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BBC Interview of Archbishop Ben Kwashi Concerning ABC Sharia Law Comments

Friday, February 8, 2008 • 6:32 pm

Archbishop Ben Kwashi, Archbishop of Jos in Northern Nigeria, was interviewed about the interview that the Archbishop of Canterbury gave on the unavoidability of Sharia Law.

BBC: Although the Archbishop was talking to a British audience about British law, his status as leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion means that his comments have been reported around the world. I spoke to Archbishop Ben Kwashi and he says that Rowan Williams has damaged his international reputation.

Archbishop Ben Kwashi: Our people here are in shock that an Anglican Archbishop is calling for Sharia Law. If the Christians are the ones asking for Sharia Law, now that will be used against us who are saying that we do not think Sharia law will help the cause of freedom and the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Northern Nigeria.  So if he, the primate of England, is the one asking for it, now what he has done is to arm those who will now have more arguments against us who are saying “We don’t need Sharia law.”

BBC: And in your situation you see the reality of what Sharia law can be.

BK: We have experienced it. We know it and in the last nine years full blown Sharia law has been introduced in at least 11 states in Northern Nigeria, and what the church are experiencing in these states is, to say the least, unbearable.

BBC: How surprised are you that a Christian Archbishop should have suggested, in some circumstances, that Sharia might be an appropriate part of the legal system in a country like Britain?

BK. I am shocked. I am disappointed. I am in total disbelief. Because my hope is that when he, Archbishop of Canterbury, comes to Nigeria for example, and he comes to visit us, we will take him to our leaders, some of whom are Muslims and some of whom are Christians, and he can then speak on our behalf where we are not having a fair share. Can we now look up to him as a man who can speak on our behalf?  You all know about the cutting of hands in Zamfara State. You remember the case of the woman in Kaduna State who was going to be stoned to death.  All of those kinds of things are what we now are saying that we must examine carefully the implementation of Sharia and we are putting our discussions across with our own Muslim friends around here.

BBC: The Archbishop was very clear that he did not want to see those sorts of inhuman punishments, he called them, implemented in Britain. Is there a danger that this argument is getting confused?

BK. It is not confused at all.  Because once you ask for the first step of Sharia law you are going to get to the last of it. By 1960 when Nigeria got Independence, it began as penal code. Once it came to this generation they upgraded it to full blown Sharia. So it is only a matter of time when you begin from somewhere that you get to the real thing.

You can listen to the entire interview here.

Many thanks to Anglican Mainstream for the transcript.

40 Comments • Print-friendlyPrint-friendly w/commentsShare on Facebook

He is absolutely right.

Rowan should repudiate his statements, then resign.

[1] Posted by Newbie Anglican on 02-08-2008 at 08:04 PM • top

Rowan Williams is a dangerous old fool.  It’s time for him to hang up the crozier and go back to Wales for some fishing, reading detective fiction, puttering.  Retire, man, before you do any more damage to the church!

[2] Posted by hanks on 02-08-2008 at 08:12 PM • top

Yep! Once you open a door the wind will blow in! Rowan, my dear man, you need to recant and retire. It’s double R time good bishop! If for nothing else to save some face before you plummet further down the rabbit whole with with Alice!

[3] Posted by TLDillon on 02-08-2008 at 08:38 PM • top

Or ++Rowan Williams should go back to academia, which is where he really belongs.  This kind of statement is so dangerous because it inevitably comes off as incredibly naive, both religiously and politically. 

Although Cantaur is carefully trying to avoid making strong statements that would take sides in the current crisis within Anglicanism, he continues to put his foot in his mouth on all too many other occasions when he shows his generally liberal political views very blatantly.  Such as, for example, in his infamous recent remarks blasting the U.S.A. and the U.K. for being such dreadful “imperialists.”  It’s almost as if, being so suppressed or repressed in one area, he has to unconsciously compensate by giving vent to his liberalism in other areas. 

All right, that’s probably unfair.  I’m no psychologist, and I certainly don’t know the man personally, so I shouldn’t venture such an armchair psychological speculation.  But it does make you wonder how someone so smart can say and do so many things that are so stupid.  Maybe he feels compelled to shore up his support base by demonstrating his liberalism in areas where he thinks Anglicanism won’t be affected negatively (after all, he was nominated by the liberal Labour Party’s Tony Blair).

Anyway, I’m glad brave Bishop Kwashi spoke up and took the chance for a major media interview right away.  For the fact is that it’s not just in Jos or northern Nigeria as a whole that Sharia Law is a total disaster and a huge threat to the welfare of the Christian Church.  Just ask the Anglicans in southern Sudan, where Sharia was enforced with a vengeance before the current Truce took effect.  Or ask our brothers and sisters in Egypt and Iran etc. 

