Well, they’re queuing up to happy-slap the Archbishop again. I’ve always been a supporter of his, but he has two main problems; first, he’s an academic and, like most academics, he thinks people are going to listen carefully to what he says before they make a comment. On the whole, the chances of the media listening carefully to him vary between slim and nonexistent. So when he says ‘sharia law’ he’s talking in the context of civil and domestic disputes (a system which, I understand, already exists anyway). But the media and his critics immediately hear ‘stoning of women, chopping off of hands and wild-eyed zealotry.’ So his assumption of tolerant debate just plays into their hands. As the Muslim Council of Britain said “The [council] observes, with some sadness, the hysterical misrepresentations of his speech which serves only to drive a wedge between British people.”
The other problem he has is that he’s a poet. This means that, even when you have listened carefully to what he says, you frequently end up going ‘eh?’ This makes him anathema to large sections of the Anglican church (mostly the more conservative end) who have no imagination.
It also, perhaps, makes him not a good choice in the first place. As I’ve said, I’ve always been a supporter of his. But maybe this latest row shows that, really, this isn’t the job for him. He needs to be free to discuss things, but you can’t do that when you’re head of the church (or head of the government for that matter). Politically, it’s impossible. Politically, this latest comment was a disaster, not least because some of his fiercest opponents, like the Archbishop of Nigeria, live in places where Sharia Law is much more extreme. So they can just turn round and accuse him of not knowing what he’s talking about, or treating it lightly or… well, they’ll think of something.
He is, undoubtedly, one of the cleverest blokes around, but really clever people don’t often make the best leaders. I think he’s a wise man trapped in a stupid job, maybe it’s time to let someone else get slapped around for a bit.