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The Significance of Muslim growth in the UK

Conversion to Islam is no doubt a significant factor for this growth. Unfortunately it’s contribution to this growth is difficult to predict due to a lack of official data on conversions. Census data does not differentiate between whether a new faith has been adopted later in life as oppose to being born into it.

Surveying what was written about the figures from the 2011 census confirms what was expected; the Muslim population has grown by 73% in just 10 years making it the fastest growing group in the UK excluding those who describe themselves as having no religion. The Muslim population in the UK jumped from 1.7 million (3%) to 2.8 million (4.8%) establishing itself as the second largest religious group after Christianity. In fact, as researchers have confirmed, the increase is potentially greater than this as it is very likely that a large percentage of the 7% of the population who did not answer the optional question regarding religion are Muslims. Indeed many Muslims opt not to answer this question for various reasons including the conceived presence of a conspiracy behind its inclusion.

As a matter of fact, the Muslim population has become a significant percentage within the fabric of the total population in the UK. Furthermore, Muslims have become the majority in one of the main boroughs in London, Tower Hamlets, reaching 34% while the proportion of Christians is at 27%. Moreover, in a number of places Muslims make up one of the major groups, reaching 34% in Newham for example, while the proportion of Christians is 40%. There are at least 1 million Muslims in London forming at least 10% of the capital’s population notwithstanding the significant Muslim populations in Birmingham and Manchester.
Although it is difficult to perceive how such figures are viewed by thinkers, journalists, politicians and the general non-Muslim mass, there have appeared a number of reasonable analysis and recommendations from the results of the census. Dr Leon Moosavi who is a Lecturer at the University of Liverpool, (specialising in the sociology of race and religion and an expert on Muslims in Britain) concluded, “by the next census Muslims may even double again and make up 10% of the population. These statistics encourage us to think more carefully about the provisions made for British Muslims and the ways in which they are an integral part of the nation”[1] including many other positive statements in the article that are worth reading.
Julian Bond, director of the Christian Muslim Forum, said the figures reinforced the need to ‘think about the best possible way to engage with Islam and think about whether people should be having days off for Eid, how Ramadan is accommodated and how religion is taught in schools.’ On the other side of the coin, one blogger rightly stated that by referring to public comments appearing on the Guardian, it is found that almost everyone is commenting on or arguing about the issue of foreigners in London. He further wrote that if anyone had noticed the radical changes in religious composition, it was due to worrying about a tiny minority of Muslims, instead of noticing the explosion in atheism.”[2]
Although immigration from Muslim countries has contributed to the growth of the British Muslim population, there are other key factors that may have made more of a contribution towards this growth, namely fertility rates and the widespread acceptance of Islam. A quick look at the figures of the census confirms this reality. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), India, Poland and Pakistan were the top three countries from where foreign-born people had arrived since the year 2001, the biggest rise being from Poland.[3]Despite this, “India accounts for the largest foreign-born population, overtaking Ireland, followed by Poland with an increase of 500,000 people coming to England and Wales in the last decade.”[4] The estimated number of immigrants in the last decade has reached 4.4 million, hence anyone wishing to believe that most of the 1.2 million increase in the Muslim population is mainly from immigration is clearly turning a blind eye to the obvious.
Conversion to Islam is no doubt a significant factor for this growth. Unfortunately it’s contribution to this growth is difficult to predict due to a lack of official data on conversions. Census data does not differentiate between whether a new faith has been adopted later in life as oppose to being born into it. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000. But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank ‘Faith Matters’ suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000 with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year [5]. This ‘demographic earthquake’, as stated by Damian Thompson, or the ‘significant cultural shift’ according to the British Humanist Association, sends a unique message to each part of British society.
Muslims should be more confident that Allah, the Creator of all, is protecting His religion. “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.”[6] We as Muslims must be confident that Islam is the truth and will flourish as it is the religion of the fitrah, one’s natural disposition. The Prophet (Saw) said,

“This affair will reach what is reached by the night and the day; and Allah will not leave a dwelling of brick, nor fur, except that Allah will cause this Deen to enter it – bringing honour or humiliation. Honour which Allah gives to Islam and humiliation which Allah will give to disbelief.”[7]

The inferiority complex that many Muslims suffer should be thrown out of the window, while the sensation of pessimism that many Muslims encounter due to what is happening to Muslims in different parts of the world should be scrapped. Islam is flourishing resiliently while the need for Islam is growing exponentially as non-Muslims accept Islam in droves. A more stable period of peace such as that of the al-hudayibyyah treaty is necessary in order to give non-Muslims an untainted opportunity to see and reflect upon the Islamic message.

