PM defends Williams’ “integrity”

The prime minister has described the Archbishop of Canterbury as a “man of great integrity” after he defended his comments on Sharia law.

Rowan Williams told the Church of England Synod this afternoon that he had not been advocating the introduction of the Islamic legal code in the UK.

Dr Williams said last week it seemed “unavoidable” that some aspects of Sharia law would be incorporated in Britain.

In a bid to clarify his statement, which was criticised by all three major political parties and a host of opinion formers, Dr Williams said he would take responsibility for “any lack of clarity” in his words.

The archbishop has already insisted he “certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law”.

Gordon Brown today defended Dr Williams amid continued criticism, but made it clear he remained committed to British values.

A Downing Street spokesman said: “The prime minister believes the Archbishop of Canterbury is a man of great integrity and dedication to public and community service and he understands the difficulty he is facing at the moment.”

But he added the prime minister “is very clear that British laws must be based on British values and that religious law, while respecting other cultures, should be subservient to British criminal and civil law”.

Dr Williams had been expected to talk to the CoE’s national assembly about Zimbabwe, including the experience of Christians under Robert Mugabe.