In fact, this kind of naive statement reminds me all too much of the appeasement strategy of Neville Chamberlain.  In ceding Austria and Czechoslavakia to the Nazis, the foolish Prime Minister sincerely thought he was avoiding another disastrous world war.  Of course, we know now how utterly wishful such thinking was.  Naziism simply couldn’t be appeased.  Neither can militant Islam.  It’s time to wake up and face reality.  Islam is the enemy of Christianity.  Always has been.  Always will be.

David Handy+

[4] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 02-08-2008 at 08:44 PM • top

A DEVALUED FAITH: the ABC is damaging the standing of his Church

Archbishop in shock as he faces demands he quit law row: Archbishop is in shock as he faces demands to quit/

THE SUN is predictably tabloid

tommorrow 2-9-08 headlines are pretty demanding/exploitive/severe,,30000-1304746,00.html

Resignation time.

[5] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 02-08-2008 at 10:48 PM • top

Followed the link by dwstroudmd and found this:

One of the British Tabloids has a game where one can have fun by throwing a wet sponge at the face of the ABC. Maybe that will wipe the smug smile off his face… reads the subtitle. Find it here:

(I got about 170 and missed 13.)

[6] Posted by robroy on 02-08-2008 at 11:23 PM • top

You may find that funny, but remember he is the ABC and should be at least shown some level of respect. NO matter what you think of him. Refer to Blog on St Andrews Covenant to really understand.  David Handy+ I do believe if I remember correctly they hate Christians but will not speak ill of Jesus or The Blessed Virgin Mary.  I would recommend looking at their culture from the time of their beginning.  There are radical and moderates in Islam. The Koran is not a peaceful book at all.  I believe if I remember my Middle East History class as a senior in college, Muhammad actually asked to be made a bishop in the Holy Catholic Church and was told NO.  So then he went off and had his revelation.  So yes they hate us but only the radicals.

[7] Posted by johnnyreb on 02-08-2008 at 11:46 PM • top

johnnyreb, that story about Muhammad asking to be a Christian bishop is apocryphal at best.  Many scholars (not extremist Muslims, of course) do think that Muhammad had contacts with Christians, probably heretics, and also some Jewish stories, and these misunderstandings and partial understandings appear in his revelations.  The Qur’an and hadiths do speak well of Jesus and Mary, but they speak incorrectly.  Jesus, for them, is a prophet, who spoke of sending another prophet, whom they take to be Muhammad.  The lines in the New Testament which they take to be references to Muhammad are actually the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit!  Mary is spoken of as Maryam, the sister of Moses and Aaron.  The Muslims refer to Moses and Jesus as having been given “books” in the same way that they say God revealed the book of the Qur’an to Muhammad.  Obviously, they do not understand either Judaism or Christianity.

Islamic culture “from the beginning” was one of rapid conquest and subjugation of half of the civilized world in about a hundred years.  I do know many Muslims who are peaceful and do not wish to fight in the jihad.  But you deceive yourself if you do not realize that the foundational teachings are rigid, violent, and intolerant.

[8] Posted by Katherine on 02-09-2008 at 02:26 AM • top

I have read the Koran I am in an overgeneralizing mood today.  I was not wanting to type out the history of the Cep-ha and where the state of Islam split over an assassination 15 years into its existence. I completely agree with you Katherine.  What I did a poor job of is saying that his request to be a Bishop, IMHO, led us Christians to be the infidels, and not to mess with the BVM and Jesus.  Over-generalizations are abounding today, but thank you for the Recap. But the situation within our own FAith is troubling but I continue to pray for help for the Communion, maybe if ++Rowan resigns then maybe we can get some help

[9] Posted by johnnyreb on 02-09-2008 at 03:43 AM • top

johnnyreb, if Williams resigned immediately and were replaced by Nazir-Ali by this spring, I think the Communion could be saved.  Williams is such a nice, confused, academically brilliant but practically dense man.  He is not a leader, even for the group whose ideas he best reflects.  He should be a university professor.  In these perilous times the see of Canterbury needs a leader.

[10] Posted by Katherine on 02-09-2008 at 05:17 AM • top

One thing Archbishop Ben Kwashi has in common with the ABC is that they are both shocked and disbelieving.  One difference is that Archbishop Kwashi is a clear and effective communicator, while the ABC never uses a single syllable word when there is a polysyllable available.  Archbishop Kwashi spoke for us all when he said “Can we now look up to him as a man who can speak on our behalf?”  I would like to add another question: “Can we trust him as a man who will now listen to the ordinary Christians-in-the-pew as well as to academic Muslims?”  There was a symbolic moment on the BBC News at 10 last night: the reporter stood outside the huge doors of Lambeth Palace, which had apparently remained uncompromisingly closed for the past 24 hours. I fear that the ABC and his advisors/supporters (they were only able to rustle up an obscure suffragen bishop to support him) will also remain uncompromisingly closed to the notion that he now has only one honourable course to take: resign.