British Muslims should re-think how they view their presence in Britain, realising that it is their country in which they will spend their future as Muslims. Muslims must work hard to establish Islam in the UK, or at least ensure that the UK is a suitable place where Muslims can live without compromising their faith and such may entail the involvement in the socio-political dynamics of the country.
Political involvement needs to be taken more seriously and Muslim leaders should start developing young British Muslims for more “Islamic engagement” in politics. A lot can be done for instance to make Britain more moral. No doubt a moral Britain is far better than an immoral one, and as evident as this may seem, the government recently requested a consultation about forcing telecommunications companies to filter websites for online pornography. The result of the consultation was disappointing as only 35% of the parents who responded favoured such an approach and hence the government failed to legislate anything of that nature. It is needless to say that more Muslim involvement could have led to a more positive outcome that favours morality, as undoubtedly traits of morality improves society even within a non-Muslim majority.
The British and European governments on the other hand should revisit their strategies towards Islam and Muslims in Europe. Islam, whether to the liking of European Governments or not, has become a major part of the European landscape. Many thinkers have started to request a review into policies that affect Muslims including legislation surrounding the Hijab, Halal food, holidays for Eid and so on. Focusing on these measures, although imperative, is a simplification of the real debate regarding Islam in Europe and gives light to an agenda set to side line the real issues by shallow ‘appeasing’ gestures. In fact the underlining key questions which Western Muslims should be concerned with include how policy makers view Muslims, i.e. as a minority with minimal considerations, or as an inhomogeneous part of society? Do they still view Islam as a law/life system that has little to offer a 21st century world and by extension must undergo a process of liberalisation in order to offer value for Modern Europe? If European Governments still believe that integration is a one-way process in which Muslims are compelled to change their lifestyle for the sake of acceptance within wider society, then it will soon come to face a bleak reality check.     
Is it time for pluralism and true multiculturalism to be taken more seriously? Christianity is radiply fading away from Britain. Many commentators suggest that the 59% of people who attribute themselves to Christianity fail to reflect the reality of Christianity in Britain on the premise of the actual number of people practicing Christianity (those attending Church on Sunday). The British Government must be extremely cautious not to fail its people by making the detrimental mistake of ignoring the real needs of the second largest religious group in the country. The official recognition of Islam and what it entails will solve the many problems Muslims face today. Incorporation of the Muslim personal law within the judicial system should be looked into more constructively and Muslim lawyers and scholars should work hand in hand to integrate the key elements of the Muslim civil law.
The Educational system should furthermore recognise the specific needs of the Muslims while the Ministry of Education should accommodate them. However it must be clearly understood that the responsibility will always remain on the Muslim educationalists along with law experts to engage with the system such that they influence the necessary changes. Similarly, it is high time for Muslims to consider building a strong Islamic financial alternative for their needs such as housing and education. Aims which can be achieved through re-implementation of the Islamic system of Awqaf (endowments), enabling the community to fund it’s projects in a way that is independent of the Riba (usury/interest) based system. The need to Establish such a system has ever been greater and will provide solutions and safer alternatives to non-Muslims, freeing themselves from the black hole credit-based system guilty of destroying countless lives world-wide.
Such measures, despite their importance and positive instigation may not be independently adequate in addressing the previously stated key questions. Muslims must rise up and publicly debate the role of Orthodox Islam in Public life.
It is widely felt that existing anti-terror laws create an ironic atmosphere of fear. Such laws have failed to maintain security, yet in contrary have isolated many Muslims and damaged their feeling of belonging to the land. What is most disturbing is the Judicial System’s repeated use of these laws to issue harsh statements against young Muslims. It is time for Policymakers to evaluate the effectiveness of such applications and their wider implications.
The census additionally shows that the Christian population of England and Wales is ageing whilst the Muslim community is relatively young. This is reflected in the number of youngsters per Muslim household. Census results further reveal that there has been a decrease in the overall rate of marriage whilst confirming that Muslims have the highest percentage of married people, indicating that despite the pressure exercised against Muslims to abandon Islamic norms including family values and lifestyles, Muslims are still upholding them. This sends a very strong message to Britain and to the international community that it is almost impossible to change Orthodox Muslim norms. Is it then worth the effort of liberal Muslims to continue in their attempt to promote liberalism while it is the pure Orthodox Islam that is flourishing and penetrating people’s lives?

“He it is Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad Sala Allahu Alihi Wasallam) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), that He may make it (Islam) superior over all religions. And All-Sufficient is Allah as a Witness”. [48:28]



Source: www.islam21c.com

[6]Quran 15:9
[7]Saheeh: Related by Ahmad (4/103) and Ibn Hibbaan in his Saheeh (no.1631).


