There was a new ICM poll of British Muslims in the Sunday Telegraph. The finding in the poll that got the most coverage was a question that suggested that 40% of British Muslims supported “there being areas in Britain which are pre-dominately Muslim and in which sharia law is introduced”. Since Western perceptions of sharia law tend to focus upon stoning adulterers, executing apostates and amputating the limbs of thieves reporting has tended to react with some horror. It’s worth remembering though that respondents could be thinking of a far more limited use of sharia law – until this month, for example, Ontario in Canada allowed the use of sharia law in civil disputes on things such as divorce, contract law and so on. I suspect respondents to ICM’s survey were more likely to have been thinking of Muslim communities in the UK deciding cases of family and inheritance law on the basis of sharia, as opposed to stonings and beheadings in Brick Lane – though from the wording of the question it is impossible to tell.

The full figures on ICM’s website reveal some interesting bits and pieces that weren’t reported in the Sunday Telegraph. British Muslims surveyed by ICM were almost unaminous (97%) in thinking that the publication of the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was wrong, 77% said they personally were very offended by the cartoons, 9% said they were a little offended and 11% said they were not offended.

Regarding reactions to the cartoons, 14% of British Muslims thought it was right for protesters in Muslim countries to attack Danish embassies and 12% thought it was right for “demonstrators to carry placards calling for the killing of those who insult Islam”. 13% said it was right “to exercise violence against those who are deemed by religious leaders to have insulted them”.

There was also a voting intention question – the topline figure amongst Muslim voters was CON 16%, LAB 44%, LDEM 30%, Other 10%. ICM’s last voting intention poll amongst Muslim voters was in July 2005, which found support at CON 11%, LAB 48%, LDEM 34%, Oth 7%.

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