:

    ‘Both tell a tale of bright progress continually sparked by science. And both develop and utilize the same myths to support their narrative, the flat-earth legend prominently among them.’

    Gould’s article was ‘The late birth of a flat earth’, a favorable review of the book Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus & Modern Historians by historian Prof. Jeffrey Burton Russell. This book demolished the slander that flat-earth belief was widespread in the ancient and medieval church (see author’s summary), a slander that Gould largely blames on the these Warfare books.

    Modern historians of science have affirmed that far from being a matter of ‘warfare’, Christianity provided the essential support! See for example the books by Rodney Stark, For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts and the End of Slavery (reviewed in The biblical origins of science) and The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success (2005, reviewed in Christianity as progress).

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  10. I don’t know if there is any more meat to be stripped off this bone and I don’t want to be accused of wanting the last word ; but I don’t know why people agonise with trying to reconcile Rowan Williams as being a Christian – let alone being head of the Anglican Church – with the fact that he does not believe in the bible as the revealed word of God.
    Shortly he will be forgotten, like all the previous liberal Archbishops of our time, whose going is perhaps lamented for a day but who vanish from a world where they were of no consequence – forgotten for ever (apologies to Mark Twain for mangling his words).
    The truth is that he is a man of enormous vanity who likes the limelight (eyebrows). So long as he can produce obfuscatory and controversial statements and generate idle speculation he knows that he will be the centre of attention. A fatal mistake for him would be express some certainty of what he believes and why he believes it, for this is not what the itching ears of media want to hear. That is just plain boring. So even in this apparently categorical statement that far from abolishing the blasphemy laws he would ruthlessly enforce them with Shariah, he brilliantly short circuits this by pointing out that Sharia laws are as long as a piece of string and that of course he wasn’t advocating the cutting off of hands or public stoning. What a contradiction! What a score! Now he has the attention of the whole world. How long can he keep this going? How will he cap this? Like a true evolutionary humanist he makes the self sovereign on an island called “Autonomy” which has signs posted all over the beach saying “God keep out.“

    David Skinner, UK

  11. With a bit more lobbying from activists, it doesn’t seem too much of a leap of imagination for the so-called liberal elite who seem to run Britain these days to think that allowing Sharia Law would be entirely consistant with their policy of multiculturism.
    Next thing, set up a pilot study in, say Luton for instance and the rest will surely follow. Where would be the control, who would police it? It certainly couldn’t be the Government for fear of engaging in racist behaviour should they object to any widening of the guidelines of what should be covered by Sharia Law; and make no mistake, it would be the thin end of the wedge, with the more radical and vociferous advocates demanding the instigation of the more draconian aspects of the law. Again, it doesn’t require that great a leap of imagination to see a young muslim girl buried to the waist on a piece of Bradford wasteground, well away from prying western eyes, being stoned to death for adultery. Who would know, who would report it? Moreover, who are these apparently British citizens taking part in the stoning?
    Alarmist? Watch this space. To preserve the indigenous western way of life in this country we must fight this sort of thing with every fibre. The muslim is on a holy road to transform Britain into a muslim state. To humour them would be a fatal mistake.
    Nick Ordinaire

  12. I liked this comment from an atheist, Richard Martin in the UK Times:

    “As an atheist, I should be happy that our ‘established’ church is led by such a limp-wristed moron. But I’m afraid Mr Williams only paints the Islamic faith in a better light. At least it has a backbone. The Anglican church has suffered a total collapse of confidence – symbolised perfectly by Williams’ comments here, and on the back of his refusal to countenance the existence of hell – and I feel nothing but contempt for it.”

    Garth Penglase

  13. ‘in the West, separation of church and state (in the proper understanding of the phrase) is a given.’

    Um … no. Hate to interrupt a rant about how all Muslims are evil with facts, but there’s no church/state divide in England. The Church of England is the established church and the Queen is its head. Rowan Williams has a seat in the House of Lords and lives in a palace. School prayer isn’t just allowed, it’s compulsory to offer it and it’s compulsory to take lessons in religion.