[11] Posted by Elliot on 02-09-2008 at 06:08 AM • top

I think what bothers me most about this dust up is how revealing it is of the postmodern approach to truth.  I think it was Reagan who said that if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes true.  So, in this present case, since enough people have claimed that +Rowan wants shari’a introduced, that must be what he wants despite what he actually said in his lecture. 

If I were +Rowan, I’d just lay low.  Unfortunately, people are going to believe the media over against anything he might say.  The irony is how many conservatives who believe the media is controlled by liberals accept without question that media’s take on +Rowan’s lecture!

[12] Posted by Mark Clavier on 02-09-2008 at 06:29 AM • top

Mark Clavier: I’m sure that following Brer Rabbit’s example is exactly what the ABC is planning to do.  Unfortunately.  What bothers me most about this dust up is not the role of the media, it is the fact that Rowan and his advisors didn’t realise what would happen. Whether one reads the original lecture or not (and I have) is immaterial.  His only excuses must be along the lines of “I/we never realised how the media would react”.  Well, sorry, he has several years of experience, paid advisors, press officers and his own common sense to help him.  He should have realised. He didn’t.  He is not up to the job.  Out.

[13] Posted by Elliot on 02-09-2008 at 06:55 AM • top

Yeah Mark+, it sort of reminds me of that time that Bishop Orama was reported to have said that gay people don’t deserve to live and, without checking the facts, the ABC issued a condemnatory statement.

I agree it is too bad that

In this case the actual text of what the ABC said indicates that he thinks it is not only inevitable but probably for the best if the UK incorporates certain elements of or makes allowances for Sharia law.

Imagine how that must sound, even as accurately reported, to Christians in Nigeria and elsewhere where the threat of Islam is everpesent.

[14] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 02-09-2008 at 07:15 AM • top


The Orama fuss is another good example.  I think a study of the media’s role in the present Anglican crisis would be fascinating.  How much have they served to inflame both ends of the debate?  Of course, in the present dust up with +Rowan, he certainly didn’t help himself with that interview!

[15] Posted by Mark Clavier on 02-09-2008 at 08:30 AM • top

The main big mistake I see is reasserting Anglicans thinking that if Rowan resigns things would be better for us.

Not so. 

The government would most likely appoint Sentamu—which I actually think would be much worse.

[16] Posted by Sarah on 02-09-2008 at 08:30 AM • top


I agree.  Then again, I’m not sure what he could have done differently (other than not give the interview).  Given the topic of the lecture series, his choice of what topic to address was limited.  The only thing I can think of that he failed to do was for his minders to provide the media in advance with a summaryof his argument, much along the lines of what they released yesterday.

[17] Posted by Mark Clavier on 02-09-2008 at 08:32 AM • top

Sarah— i thought the current government had agreed to stay out of it—or is it only Gordon Brown himself who will not be involved?  Also, while I can understand being uncomfortable about Sentamu, why do you think he’d be worse than the current ABC?

[18] Posted by In Newark on 02-09-2008 at 08:36 AM • top

Matt+  I do think Mark Clavier has a point.  Consider how the story was first made public.  Admitedly,  the Archbishop doesn’t seem very politically or media savvy.  But actually read what he said vs. the headlines and spin placed by the media interested in a provocative headline or spinning the story to their point of view.  The Gledhill/Sugden article referenced a high, unnamed churchman calling for resignation.  It didn’t say who.  This was the article that first hit the internet and many are likely to simply believe its predigested spin as the whole truth.  Look at its authors.  Ruth Gledhill is certainly no friend of liberals and, as for her accuracy, look at last week’s convoluted artcle on the covenant which even SF loyalists have questioned.  Joanna Sugden is Canon Christopher Sugden’s (Anglican Mainstream and GAFCON promoter) daughter.  She joined The Times last year having served as an intern at the very right wing Washington Times.  If one is seeking a gotcha moment to find a way to get rid of +Williams, his politically unastute gaffe was certainly it—-and pounced upon by Gledhill and Sugden and the unnamed highly placed CofE Churchman.

