Anglican leader Williams defends his sharia remarks

Other News Materials 11 February 2008 20:35 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - Anglican Church leader Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Monday took responsibility for any "unclarity" about his recent controversial remarks on a place for Islamic law in aspects of Britain's legal system.

At the same time, while acknowledging that there could have been a "misleading" choice of words in his remarks, he defended himself over remarks that adoption of "some aspects of sharia" seemed unavoidable.

Speaking to the General Synod in Westminister - the church's "parliament" - Williams insisted it was right to air the concerns of faith communities.

Although he felt some remarks made last week in an address to lawyers and later during a BBC interview had subsequently been had been taken out of context, he took responsibility for any confusion.

"Some of what has been heard is a very long way indeed from what was actually said," he said. "But I must of course take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text or in the radio interview and for any misleading choice of words that's helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large, and especially among my fellow Christians."

Williams went on to insist that he had no regrets in addressing the issue of sharia. "I believe quite strongly that it is not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England to address issues about the perceived concerns of other religious communities, and to try and bring them into better public focus."

Williams in his original address and subsequent radio interview caused media uproar by saying that the adoption of parts of sharia was "unavoidable" in Britain.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown earlier Monday hailed Williams for his "great integrity" as the head of the Anglican Church prepared to clarify his controversial call to accommodate sharia.

The BBC quoted Brown's spokesman as saying the prime minister "believes the Archbishop of Canterbury is a man of great integrity and dedication to public and community service."

He also said Brown "understands the difficulty he (Williams) is facing at the moment" and was being kept informed of the debate that arose after Williams suggested aspects of sharia should be "formalized" under the British legal system.

Britain, which has 1.7 million Muslim citizens, had to "face up to the fact" that some of them did not relate to the British legal system, Williams said.

The Times reported that Brown had in a telephone conversation encouraged Williams to clarify his remarks.