    As such, the Church of England has a privileged position in the British constitution.

    What Rowan Williams wants isn’t to cave in to Muslims, it’s to preserve that position, while extending it to other faiths.

    It means that Catholic adoption agencies would be free to be homophobic, Muslim kids wouldn’t have to learn about the Holocaust. It’s not some woolly liberal surrender, it’s a theocratic land grab. The government have already told him, as we like to here, to sod off.

    The irony is, of course, that we’re all atheists here in the UK and any politicians who bang on about religion get jumped on. As Rowan Williams found out.

    There’s a message for Americans in this. It’s not ‘the Muslims are coming, arm yourself’, it’s ‘kick out anyone with political power who’s ever used the word “faith”, they’re nothing but trouble.’

    Jack Duckworth

  14. Thanks Jack

    Your comment was an excellent illustration of the category mistake I spoke of in a parallel piece, and you thus have very nicely made my point. By seeking to equate Christian influence in the UK with the dangers of sharia law you have provided yet another example of muddled thinking and mushy moralising.

    Your secular ideology has simply blinded you to historical facts and moral distinctions. You peddle the silly line that there are no moral or social differences to be found between religions, and all result in social decay and loss of freedoms. Such a simplistic and misguided attempt at moral equivalence cannot be sustained. Those on this hobby horse are seeking to argue that any religious influence on the state or society is only always bad. Sorry, but history and the facts are not with you on this.

    The influence of the Christian church in the West today is largely waning and minimalist, thus nothing to get veryworried about by folks like you. It is a far cry from the sort of thing envisaged by those pushing for sharia law. When sharia is fully implemented, there is no church-state division, full stop. There is no sacred-secular division. Criticism of the state then becomes criticism of Islam. The penalties are not good.

    Secularists like you living under such a regime would not last long. Yet how many atheists and humanists are being beheaded in nominally Christian nations in the West today? I am not aware of any. And even with a state church as in England, so what? Are secularists being put to death there? Are Muslims and Jews imprisoned in “Christian England”? There is complete freedom for religious minorities in the UK, and there is clear division between religious and political authority as well. No such division exists in Islamic nations under sharia law

    Your blind hatred of anything religious poisons your reasoning ability here. As I have argued here, and social historians such as Rodney Stark have fully documented, the Christian worldview led to the separate spheres of church and state. The political and religious freedoms we enjoy today are a result of the Judeo-Christian worldview. They certainly are not a result of the Islamic faith.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  15. It is certainly true that great civilisations die from within. The UK and Europe in recent times seem to be intent, in self-disgust, to deny the very foundations on which their great cultures were built.

    Jack, other atheists do not seem to agree with you.

    “Let’s stop pretending all faiths are equal” – Minette Marrin, UK times
    “Fear of offending is killing our culture” – Minette Marrin, UK Times

    Ironically it seems that the most secular European country, France, is telling the Muslims “if you don’t like it keep out or go somewhere else” whereas the UK is falling over itself in political correctness to ‘integrate’ them into it’s culture. When you have completed the destruction of your country from within with political correctness and multi-culturalism, and Muslim’s have completed their takeover by peaceful means through your schools, businesses and parliament and they start outlawing the freedoms that Judeo-Christian foundations gave to you in the first place, you will recognise that you have brought this upon yourself. And, the irony again is that Muslims don’t tolerate atheists.

    When you promote the line of mandating that people can’t choose, as in a Christian school can’t choose who it employs, or a business can’t choose who best suits its vision and culture, then you are removing the very essential freedoms to choose how you wish to be diverse, to be different than others. The UK was built on a Christian foundation which teaches self-respect, respect of others and freedom and equality for men and women, black and white etc. And yet you wish to remove this very teaching.

