HAVING read the full text of Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams' recent lecture, I feel it did not deserve such a hostile reception.

We live, thank goodness, in a secular democracy, which means that our laws are formulated in Parliament, according to established universal principles of justice and human rights, and not according to the moral codes of any particular religion.

The Archbishop has not proposed a parallel judicial system for Muslims, still less that elements of Sharia law should be imposed on the rest of us.

He has explored the extent to which the ideals and sensibilities of religious people - of all faiths, not just Muslims - might be accommodated in our secular, but religiously diverse, society, so that religious communities have a voice and are not alienated.

The quest for common ground between people of different faiths, and between faith-based moral principles and the ethics of secular humanism, can only be beneficial for social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

The Archbishop may at least have prompted a public discussion about the Sharia, which many people mistakenly regard as nothing more than a rigid and oppressive judicial system which promises barbaric penalties for transgressors.

Pete Winstanley, Durham.

WHEN I heard the outcry against the Archbishop of Canterbury I thought he must have been suggesting this country should become a caliphate rather than a democracy. If that had been what he said I would have been outraged.

Anyone who heard the actual words would be aware he was referring to the fact that Muslims who have a dispute involving the moral law as it applies to them and consult a cleric of their faith expect the cleric to be guided by Sharia law.

In the same way, if a Catholic has a problem involving a moral decision they consult a priest who, I think, would be guided by canon law.

I am not aware that anyone has advocated the law of the land as it stands should be challenged or replaced.

Of course, to some of the media there is the principle never to let the facts get in the way of a good story, and if a mishearing of what the Archbishop helps why not use it?

Geoffrey Bulmer, Billingham.

CHRISTIANITY has in the past been the equal of the worst aspects of Sharia fundamentalists. In medieval times, punishments for law-breakers were horrendous. Burnings, branding, floggings, etc, all were common and nightmarish during any of the periods of Inquisition.

Thankfully, we have for the most part evolved and, though not perfect, we aspire to respect and compassion for others.

Islamic fundamentalists and their version of Sharia law are stuck in the medieval past and are the antithesis of modern Christianity.

The Archbishop of Canterbury by leaning towards the acceptance of Sharia law is being unchristian in principle and so ought to be put out to grass.

As for Sharia family courts, on the face of it this seems reasonable except that we in the Christian host country have evolved over centuries systems of justice. We need not take a backward step. That which has been good enough for us British is good enough for anyone residing or visiting our sovereign land.

Gerard Wild, Richmond, North Yorkshire.