[19] Posted by EmilyH on 02-09-2008 at 08:42 AM • top

Sarah, I think another big mistake of the reasserters is failing to use the opportunity to examine multicultural/interfaith advocacy.  In their appetite for political correctness, revisionists have become blinded to glaring inconsistencies—-even within their own worldviews.  For example, Khatami was an invited guest at Washington National Cathedral, and under his regime homosexuals were hanged.

[20] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 02-09-2008 at 08:59 AM • top
[21] Posted by Fr Jeffrey on 02-09-2008 at 09:02 AM • top

That’s strange EmilyH. You seem to be responding to a point that I have not made. Did I suggest that the criticism of the ABC at this point has been accurate? No. I simply pointed to the ABC’s own misuse of false media reports and mischaracterization to capitalize politically against an opponent. My point was that he is simply reaping the whirlwind.

[22] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 02-09-2008 at 09:03 AM • top

Hi In Newark,

I consider Sentamu to easily be as liberal as Rowan—probably more so—and not as bright.

Furthermore I also believe that he is actually more culturally accomodating than Rowan.  I’ve read what he says . . . and his only arguments against things that are immoral or unbiblical are that they are “currently inconvenient.”  Really shocking—I’m convinced that he was appointed simply because of his origin, as a “see there, we are multicultural too” gambit.

[23] Posted by Sarah on 02-09-2008 at 09:24 AM • top

The government’s role in appointing an archbishop of Canterbury is growing less and less. It’s the Crown’s Appointment Committee, a sort of mini electoral college made up of representatives of the Province, the whole church, the diocese, plus a rep. from the government which comes up with nominees. Now that the Presbyterian PM says he wants out of chosing between two nominees, with one name going to HM for automatic consent the church will have more and more control. Whether this is good is another matter. IF the Holy Spirit selects bishops, the system doesn’t matter: if no episcopacy doesn’t matter.

So how come wretched bishops?  God may be in that too bring the church to repentance.  To say that York is “less intelligent” than Canterbury is perhaps obvious. I can’t think of a bishop who is more intelligent at least in those areas of scholarship I think Sarah is using the term. However York does have an earned doctorate. and that at a time when they didn’t grow on trees.

[24] Posted by wvparson on 02-09-2008 at 09:56 AM • top

Yo, wazzup, robroy, I scored 172 and missed 14 on my first try at “Bash the Bishop”.  Did I beat you?  I gleefully hit the idiot two more times than you did, but I also missed one more time than you.  Not sure which one of us is the champ, however, I will humbly accept the trophy on behalf of all SFIF gamers if that’s OK with you.

[25] Posted by Chazaq on 02-09-2008 at 11:14 AM • top

Thanks to wvparson for pointing out how Bishops are nominated in the CofE. It certainly isn’t a case of ‘the government’ choosing them - and that can’t be reiterated often enough.

If things really go badly wrong for the ABC at Synod next week (and Synod members may feel that they in fact want to present a united front - but if there are real rumblings of discontent) Sentamu would look a good choice to some people. He is from Uganda and appointing him might seem like a conciliatory move to the African Provinces. The content of what he says doesn’t always inspire confidence, though he has been an outspoken critic of Robert Mugabe, where the African Primates have said embarrassingly little.

I would not have thought there’s much point in getting hopeful about Michael Nazir-Ali. He ruffles feathers too much, I’d have thought, to appeal to naturally consensus-minded CofE types.

This situation makes me wonder about Bishop James Jones’ recent musings on same-sex relationships. Has he positioned himself to be an Evangelical, but who can make reassuring noises about homosexuality which will not frighten Affirming Catholics and the general soft liberal middle?

Just a thought.

[26] Posted by William S on 02-09-2008 at 11:42 AM • top

I think KJS may have a word or two about whom she would like to see in the See of Canterbury! Not that that is her place as we all know that it is not, but just sayin…...she and TEC will be rumblin’ about whom they feel they can work with and after all TEC funds are very desirable! smile

[27] Posted by TLDillon on 02-09-2008 at 11:51 AM • top

I’ve yet to hear an American bishop- ANY American bishop- weigh in on this.  Anybody out there hear anything?

At this rate, guess I’ll soon be adressing my Rector as “Imam”...

[28] Posted by bigjimintx on 02-09-2008 at 11:51 AM • top

Readers of this string may think what they will of Ruth Gledhill and others, but, when the Times of London puts this story in one of its “leaders” (that is, editorials to U. S. readers), it says something.  There is a very polite phrase that one hears in English politics:  Mr or Mrs X should “consider his/her position”.  That is exactly the language that comes at the end of the Times editorial piece.  This isn’t speculation or reading between the lines.  The discontent is serious.

