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The Challenge of Islam in the UK

14 November, 2017 13:00
The Challenge of Islam in the UK

At the last census in 2011, there were 2.7 million Muslims in the UK, or 4.8% of the population. This has risen quite rapidly from only 105,000 in 1960. The previous census in 2001 showed a Muslim population of 1.6 million. Islam was therefore the fastest growing religion in the UK over the ten-year period, showing growth of nearly 70%. Pew Research estimate that by 2030, Muslims will have reached 8% of the population. Already, 8.1% of all school-age children are Muslim. The name Muhammad, when allowing for spelling variants, has been the top boys’ name for babies in Britain for five years running.

Segregation and lack of integration

The Policy Exchange report, ‘Unsettled Belonging: A survey of Britain’s Muslim communities’, published in 2016, claimed to be the most extensive research of British Muslims ever conducted. The report found that 53% of Muslims were born outside the UK, while 93% had parents born outside the UK. This demonstrates that much of the growth is occurring through immigration.

According to the report, 43% of Muslims support the introduction of Sharia law, broadly defined. Fifty three percent prefer to send their children to a school with strong ‘Muslim values’ and 44% said that schools should be able to insist on ‘a hijab or niqab’ in uniform, while 32% disagreed with this.

The government commissioned Dame Louise Casey to review integration in society. Her report was published in December 2016. She found that there is indeed a problem in terms of integration of religious minorities. In a striking statement, she said: ‘None of the 800 or more people that we met, nor any of the two hundred plus written submissions to the review, said there wasn’t a problem to solve.’

In many ways it is encouraging that there is widespread recognition of the problem. This also means that that it is becoming more politically acceptable to say so.

Trevor Phillips, former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said last year that ‘the integration of Muslims will probably be the hardest task we have ever faced’. This is a remarkably strong statement, and all the more significant coming as it does from the man who claims to have commissioned the report that first introduced the term ‘Islamophobia’ to Britain twenty years ago.

The problem is exacerbated by concentration of Muslims in certain urban areas. The 2011 census showed that major cities such as Bradford, Luton, Slough, and Birmingham all have Muslim populations over 20%, compared with 5% for the overall population of the nation…

Cultural influence

Islam has a disproportionate influence on our culture, given that it represents only 5% of the population. Multiple mainstream supermarkets and restaurant chains sell halal meat, often without labelling it. London hosts an Islamic fashion show. Debenhams recently became the first major department store to sell Islamic clothing. Posters proclaiming ‘Subhan Allah’ meaning ‘Glory to Allah’ appeared on hundreds of buses this year.1 In education, exam boards have rescheduled exams to avoid clashing with Ramadan for the next three years. Islamic schools have been found to contain extremist material. Several of our leading universities have accepted significant Islamic funding, ceding influence to Islam in tertiary education.

Sa far as religious influence goes, this is most symbolically demonstrated with the fact that many church buildings have been converted to mosques. Indeed, the mosque attended by the Manchester Arena attacker was previously a Methodist church. Perhaps even more shockingly, the Muslim call to prayer was chanted in Gloucester Cathedral earlier this year, and in St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, the Qur’an was recited during a communion service.

The BBC reported in 2015 that there had been more than 11,000 recorded cases of ‘honor crime’ in the last five years. Earlier this year, a Glasgow shopkeeper was killed, effectively for being the wrong type of Muslim. He had been granted asylum when he moved from Pakistan in 1998. It was expected that Scotland would be a safe place for him and his family. The Crown Prosecution Service has been accused by a whistle-blower of being afraid to tackle honor crimes for fear of causing unrest in Asian communities.

In prisons, Muslims are disproportionately represented, being 14.5% of the prison population. A government report found that prison Imams are routinely distributing extremist literature amongst prisoners. There are also reports of prisoner-run ‘sharia courts’ carrying out various types of corporal punishment…

Part of the challenge of Islam is that it is bold and unashamed in its approach. In this it can put to shame Christians who shy away from talking about our faith or proclaiming its relevance to society. In the end, the only effective response to radical Islam is radical Christianity. If more of us were radical, bold and unashamed about our faith, confident in confrontation and challenging Islam’s claims, then many more Muslims would turn to Christianity. As it is, there are reports of churches baptizing Muslim believers, on a regular basis in some cases. God appears to have chosen to use Islam to awaken the church. The question is, will we respond to this call?


Category : Islamic World News  |  
The Challenge of Islam in the UK
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