A new poll commissioned by the Centre for Social Cohesion paints a troubling portrait of the views held by Muslim students at British universities. Based on data from a dozen campuses with large Muslim enrollments, including Imperial College and Kings College London, the prevailing opinions about Shari'a law and secular society are as follows:

  • Two-fifths (40%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of Shari'a into British law for Muslims.
  • A third (33%) of Muslim students polled supported the introduction of a worldwide caliphate based on Shari'a law.

  • Over two-fifths (43%) of Muslim students polled said Islam was compatible with secularism.

  • Almost three in ten (28%) said they were incompatible and a further 29% were unsure.

These numbers are in line with other recent surveys from the UK. According to a study released in 2007 by the Policy Exchange think tank, 40% of Muslims between the ages of 16 and 24 would prefer to live under Shari'a law — over twice the percentage of their fellow believers aged 55 and above. A third of British Muslims expressed similar views to Channel 4 in 2006.

However, Irfan Al-Alawi and Stephen Schwartz of the Center for Islamic Pluralism argue that Shari'a is not as popular among Muslims as the aforementioned groups have claimed:

Soon after Archbishop Williams' gaffe the Centre for Islamic Pluralism conducted a field survey of attitudes towards Shari'a in the main Muslim communities in Britain. We visited Birmingham, Manchester, Bolton, Bradford, Sheffield, and Leicester, in addition to ongoing and extensive investigations in London's East End. Interviewees included imams, muftis (legal authorities), spiritual shaykhs, British Muslim barristers and solicitors, social workers, and rank-and-file mosque attendees. The full results will be published, with similar data from Germany, Holland, France, and Spain, next year.

Our survey was made easier by Muslim debate over the Williams affair. The overwhelming majority of our sample — we estimate a minimum of 65% — brusquely repudiated the imposition of Shari'a in Britain and even expressed resentment at the interference of individuals like the archbishop in British Muslim affairs.

Their complete study should be interesting and perhaps even controversial. However, one observation is already beyond dispute: when Archbishop Rowan Williams and Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips endorse the adoption of certain aspects of Shari'a law in civil matters, their words embolden radicals and marginalize moderates. And that does little to aid the nation that these two men are charged with serving.