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A Craven Canterbury Tale
by Anne Applebaum
Is this a storm in a teacup, as the archbishop now claims? Was the "feeding frenzy" biased and unfair? Certainly it is true that, since Thursday, when Rowan Williams -- the archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Church of England, symbolic leader of the international Anglican Communion -- called for "constructive accommodation" with some aspects of sharia law, and declared the incorporation of Muslim religious law into the British legal system "unavoidable," practically no insult has been left unsaid.
One Daily Telegraph columnist called the archbishop's statement a " disgraceful act of appeasement"; another called it a " craven counsel of despair." An Observer columnist eruditely wondered whether the archbishop's comment might count as a miracle, according to David Hume's definition of a miracle as a "violation of the laws of nature," while the notoriously sensationalistic Sun launched a campaign to remove the archbishop from office.
Feebly, the archbishop's supporters have tried to defend him, reporting that he is "completely overwhelmed" by the hostility and "in a state of shock." Arguing that his remarks were misunderstood, misinterpreted and taken out of context, his office even took the trouble to publish them, in lecture form and the radio interview version, on his official Web site. I highly recommend a closer look. Reading them, it instantly becomes clear that every syllable of the harshest tabloid criticism is more than well deserved. The archbishop's language is mild-mannered, legalistic, jargon-riddled; the sentiments behind them are profoundly dangerous.
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