    Now you mentioned that “School prayer isn’t just allowed, it’s compulsory to offer it and it’s compulsory to take lessons in religion.” like you are being denied your right to choose. Well, this is different to ‘freedom of choice’ – you have the right to choose whether you agree with what is taught or not – not so in a Mulsim world, and farcically, if atheists had their way, not so in an atheist world which does not want different worldviews taught and progressively legislates against it. In the more aggressive secular states they punish and discriminate against those who are religious. You only have to look at Marxist Russia, China and North Korea to see the extreme intolerance toward any religious thought. [The devastation and immense loss of life caused by atheist regimes over the past century has been detailed in other posts on this website if you care to look.]

    So how is compulsory items at school different? Well, my example is this… Australians do not have an option of avoiding sending their children to school – yet we do not see this as a restriction of our freedoms because it, like teaching our culture and ethics, is a foundational principle of of our country. In those schools, evolution and increasingly creationist (or intelligent design) thinking is taught in science but as of yet we are not persecuted for not believing in one or the other. That’s freedom.

    As an atheist you seem to want to rid yourself of the very foundational principles that the UK was built on and exported to other countries, and you’re recommending the dismantling of the education of this in favour of acceptance of other cultures and worldviews that have proven destructive, discriminating and divisive.

    Garth Penglase

  16. It’s interesting to see two able women from Islamic countries blast the political correctness that claims that Islam is a religion of peace. Both of them are currently secularists, probably out of reaction, but make it very clear that conservative Christians and Orthodox Jews are no threat in contrast to radical Islamic rule:

    1. Ayaan Hirsi Ali—see these you-tube showings of the Jewish Conservative Dennis Prager blasting anti American Christ-hater interviewing Ali, who was mutilated as a child under Islam, then driven from Holland by politically correct politicians:

    Part 1
    Part 2

    2. Wafa Sultan, an Arab-American psychologist from Los Angeles, interviewed on Al Jazeera TV

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  17. Jack Duckworth wants to “kick out anyone with political power who’s ever used the word ‘faith’, they’re nothing but trouble.”

    What Jack fails to understand is that his preferred secularists also have a religious worldview. Just because they never use the term ‘faith’ to describe themselves doesn’t mean they don’t have any. The faith of the secularists is extremely godless and dangerous and deserves to be kicked out of political power because they’re nothing but trouble.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  18. Hi, Bill
    You used a couple of terms I have a bit of a problem with. Those being “Radical Muslim” and “Moderate Muslim.” In the western mind those terms have entirely different meanings than what is actually the case in Islam. A radical Christian is one who includes “Praise God” or “Hallelujah” in everyday speech. An extreme radical in the eyes of news media may take a shot at an abortionist. A radical Muslim persuades his followers to hijack airliners and crash them into tall buildings.

    A moderate Christian is one who attends church on Christmas, Easter, Mother’s Day, and occasional funerals. He probably owns a Bible but it never is opened. The moderate Muslim is one who has found his power and authority more intoxicating than memorizing the Qur’an. He knows the Qur’an but he is too busy making money to pray five times a day.

    In thinking about Islam, I would say it is more accurate to describe muslims by the degree of passionate hatred they show toward the west and Israel. These are purely my own thoughts. The awkward definitions above are exclusively the ramblings of my own mind, biased as it is.

    I don’t know if it is true in Australia, but here in the US our liberal news media created the radical Muslim label through lack of understanding of the differences between Islam and Christianity.

    Bill Stafford
    Marietta, Georgia, USA

  19. Thanks Bill
    Yes I am aware that the terms are less than ideal. And there is a related debate: while there may be such a thing as a moderate Muslim (those who disapprove of violent jihad, hatred of the West, etc.), can we rightly speak about moderate Islam? I am tempted to think that Islam is in fact fairly radical, so that a radical Muslim is one who takes Islam seriously, while a moderate Muslim does not.
    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  20. I have to ask myself everytime I hear or read Dr Williams whether he is in fact a Christian or not. He leaves me bewildered as to what he stands for. He is the head of the Church of England and should be promoting Jesus’ teaching and the undiluted Word of God.

    Of course I don’t want sectarianism in society and we should be promoting dialogue, this isn’t done by watering down the truth.

    Simon Crowe

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