Baptist Theology: Ministry (a reading list)
Mike Higton on Rowan Williams and Sharia

The sad state of our media and politicians

Jeremy Paxman went down in my estimation after last night's newsnight, where he seemed to be making wild statements and not listening to the measured response of Tariq Ramadam and Stephen Lowe, Bishop of Hulme, who I have a lot of time for. As for the other in-studio guest, Douglas Murray, who was talking a lot of rubbish and very rudely with regards to what Rowan Williams actually said.

The responses from the various politicians, shows that they either can't read or that they are completely in the media or public pocket, that they can't rise above silly soundbites. It makes me both sad and annoyed that some many in the media and politics and in the Church of England are intellectually unable to engage in real debate. Rowan Williams calls the nation to rise above debate that deals only in poor characterisation and ill-formed knowledge of the other (here Sharia law).

Douglas Knight posts on this topic here. Deborah Orr makes good sense in the Independent.



A vital aspect worthy appropriate exploration concerns if a provision could be made allowing flexibility and accomodation for Muslims according to a selected and qualified set of family laws.

Holding a meaningful discussion say on BBC risks becoming a self-defeating exercise if an irrelevent set of questions is raised and non-qualified people like an ardent if not fire-brand champion of neo-conservatism are given front seats to shed "light" on the discussion. Are such elements invited for cool-minded reasoning or hot-headed sound bites?

It will be interesting to know if any academic forum or any academic journals ever invited Douglas Murray to contribute to any exchange on comparative family law. How many places has Douglas Murray travelled and stayed in say the Far East where many ethnic groups live side by side and have recourse to legal provisions that simplify family law settlements.

One wonders if Mr. Murray is genuinely sincere in promoting social cohesion or more to undermine it by expressing his evident passion to reduce any exchange of reason to a shouting match. In my dictionary it is social collusion what he's seeking.


While the BBC claims to offer an array of voices and perspectives, it is doubted how effectively it captures the nuanced and qualifying engagements of the different interests and identities that debate and contend others’ perspective without dismissing some state of affairs, interest or perspective.

A choice of irrelevant and unqualified individuals risks diverting a meaningful discussion to meaningless trajectories and even reducing a potentially enlightening exchange into an irritating shouting match.

Within a few miles' radius of the BBC studious, many eminent scholars of Muslim family laws could be easily found who are academically sound and professionally acclaimed to enlighten the Newsnight audience on matters of delicate nature such as Jane Comiors, Ian Edge, Chibli Mallat, Antony Allott and, of course, to remind us of the views of Britain's foremost scholar of Islamic law, Professor Sir Norman Anderson.

It was expected that when discussing possibilities of complementing British Law with some components of Muslim Family law, Newsnight would invite experts who are genuinely qualified to add to viewers information and education.

Is there a reason that so far none of the following acclaimed specialists at SOAS were
invited while others with NO authority are invited repeatedly?

Werner Menski (Classical and Modern Hindu Law; Muslim Law; Laws of South Asia; Family Law;

Comparative Law; South Asians in the UK; Immigration Law;

Lynn Welchman (Islamic Law; Law and Society in the Middle East and North Africa, especially Comparative Family Law, Human Rights law and practice, Gender and Law)

Ian D. Edge (Islamic Law; the General Law of Egypt and the Gulf; Commercial Law in the
Middle East; Conflict of Laws and International Transactions)

So, was the Newsnight editor unwilling or unable to arrange for a learned and informed view of such a delicate matter?

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