London, Feb 12 : The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has refused to back down over his controversial comments on Islamic law, but admitted that his intervention had been "clumsy".
The archbishop received a strong show of support from the Church of England's top clerics and laymen on Monday in response to demands for his resignation over his call for Britain to accept some aspects of Sharia, the legal code of Islam.
Dr Williams said much of the storm he had provoked last week when he argued that aspects of Sharia could be incorporated in the English legal system had been based on misunderstandings.
Speaking to the General Synod in London, the Church's "Parliament", he insisted it was "not inappropriate for a pastor of the Church of England" to address issues about the "perceived concerns of other religious communities".
However, Dr Williams failed to quell all the criticism from within the Synod, a handful of members of which have called for his resignation.
The Archbishop insisted in his address that he had not been suggesting a "parallel jurisdiction" with Sharia law running alongside Britain's legal system.
"I must of course take responsibility for any unclarity in either that text or in the radio interview and for any misleading choice of words that has helped to cause distress or misunderstanding among the public at large and especially among my fellow Christians," the Telegraph quoted Dr Williams, as saying.
He claimed that the national Church had a "burden and privilege" to speak up for all faith communities, adding: "I hope we can use it well - however clumsily it may have been deployed in this instance."
"We are not talking about parallel jurisdictions; and I tried to make clear that there could be no 'blank cheques' in this regard in particular as regards some of the sensitive questions about the status and liberties of women," Dr Williams said.
"The law of the land still guarantees for all the basic components of human dignity," he added.
Dr Williams defended his right to raise issues such as Sharia law coming into force in Britain, but stressed that if there was a move in that direction there would be "plenty of work still to be done.
Dr Williams made his address to Synod hours after receiving the support of the Prime Minister, whose official spokesman described the Archbishop as "a man of great integrity and dedication".
"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," the spokesman added.
Dr Williams has been under siege since suggesting in a lecture on Thursday that aspects of Sharia law should be incorporated into the English legal system.
His comments were greeted with a wave of hostile criticism and calls for his resignation, including from a handful of Synod members.