Lizzie Dearden – The Independent
Islam is rejuvenating “British values”, the former Archbishop of Canterbury has claimed while lambasting sections of the press for presenting Muslims as “un-British”.
Rowan Williams was giving a speech at the annual Living Islam Festival in Lincolnshire on Friday, discussing what British values were and how Muslims could affect them.
He said one of the greatest gifts to Britain had been bringing back “open, honest and difficult public discussion”, the Times reported.
Asked if he thought Islam was restoring British values, he said: “Yes. I’m thinking of the way in which, for example, in Birmingham we have seen a local parish and a mosque combining together to provide family services and youth activities, both acting out of a very strong sense that this is what communities ought to do. ”
Dr Williams was one of several speakers at the event organised by the Islamic Society of Britain, which saw thousands of people gather for four days of talks, debates, music, worship and bazaars.
The now Master of Magdalene College in Cambridge praised both Christianity and Islam for working towards community cohesion and promoting a sense of duty.
But in comments reported by the Guardian, he also objected to the notion of British values, saying they should be more universal.
“The setting-up therefore of British values against any kind of values, whether Muslim or Christian, just won’t do,” he said.
His comments have provoked less controversy than some previous statements on Islam.
While still Archbishop of Canterbury in 2008, he sparked a row by saying the use of sharia in some aspects of British law was “unavoidable”.
British Muslim organisations welcomed Dr Williams’ latest remarks but secular groups objected to the suggestion that religious belonging is necessary for social responsibility.