Adopting sharia within British law would be 'disastrous', Lord Carey tells his successor as Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury's predecessor joined the chorus of criticism against him last night for his comments on Islamic law. George Carey accused Dr Rowan Williams of "overstating" the case for accommodating sharia. But he said that Dr Williams should not be forced to quit over his remarks.

"There can be no exceptions to the laws of our land, which have been so painfully honed by the struggle for democracy and human rights," Lord Carey wrote in the News of the World. "His conclusion that Britain will have to concede some place in law for aspects of sharia is a view I cannot share. His acceptance of some Muslim laws within British law would be disastrous."

However, Lord Carey also defended the Archbishop, saying: "This is not a matter upon which Dr Williams should resign. He has my full support."

The storm began on Thursday when Dr Williams said the adoption of certain aspects of Islamic law seemed "unavoidable" and that the UK had to "face up to the fact" that some of its citizens did not relate to the British legal system.

Dr Williams preached a memorial and thanksgiving service for the Cambridge divinity professor Charles Moule yesterday – after which he was greeted by both applause and boos – but said nothing about the row. He is thought likely to raise the issue during his address to the General Synod in London today.

Several members of the Synod, the Church of England's ruling body, have called for him to step down. Colonel Edward Armitstead, a Synod member from the diocese of Bath and Wells, said: "I don't think he's got the gift of leadership that the church needs." And Alison Ruoff, a member from London, accused him of vacillation and weakness. "As a leader of the Christian community, he is a disaster."

But the Right Reverend Stephen Lowe, the Bishop of Hulme, said he was disgusted at the knee-jerk reaction to Dr Williams's remarks. "The way he has been ridiculed, lampooned and treated by some people is quite disgraceful," he told BBC Radio 4.

The Muslim Council of Britain said it was grateful for the Archbishop's "thoughtful intervention" on the issue.

Lord Carey said the public debate sparked by Dr Williams's comments might have the positive effect of ensuring that the country's existing sharia councils operate under British law.

In a separate article for The Sunday Telegraph, he said that Dr Williams "may have done us a great favour by airing this whole area of controversy. He might even be regarded as prescient for discussing sharia, even before demand builds among Muslim communities for special provision in British law."

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