[29] Posted by Brien on 02-09-2008 at 11:54 AM • top

I get the same reading from Sentamu as Sarah Hey.  It’s a mess all around.  And of course Nazir-Ali as Canterbury is remote wishful thinking.

[30] Posted by Katherine on 02-09-2008 at 12:46 PM • top

If there’s any lesson for us bloggers to learn from this past week, it is just that God cannot be graphed.  These events cannot be planned.  All that any of us can do is to be obedient to what little task He has called us to and trust.

[31] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 02-09-2008 at 01:20 PM • top

IF the Holy Spirit selects bishops, the system doesn’t matter: if no episcopacy doesn’t matter.

I think even the most high church minded Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox will readily admit that the Holy Spirit does not guarantee against selecting bishops that are deficient on matters of orthodoxy, leadership skills, or personal integrity.  While the Holy Spirit may be a gentle guide to the Church, it isn’t a puppet master pulling the strings.

[32] Posted by AndrewA on 02-09-2008 at 01:27 PM • top

Good grief. Has anyone read the full transcript of the interview? Even ++Kwashi seems to have missed the nuance and the context.

This blog, to my disappointment, is veering closer and closer to the tone of the “other,” extremist, starts-with-a-Vee one. The commentary on at least two other threads borders on the fanatic. Truly, truly disappointing. (Yes, Jackie and Sarah, I realize you could care not one whit whether or not this “revisionist” is disappointed. No need to comment.)

That said, now: Read the entire transcript.

[33] Posted by PadreWayne on 02-09-2008 at 04:37 PM • top

Padre Wayne,
I personally have read the whole thing .....TWICE! And the masses here on SF and the other site VOL have as well! Not too mention the vaste majority of people around the globe! I/WE have missed nothing. But, I fear you have!

[34] Posted by TLDillon on 02-09-2008 at 04:40 PM • top

Padre—Perhaps you missed ++Kwashi’s comments about what Nigerian Christians have suffered under Sharia.  He now has to face additional assaults on his flock, and on his church—I suspect that this weighs more heavily with him than the nuances that supposedly can be teased out of the ABC’s speech after careful study.  Do you think the Islamic extremists in Nigeria care about Dr. William’s nuance?  And shouldn’t the ABC have considered that well over a third of his communion live cheek by jowl with those who believe in the most barbaric forms of Sharia?

[35] Posted by In Newark on 02-09-2008 at 05:20 PM • top

Read it Padre Wayne.  So sorry the illiterates in the Sharia governed countries haven’t the opportunity or else I’m absolutely, positively, undeniably, reliably sure that the evil witch of misunderstanding would not have cursed them with misunderstanding what their masters will tell them.  You did learn in Seminary 100 to speak to the audience you actually had rather than the one you had in your dreams, did you not?  It seems the ABC missed the semester.

[36] Posted by dwstroudmd+ on 02-09-2008 at 06:16 PM • top

Re Sarah’s note: “The government would most likely appoint Sentamu—which I actually think would be much worse.” Chris Seitz also agrees that Sentamu hold more liberal views. I find this very hard to believe that anyone could hold more liberal views than RW. Yes, he has mostly kept to himself since becoming ABC, but the guy is left wing nut deep down. See the article by the current interim of Trinity School of Ministry, 148 pages of details of RW’s often extreme leftward leanings.

From Wikipedia: Sentamu has been a prominent opponent of the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations and as Bishop of Stepney, was one of only four United Kingdom bishops or archbishops who expressly declined to sign the Cambridge Accord, affirming the human rights of homosexuals (basically a riposte to Lambeth 1.10).

[37] Posted by robroy on 02-10-2008 at 02:58 AM • top

I admit that I’m one of those hoping that ++Williams will indeed resign.  He should go back to academia.  But the chances of him doing so before the Lambeth Conference meets in July would appear to be somewhere between slim and none.  It would create enormous problems for whoever became his successor.

Need I remind everyone that +Tom Wright has repeatedly said that ++Rowan Williams was the best person for the job? (presumably because he’s so smart).  But even the Bishop of Durham must be shaking his head at this latest gaffe on the part of his former colleague at Oxford.  This is the kind of thing that sustains the old stereotypes about some academics as living in remote “ivory towers,” out of touch with how the rest of the world thinks or will react.

Furthermore, it shows that ++Rowan Williams is obviously not that worried about saying something else that will offend the African Anglicans.  This sort of public relations blunder will only further complicate his already strained relationship with leaders like ++Kwashi, not to mention ++Akinola, ++Orombi etc.

David Handy+
Despite my many years in grad school (MA, MDiv, PhD), hopefully not that kind of academic figure

[38] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 02-10-2008 at 03:45 PM • top

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