“In the last few days, sharia has been much in the news; David Cameron accused Muslim groups who promote sharia law of being the ‘mirror image’ of the British National party and a poll by the Policy Exchange thinktank, which showed that 40% of young Muslims wanted to live under sharia law, was widely reported.
“Just in case readers weren’t sure what sharia was, the Times gave a summary: ‘Sharia covers topics including marriage (allowing a man to have four wives, and stoning to death for adultery), criminal justice (hand amputation for theft) and religious affairs (death penalty for leaving Islam).’ Stoning, hand chopping: that just about sums up the widely held view of what sharia is all about.
“I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard people refer to sharia in this way – as a barbaric ancient set of laws with horrific punishments. But such a definition would horrify many of the young Muslims who were polled. The problem about David Cameron and many, many others is that they have only a Taliban understanding of sharia.”