Archbishop of Canterbury’s book states Sharia law is incompatible with British law, but his comments receive little reaction

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has reportedly set out his reasoning why sharia law should not be given official status in Britain in his book, Reimagining Britain. He writes that sharia law “is something of immense sophistication, but it comes from a very different background of jurisprudence to the one from which British law has developed over the past 500 years”, a background which is heavily influenced by the Christian tradition[1]. He also took care to state that sharia “is not just about punishments”[2].

The Archbishop’s comments come a few weeks after an independent report examining the application of sharia councils in the UK, which recommended to the Home Office that sharia courts be afforded a government-established regulatory body, advice which the Home Office rejected. Details of this can be found here:[3].

The Archbishop discusses how traditional monogamous marriage is being challenged by some members of the British Muslim community, who wish to introduce aspects of sharia law which affect family and inheritance[4]. He stated that Britain needed a narrative that was “coherent and embracing” and that sharia risked becoming part of a separate narrative[5]. He suggests that accepting parts of sharia law would mean having to accept other aspects of it which may run counter to the Christian values on which traditional British ideas are based[6]. For this reason, he comments, “I am especially sympathetic towards those Islamic groups that do not seek the application of sharia law into the family and inheritance law of this country”[7].

Significantly, he attributes the influence of Muslim ideas on accepted societal norms concerning the family to higher levels of immigration, which has impacted “the accepted pattern for choosing a partner … assumed ages of maturity and sexual activity, and especially … issues of polygamy”[8].

Coverage of Welby’s comments in the British mainstream media appears to have come exclusively from tabloid newspapers[9], while others appear not to have engaged with the story[10], preferring instead to cover the Archbishop’s criticism of people who buy second or third homes as investments, if they cover his book at all[11].

‘Archbishop Cranmer’ expresses his dissatisfaction with this lack of coverage, commenting that more people, especially Christians, should be “thanking God for the clarity of Justin Welby’s declaration”[12].

Meanwhile, several right-leaning online publications have picked up on the Archbishop’s comments. The Clarion Project, whose mission is “challenging radical Islam, promoting human rights”, covers the Archbishop’s comments and then comments of aspects of sharia’s apparent incompatibility with human rights and western positions on women’s rights, before noting that “Islamic feminist reformers are working on solutions to problems in sharia that are compatible to Islam”[13]. ‘Jihad Watch’ used Welby’s words to warn against immigration, but also criticised the apparent inconsistency of Welby’s comments regarding Sharia[14].

Melanie Phillips, writing on, expresses her delight with the Archbishop’s assertion that sharia law is incompatible with British law, saying it shows he is “fighting for Christian values”, something which others have been afraid to do in recent years[15].

While the website picks up on the story, but does not offer an opinion on Welby’s comments[16].

[1] Sholli, 2018.

[2] Sholli, 2018.

[3] Researcher, 2018.

[4] Sholli, 2018.

[5] Sholli, 2018.

[6] Sholli, 2018.

[7] Sholli, 2018.

[8] Doughty, 2018.

[9] See Doughty, 2018 and Sholli, 2018.

[10] Archbishop Cranmer, 2018.

[11] Burgess, 2018.

[12] Archbishop Cranmer, 2018.

[13] Clarion Project, 2018.

[14] Spencer, 2018.

[15] Phillips, 2018; see also Doughty, 2018.

[16] See 5Pillars, 2018.

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Archbishop Cranmer. (2018) ‘Rowan Williams was denounced for saying Sharia Law in UK was inevitable, so why isn’t Justin Welby being commended for saying it’s not’. [online] 26 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Burgess, K. (2018) ‘Justin Welby book attacks nimbys and owners of second homes’. [online] 24 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Clarion Project. (2018) ‘Britain’s Top Clergyman Warns Against Sharia Law’. [online] 27 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Doughty, S. (2018) ‘Archbishop of Canterbury says Islamic rules are incompatible with Britain’s laws which have Christian values’. [online] 23 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Phillips, M. (2018) ‘Hallelujah! Welby takes a stand against Sharia’. [online] 27 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Researcher. (2018) ‘Independent review examining the application of Sharia councils in the UK invites conflicting responses, including from the Home Office’. [online] 7 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Sholli, S. (2018) ‘Islamic rules are incompatible with British laws, claims Archbishop of Canterbury’. [online] 24 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

Spencer, R. (2018) ‘Abp of Canterbury: Sharia incompatible with UK law, but we must “allow ourselves to change with the newcomers”. [online] 25 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].

5Pillars. (2018) ‘Archbishop of Canterbury says “Islamic rules are incompatible with British laws”. [online] 26 February. [Accessed 27 February 2018].