In a poll conducted by Policy Exchange, described as a "right-wing think tank" by the London Telegraph, 40 percent of young Muslims (ages 16-24) said they would prefer that Britain adopt Islamic law or sharia compared to only 17 percent of their parents generation (those over 55 years of age).
Under sharia, the reader will recall, men's testimony in court is worth that of two women, adulterers may be lashed or even stoned to death, thieves can have their hands cut off, and apostates may be put to death.
Now if the reader is wondering whether these young British Muslims really understood the implications of what they were saying, Policy Exchange tried to ferret out the answer to that question by asking whether Muslims who repudiate their faith should be "punished by death." Thirty-six percent of the youths said yes they should, compared to only 19 percent of the over 55s.
Seventy-five percent of the Muslim youth polled also thought Muslim women should wear the veil or hijab to signal their piety. This was compared to only 25 percent of their parents generation. This seems to me to indicate that the same Islamic fashion wave that hit the Middle East in the past 30 years would appear to be becoming the vogue among young British Muslims as well.
Thirty years ago, as the youths over-55 parents' or even grandparents' generation can recall, the streets of Cairo, not to mention Kabul, were filled with women wearing miniskirts. Today the vast majority of women don the headscarf in Egypt and most women are still afraid to shed their burkas in Afghanistan. In Oman, most women did not cover their already modest traditional outfits with the black abaya that almost all the females past puberty now seem to feel compelled to wear. Even in Saudi Arabia, where the constitution has always been the Koran, women were not shrouded in black outside their homes to the same extent they are today.
While sharia traces its origins to the advent and expansion of Islam in the Middle Ages and has always guided Muslims, sharia did not become the basis of modern Muslim nation-state law, especially in countries with codified legal systems until the 1980s. In Pakistan, for example, Islam did not become the source of law until 1981, at which point apostasy indeed became a crime punishable by death. In Iran, it was only after the Islamic revolution in 1979, that the minimum age for marriage was moved from 18 to 9 for women - or rather girls.
In Iran, leftists, communists and other Iranians that were not necessarily inclined toward an Islamic identity rallied behind the new Islamic theocracy because at the time, it seemed to be a charming alternative to Western imperialism (with which the Shah had come to be identified). But three decades later, according to most accounts, life under the "Islamic Republic" has not turned out to be the utopia that was anticipated. Islamic law does not seem to have improved Pakistan much either.
Perhaps these young British Muslims who are so eager to implement sharia should study how Islamic law has actually panned out in the countries that have tried it. Maybe they'll find that most of their elders aren't so ignorant after all in not wanting to see sharia imposed in Britain.