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Media Onslaught against Archbishop of Canterbury Stifles Dialogue with British Muslims

Media Onslaught against Archbishop of Canterbury Stifles Dialogue with British Muslims The AhlulBayt Islamic Mission regrets to see the manner in which the media has misconstrued the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and today called on the media to adhere to the most basic standards of ethics and responsibility. AIM considers the recent cycle of responses to the Archbishop’s comments as indicative of a culture of media sensationalism that delimits any rational discourse on any matters whose subject or implications have to do with Islam. AIM further stated that the current climate which allows the media to act in this divisive way is either a miscalculation or a deliberate attempt to raise tensions and displace the bonds that keep British society vibrant and healthy.

Subjective reporting and media hysteria have engulfed the public domain since
arbitrary fractions from a lecture delivered on 7th February 2008 by the
Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, were reported by the media. The
lecture which was delivered in a very rational and civil form has been met with
a response by the media that has shown itself to be anything but.

A religiously secular mindset is strongly promoted in Britain today where
metaphysical insight and any notion of religious sanctity is looked at with
contempt. Oddly however, the response by the media has been a sustained,
aggressive and extremely hostile response not to faith, but rather against
Islam.

Print media and television, from across the spectrum, have left no stone
unturned to convince the British public of the inhumane and brutal face that is
intrinsic to Shari’ah law. A Shari’ah law that is, according to these
‘journalists-cum-religious specialists’, a monolithic framework that has reached
our age as a residue of the dark ages. Some have even gone as far as drawing
commensurability between torture faced in certain prisons around the world and
Shari’ah law.

Over the last few hours, the media has turned its’ attention to target the
person of the Archbishop and has vehemently called for his resignation. Dr. Rowan Williams is one of the most prominent clergymen in Britain and the most senior figure in the Church of England. The level and mode of criticism that he has been subject to for making what is a purely academic contribution, is
unacceptable in any modern society that prides itself in being accommodative of
intellectual diversity.

In order to promote informed dialogue in dealing with a contemporary legal
challenge facing modern Britain, the Archbishop of Canterbury suggested that
there might be room for ‘overlapping jurisdictions’; a conception of plural
jurisdictions within the context of protecting individuals on the grounds of
their corporate religious identity and securing their freedom to fulfil
religious duties, which in fact not only enjoys a central place in British Law
and indeed our understanding of democracy and the rights accorded by it, but is
also already in practice for some religious communities such as the Orthodox
Jewish community.

Yet, whilst Dr. Rowan Williams’ comments were made as a general statement on the
relation between law and how it interacts with individuals who hold certain
religious convictions, the response by the media has clearly laid the locus of
attention on Islam.

No where in his lecture did the Archbishop suggest an Islamic legal system
parallel to British law. It would have been sufficient for these hysterical
media reporters and pundits to deliberate briefly over the title of the lecture;
‘Islam in English Law: Civil and Religious Law in England’.

The response by the media to the comments of the Archbishop is indicative of a
certain attitude held towards Islam and voices of reason that look to bridge
ties between different segments of British society. An attitude that is
intolerant and delimits any rational, let alone intellectual, discourse on any
matters whose subject or implications involve Islam.

AIM firmly believes that the Islamophobic ethos that is currently promoted by
the media serves only to further divide and isolate segments of British society.
Moreover, such behaviour is clearly contrary to the most basic standards of
ethics and responsibility; ideals that in turn should subject special
accountability on the media industry due to the important role that it plays in
the social sphere.

Britain is a civil society that celebrates its rights, liberties, multi-culturalism
and tolerance in a steadily combined synthesis promoting social harmony. Harmony
in Britain is dependant on dialogue and rational handling of the pluralistic
fabric of British society. We believe that the current environment that allows
the media to act in this divisive way is either a miscalculation or a deliberate
attempt to raise tensions and displace the bonds that keep our society vibrant
and healthy.

Today, British Muslims are not equals in our society and the events of the last
days only go to demonstrate the injustices faced by Muslims from a culture,
within certain quarters, that remains intolerant and inherently discriminatory
beneath all the facades of political correctness. A society can only achieve its
higher goals of social harmony when dialogue is based around the tenets of
equality and justice; applicable to all segments of society.

On this note, we would like to express our gratitude to the Archbishop for his
academic discourse and words of wisdom. We regret to see the manner in which
some have misconstrued his words out of context and hope that with time there
will be greater dialogue and understanding on these sensitive topics.

AhlulBayt Islamic Mission
9th February 2008
1st Safar 1429

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