I always look forward to reading Jean Calder's articles in The Argus. However, last weekend's opinion piece (The Argus, February 16) finds me compelled to defend the Archbishop of Canterbury - something I thought I'd never do, especially after he recently asked the Government to allow the Catholic church to continue its homophobic policy regarding gay adoption.

Firstly, let's look at what the archbishop actually said. He called for allowances to be made for the practice of sharia law, within the confines of British law, on a limited basis, and with the mutual consent of everyone affected. He talked of the diversity of interpretations among Muslim jurists about what sharia entails, and he endorsed the liberal variants. He also pointed out the existing arrangements for religious communities - Muslims can already choose to have disputes settled privately under sharia law, and orthodox Jews are entitled to work out some of their arrangements in a rabbinical court.

The media outcry after the archbishop's talk was typical of this country at the moment where the only mention of Islam seems to be linked to either terrorism or medieval values. Sadly, I feel Jean has been sucked into this narrow view of Islam.

Secondly, Islam is not the only religion where followers include men with obnoxious attitudes to women. Witness fundamentalist American Christians justifying middle-aged men marrying wives as young as 13. Or the fundamentalist Jews in Jerusalem forcing women to sit at the back of buses and dress "modestly". And, according to what I was taught at school, the British conquest of India was to "civilise" it and rescue Hindu women from a religion that forced them to sacrifice themselves on their husbands' funeral pyres.

Ms Calder should remember that the "civilising" British in India and the "progressive" Russians in Afghanistan were seen off by strong Hindu and Muslim women and men.

British Muslim women will deal with the sexism in their community, but the Press reaction following the Archbishop of Canterbury's talk makes their struggle more difficult.

  • Dave Jones, Springfield Road Brighton

I agree with Jean Calder about sharia law (The Argus, February 16).

It is all very well to say that the Archbishop of Canterbury is an intellectual and is misunderstood, but in his profession one needs communication skills. It was also rather crass to suggest adopting some aspects of sharia law when the Bishop of Rochester is receiving death threats for exposing no-go areas set up by Muslims in some British cities.

It is not only women who would suffer. There was one report of a gay man being told to stop being gay - or else. He moved away from his home area to avoid the "or else".

The archbishop is not paid to promote other religions. I doubt very much that an imam in an Islamic country would return the compliment.

If parts of sharia law were adopted, extremists would probably campaign for the rest of it to follow.

  • R Reeves, Burford Road Horsham