Sunday 27 April 2014

Popes, Sharia Watch UK and Wonga

The canonisations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II inevitably dominated this morning's edition of Sunday

Two former popes have never been canonised on the same day before - and, to make it even more historic and unprecedented, they'll be canonised by two living popes - Francis and Benedict XVI. (That's a lot of popes!)

Even though the BBC already has two experienced Rome correspondents - the veteran David Willey and former Middle East correspondent Alan Johnson - Sunday followed hallowed BBC tradition and dispatched William Crawley to the Eternal City as well, which must have been very nice for him. In fairness to William, he's quite good at describing events like this but he wasn't given much time to do so, and Sunday chose to cram in several other BBC correspondents too:
As Pope Francis prepares to make history by canonising Popes John XXIII and John Paul II in front of millions in Rome today, Edward Stourton talks to Cardinal Vincent Nichols about what this event means for the Catholic Church. We have live reports from William Crawley in Rome and the BBC's Adam Easton in Poland. The BBC's Rome Correspondent, Alan Johnson, reports on the build up to this historic event in Vatican City and Trevor Barnes assesses the life of Pope John XXIII.
Ed Stourton rounded things off by interviewing Cardinal Vincent Nichols, asking questions loaded with liberal Catholic sensibility. The usual Tabletistas may have been physically missing, but they were there in spirit through Ed, and the underlying Tablet-style message was clear: the fast-track canonisation of John Paul II is wrong, but the canonisation of the saintly John XXIII (and, by extention, Vatican II) is a good thing.

There was also time for two other Sunday favourites though - discussion of Muslim matters and the Church of England's controversial involvement with Wonga.  

As regards the latter, Ed Stourton interviewed Edward Mason of the C of E's ethical advisory group and, adopting an incredulous tone of view, badgered him over why it's taking so long for the Church to disinvest in Wonga and questioned him over whether the Church should be involved in venture capital at all - all asked from the 'Wonga is wicked' standpoint of course. 

The discussion of the former involved crossbencher Baroness Cox and lawyer Aina Khan debating whether Sharia Councils are unfairly treating Muslim women seeking divorce settlements. 

This was occasioned by the launch of Sharia Watch UK this week. 

Caroline Cox hosted the event in parliament, and says that sharia law is inherently discriminatory ("fundamentally against the principles of our country", "fundamentally discriminating against women"). A Muslim woman came to her and told her of her bad experiences at the hands of sharia courts here, saying that she'd come to the UK to escape from sharia law but found that the enforcement of sharia law within the UK was actually worse than in her own country. Aina Khan, who specialises in achieving solutions using Sharia law principles in the English courts, admitted that there are problems but maintained that such discriminatory practices are not inherent to sharia law and that they merely reflect the culture of different countries' ways of proceeding. 

Edward Stourton was fairly hands-off here, though his questioning was more challenging towards Baroness Cox and he did ask Aina Khan a leading question that helped advance her side of the argument.

And such was this week's Sunday. (P.S. As it's Sunday, please can we have some sun today?)

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