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UK Muslims want Islamic law

Muslims in Britain want greater recognition of their faith with the introduction of Islamic law for civil cases and time off for prayers during the working day.
PTI | By Indo-Asian News Service, London
UPDATED ON NOV 30, 2004 07:24 PM IST

Muslims in Britain want greater recognition of their faith with the introduction of Islamic law for civil cases and time off for prayers during the working day, a survey reveals.

But they are equally committed to greater participation in British life.

A Guardian/ICM poll based on a survey of 500 British Muslims found that a majority wants Islamic law introduced into this country in civil cases relating to their own community.

Some 61 percent wanted Islamic courts - operating on sharia principles - "so long as the penalties did not contravene British law".

Many civil cases in this country deal with family disputes such as divorce, custody and inheritance.

The poll also found a high level of religious observance with just over half saying they pray five times a day, every day - although women are shown to be more devout than men.

The poll reveals that 88 percent want to see schools and workplaces in Britain accommodating Muslim prayer times as part of their normal working day.

Alongside these signs of a desire for more recognition of their religion, however, the poll suggests that the Muslim community is perhaps more integrated than many might imagine, with 62 percent saying they have "a lot or quite a few" non-Muslim people among their closest friends and 35 percent saying they would consider marrying someone who was not a Muslim.

There is also a strong appetite within the Muslim community to become a closer part of British life, with 40percent saying they need to do more to integrate into mainstream British culture.

The ICM poll was commissioned as part of a Guardian exercise to gauge the mood of Britain's younger Muslim generation. In addition to the poll, 103 young Muslims were brought together to discuss the most important issues facing their future, from identity and integration to the war on terror.

The poll confirms that political support for Labour has halved since the 2001 general election and the Liberal Democrats have emerged as the leading political party within the Muslim community.

The role of Britain in the Iraq war and Prime Minister Tony Blair's strong support for the war on terror, which is widely seen by the Muslim community to be an attack on Islam, has undoubtedly played a part in eroding Labour's support among British Muslims. In the 2001 general election, it is believed that 75 percent of those who voted backed Labour.

The voting intention figures in this poll show that support in the Muslim community for the government is fast slipping away. In March, ICM recorded Labour support at 38 percent and this has now fallen a further six points to 32 percent of Muslim voters.

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