June 3, 2013
6:00 pmto8:00 pm

The Temple Church, off Fleet Street

Monday 3 June, 6.00pm

Panel Discussion and Book Launch:

Islam and English Law


1 hour 

Panel Chairman:

Stephen Hockman, QC


The Rt Rev and Rt Hon Lord Williams of Oystermouth (Rowan Williams), former Archbishop of Canterbury

Professor Maleiha Malik, 

King’s College London

Professor Elizabeth Cooke, Law Commission


Question to Archbishop Rowan Williams: Must we accommodate Islam or not, as Christians?

Archbishop: Must we accommodate Islam or not as Christians? Must I love my Muslim neighbour? Yes, without qualification or hesitation. Must I pretend to my Muslim neighbour that I do not believe my own faith? No, without hesitation or qualification.  Must I as a citizen in a plural society work for ways of living constructively, rather than tensely or suspiciously with my Muslim neighbour? Yes, without qualification or hesitation.

– From the Questions and Answers following Archbishop Williams’s Lecture on ‘Civil and Religious Law in England’, 7 February 2008.


In 2008 Archbishop Rowan Williams spoke of an apparently ‘inevitable’ accommodation of sharia law in the UK. His lecture, given at the invitation of the lawyers’ Temple Church to an audience of 1,000 in the Royal Courts of Justice, caused a storm of comment. To the general public, this foundational lecture ‘seemed by far his most momentous … contribution to public life.’ – Rupert Shortt, Rowan’s Rule (2008), 390. The fear of Islam that fuelled the media’s response then has if anything been stoked since by reports from within the UK of radicalised young Muslims and (from a recent Panorama) of women seemingly sent home to violent husbands by sharia councils; an Arbitration and Mediation Services (Equality) Bill, addressing the role of such councils ,is being piloted through the House of Lords.

If there is to be any understanding between our majority and our Muslim communities, we must first dissolve the reciprocal ignorance, fear and anger that distort relations between them. Islam and English Law has been written to promote honesty, understanding and mutual respect (even and especially where there are intractable differences) between communities which too rarely meet.

Islam and English Law has two aims:

  • To clarify past and present: what Lord Williams said and proposed; what is the place already allowed to Islamic principles in English law and the English courts; what further provisions are sought by Muslims living in the UK; and what is meant in the UK by terms such as sharia and jihad.
  • To look to the future: to ask what changes if any to legal provision and practice will narrow division between the UK’s communities, promote understanding and accommodation,  and improve the protection offered to them all.

The book’s authors address questions of acute importance:

  • Is sharia law compatible with the European Convention of Human Rights?
  • Should English law give greater recognition to Islamic custom and practice?
  • Should freedom of speech be restrained to protect Muslims’ sensibilities?
  • Can Muslims be full members, in good conscience and without qualification, of our  pluralist society?

Lawyers, sociologists and theologians, in discussion with each other, air their differences and make their proposals. Here are Muslim, Christian and secular specialists, men and women, from Canada, France, Pakistan, South Africa, Pakistan, the UK and USA, in animated but courteous dialogue. The book offers a range of differing views, analyses and prescriptions in an honest and respectful exchange.

The Templars and their London Temple were central to the gestation of Magna Carta in 1214-5. Here the barons confronted King John in January 1215 and demanded his own subjection to a charter, and so to the rule of law. The Temple is now the home of the ancient legal colleges Inner and Middle Temple. It is a fitting place in which to emphasise the principle, built on the Charter’s foundations, that every citizen of whatever background, religion, class or gender is equal before the law and is entitled to its equal protection

The book’s authors: Abdullahi An-Na’im, Mashood Baderin, Marion Boyd, Nicolas Bratza, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, Ian Edge, Khaled Abou El Fadl, David Ford, Robin Griffith-Jones, Mark Hill, Stephen Hockman, Sydney Kentridge, Christopher McCrudden, Dominic McGoldrick, Tariq Modood, Nicholas Phillips, Tariq Ramadan, Albie Sachs, Shaheen Sardar Ali, Prakash Shah, Rowan Williams

The book will be on sale: paperback, £20; hardback, £55. Also available on Amazon

We hope you can join us on 3 June. If you can, it would be helpful if you could let us know:, 0207 353 8559