About Shaykh (Dr) Haitham Al-Haddad

Dr. Haitham al-Haddad is a jurist and serves as a judge for the Islamic Council of Europe. He has studied the Islamic sciences for over 20 years under the tutelage of renowned scholars such as the late Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia as well as the retired Head of the Kingdom's Higher Judiciary Council. He specialises in many of the Islamic sciences and submitted his doctoral thesis on Islamic jurisprudence concerning Muslim minorities. Shaikh Haitham is highly respected having specialised knowledge in the field of fiqh, usul al-fiqh, maqasid al-shari'ah, ulum al-Qur’an, tafsir, aqidah, and fiqh al-hadith. He provides complex theories which address the role of Islamic jurisprudence within a western environment whilst also critically re-analysing the approach of Islamic jurists in forming legal rulings (ifta’) within a western socio-political context. He has many well known students most of whom are active in dawah and teaching in the West. The shaikh is an Islamic jurist (faqih) and as such is qualified to deliver verdicts as a judge under Islamic law, a role he undertakes at the Islamic Council of Europe as Islamic judge and treasurer. Dr Haitham al-Haddad also sits on various the boards of advisors for Islamic organisations, mainly in the United Kingdom but also around the world.


  1. However learned is Dr. Haddad it seems he is no more qualified to understand the problems of living in a multi-faith society than anyone else.
    The last thing a mature, (semi) democratic, reasonably successful, European nation needs is an alien set of laws and ethics set down by undemocratic holy men in feudal societies years ago, to run in parallel with modern democratically created law.
    These Sharia laws were specifically designed to separate Muslims from others, and to control their behaviour under threat of sanctions. The point is they were not drawn up to be challenged by dissenters, but have remained constant, allegedly dictated by a God that most of the world doesn’t believe in.

    By all means follow your beliefs, but don’t try to force them on British Muslims who may have evolved with modern political and moral influence, especially the most oppressed Muslim group, women.
    I say to British Muslims, adopt democracy, not feudalism.

    • Please, look how pathetic this troll’s comment is. The poor ignoramus probably believes the stuff he’s been indoctrinated with too. His colonial echo chamber he’s been bouncing about with would never let his mind open enough to recognise and thank the very “Sharia Law” that civilised his own ancestors and brought them out of their mud huts. Now for him to turn and show such insolence and ingratitude!

      • Hi Malcolm. I’m not sure if you’re replying to my comments, but if you are then thanks for taking the time.
        I’ll ignore the abuse and try to address your points seriatim, as they don’t say in Rome.

        1) I have not been indoctrinated. I was given all that God stuff from early age, but never believed it then, and don’t believe it now, any of it. My wife’s family are Sikhs, and mine Christians. What should my children and grandchildren follow please?
        We don’t believe any of it. I learnt as a psychiatric staff nurse that it’s a waste of breath to argue with delusions. I never argue about God stuff, only morality.
        2) I don’t know what a “colonial echo chamber” is, but I know that colonialism was evil, whether British, French, Russian, Islamic (Ottomans, Moors, the invaders of the Byzantium Empire, The Ashok Empire, etc. etc.) or any other.

        In the same year that I was born,1946, the plan for the independence of India was drawn up between the British government and Pandit Nehru, to be (incompetently) activated the next year. This signalled the eventual independence of nearly all of our colonies. So I consider That Britain started to build a genuine (semi) democracy in that year, without the hypocricy of colonies.

        3) Sharia law did not civilise my ancestors, who were English, Irish (colonial subjects), Welsh, also colonial subjects, and Scottish. I’ve traced them back on some of my family tree branches to before Islam had even been invented.
        Regards mud huts, I saw a lot of them in my wide travels in Morocco, Algeria, Turkey, Iran, Afganistan, Pakistan and Kashmir, as well as many other countries. Why are you so snobbish about mud huts? I recommend Camp Africa in Asilah, Morocco. Vey nice huts.
        Cheerio and calm down, John.

  2. Great Article
    Some very valid points have been raised, and I believe Muslims in Britain need to really contemplate the issues that have been raised here, particularly the impact they could potentially have on influencing social policy in their favour. I find that Muslims are the first to complain about the probelms and injustices which they face in society, yet they do nothing whatsoever to improve the situation (complaining on facebook or doing an angry, irrational khutbah does not count)….The point the Sheikh has made about inferiority complex which Muslims suffer from has hit the nail on the head, and I believe that this is the crux of the issue. I think following on from this, people reading the article should watch this lecture by Nouman Ali Khan, and then perhaps they should reflect and re-prioritise their efforts. Maybe we need to consider what ‘Dawah’ really means and reconsider our dawah projects. Perhaps a paradigm shift is needed in British Dawah?


    And Allah Knows Best

  3. Britain
    :8) Establish islam in Uk, I don’t agree with that,as we should take care of out own countries first where majority are Muslims . We r minorities here, but certainly we should live in peace with our neighbours and invite non Muslims to Islam.

  4. thank you for boosting my faith
    Dear Shaikh

    Assalaam alaykum wa rahmatullah

    Jazakallahu khairan for this article and all your other work. It really makes a difference for me and I always feel a chord being touched by what you say.
    Plus, mashaAllah, it is well-written.

    May Allah Bless you, reward you and always keep you on the right track. Ameen.
    wa salaam alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakaatuhu

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