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Prejudiced pundits fuss over sharia

By Irfan Yusuf - posted Friday, 15 February 2008

About this time five years ago, the world's 70 million Anglicans had a new Archbishop enthroned in his cathedral.

Australia's ABC Radio National reported at the time: "Rowan Williams is a man with a lively mind and some controversial views. He has already spoken out against a war with Iraq. And he has also attracted the wrath of conservatives in the Church for his liberal views on homosexuality and women priests."

But it hasn't just been conservatives in the Anglican Church who have resented this self-styled "hairy leftie Welshman". Many are opposed to the Archbishop's attempts to bring the Anglican and Catholic churches closer together. His stands on homosexuality in the Church have led to Sydney's Archbishop boycotting the upcoming 10-yearly Lambeth conference for Anglican bishops, to be held in London.


But all that pales into insignificance compared to the wrath Williams has earned from cultural warriors over his recent speech on sharia, the Islamic sacred law. Under the heading of "Owlbrows hits back", the right-wing opinion editor of Sydney's Daily Telegraph, Tim Blair, labels Williams the "Archmullah of Canterstan".

So why all this fuss? Apparently Williams suggested that Britain should allow sharia to become the law of the land, or at least some of it, or something like that.

Actually, I don't know what the Archbishop's speech was about, because unlike so many other commentators chewing at the Archbishop's flesh, I am honest enough to admit I have not read the entire speech.

Hence, I won't be commenting on the speech. I don't wish to behave like thick-sheikhs (Muslim or otherwise) who will condemn an author on the basis of innuendo, rumour or some similar source.

Of course, not having read the speech hasn't stopped prejudiced pundits from passing blank-cheque fatwas.

It also hasn't stopped claims that an entire legal tradition developed over a period of 1,400 years (and still developing) is little more than a system of non-anaesthetic amputations.


It is as if some imagine the Muslim world to be something out of Monty Python's Life of Brian, a place where women dress up as men and attend the stoning of blasphemers after watching some bearded Palestinian chap from Bethlehem stand on a hill and make a nonsensical declaration such as: "Blessed are the cheesemakers".

The response to the Archbishop's speech has exposed the gross ignorance and prejudice of so many in the Western World towards anything deemed even remotely linked to Islam.

During his recent Australian tour, American-Iranian comic Maz Jobrani spoke of his comedy trio, appropriately called The Axis of Evil, performing to sellout shows in Kuwait, Cairo and Bahrain. He said he noticed that people in the Middle East know more about Western culture than vice versa.

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First published in New Zealand's Press on February 13, 2008.

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About the Author

Irfan Yusuf is a New South Wales-based lawyer with a practice focusing on workplace relations and commercial dispute resolution. Irfan is also a regular media commentator on a variety of social, political, human rights, media and cultural issues. Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published in May 2009 by Allen & Unwin.

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