A year ago it was clear that, despite the widely presumed promise of the Arab spring, 2011 had been a year in which sharia enforcement has both spread and intensified both in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world. This is part of a longer term pattern of increasing Islamisation that has been happening since the late 1970s and which has continued in 2012.
The enforcement of sharia happens at a number of levels. The ultimate aim of Islamists is that sharia
becomes the only system of law and government, with both Muslims and
non Muslims alike subject to it. However, in many Islamic countries sharia
exists in different degrees either as the sole form of law (as in Saudi
Arabia), or more commonly a formal system alongside parliamentary law
with a court able to rule that parliamentary legislation must be changed
to comply with sharia (as is the case in Pakistan). In other
situations, it exists more informally alongside parliamentary law with a
blurred boundary as to whether criminal and civil cases are taken to sharia or government courts. In other countries still, particularly those in the West, sharia
is enforced informally within the Muslim community, as significant
pressure may be exerted on individual Muslims to follow the dictates of sharia.