Islam in the United Kingdom
The Bradford Grand Mosque is the largest mosque by capacity in the United Kingdom, and the largest in Yorkshire and The Humber.
Total population
United Kingdom United Kingdom: 3,998,875 – 6.0% (2021)
England England: 3,801,186 – 6.7% (2021)[1]
Scotland Scotland: 119,872 – 2.2% (2022)[2]
Wales Wales: 66,947 – 2.2% (2021)[1]
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland: 10,870 – 0.6% (2021)[3]
Regions with significant populations
Greater London1,318,754 – 15.0%[4]
West Midlands569,963 – 9.6%
North West England563,105 – 7.6%
Yorkshire and the Humber442,533 – 8.1%
Religions
Majority Sunni Islam with sizeable Shia and Ahmadiyya minorities
Languages
English, Punjabi, Sindhi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Arabic, Turkish, Somali, Persian[5]
Islam in Europe
by percentage of country population[6]
  90–100%
  70–90%
  50–70%
Bosnia and Herzegovina
  30–40%
North Macedonia
  10–20%
  5–10%
  4–5%
  2–4%
  1–2%
  < 1%

Islam is the second-largest religion in the United Kingdom, with results from the 2021 Census recording just under four million Muslims, or 6.0% of the total population in the United Kingdom.[7][8] London has the largest population and greatest proportion (15%) of Muslims in the country.[9][10][11] The vast majority of Muslims in the United Kingdom adhere to Sunni Islam,[12] while smaller numbers are associated with Shia Islam.

During the Middle Ages, there was some general cultural exchange between Christendom and the Islamic world. Nonetheless, there were no Muslims in the British Isles; however, a few Crusaders did convert in the East, such as Robert of St. Albans. During the Elizabethan age, contacts became more explicit as the Tudors made alliances against Catholic Habsburg Spain, including with Morocco and the Ottoman Empire. As the British Empire grew, particularly in India, Britain came to rule territories with many Muslim inhabitants; some of these, known as the lascars, are known to have settled in Britain from the mid-18th century onwards. In the 19th century, Victorian Orientalism spurred an interest in Islam and some British people, including aristocrats, converted to Islam. Marmaduke Pickthall, an English writer and novelist, and a convert to Islam, provided the first complete English-language translation of the Qur'an by a British Muslim in 1930. Under the British Indian Army, a significant number of Muslims fought for the United Kingdom during the First and the Second World Wars (a number of whom were awarded the Victoria Cross, Britain's highest honour). In the decades following the latter conflict and the Partition of India in 1947, many Muslims (from what is today Bangladesh, India and Pakistan) settled in Britain itself.

To this day, South Asians constitute the majority of Muslims in Britain in terms of ethnicity,[13][14] although there are significant Turkish, Arab and Somali communities, as well as up to 100,000 British converts of multiple ethnic backgrounds.[15] Islam is the second largest religion in the United Kingdom and its adherents have the lowest average age out of all the major religious groups.[16] Between 2001 and 2009, the Muslim population increased almost 10 times faster than the non-Muslim population.[17]

History

Early history

Main articles: List of Arabic loanwords in English and Islam in England

Although Islam is generally thought of as a recent arrival in the UK, Muslims have been trading and exchanging ideas with the British for centuries.

A mancus/gold dinar of king Offa, copied from the dinars of the Abbasid Caliphate (774); it includes the Arabic text "Muhammad is the Apostle of Allah", a line from the Shahada.

The earliest evidence of Islamic influence in England dates to the 8th century, when Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, minted a coin with an Arabic inscription, largely a copy of coins issued by a contemporary Abbasid ruler, Caliph Al-Mansur.[18] In the 16th century, Muslims from North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia were present in London, working in a range of roles, from diplomats and translators to merchants and musicians.[19]

Interactions under British Empire

Main articles: Company rule in India and British Raj

Bengali Muslim diplomat I'tisam-ud-Din was the first educated South Asian to have travelled to the United Kingdom in 1765.
Punjabi Muslims of the 33rd Punjabis, British Indian Army.

Bengal was annexed by the East India Company from the quasi-independent Nawabs of Bengal following the Battle of Plassey in 1757. The manufactured goods produced in Bengal directly contributed to the Industrial Revolution in Britain,[20][21][22][23] with the textiles produced in Bengal being used to support British industries such as textile manufacturing, aided by the invention of devices such as the spinning jenny.[20][21][22] With the establishment of Crown control in India after 1857, the British Empire came to rule over a large Muslim population.[24][25][26] The first educated South Asian to travel to Europe and live in Britain was I'tisam-ud-Din, a Bengali Muslim cleric, munshi and diplomat to the Mughal Empire who arrived in 1765 with his servant Muhammad Muqim during the reign of King George III.[27] He wrote of his experiences and travels in his Persian book, Shigurf-nama-i-Wilayat (or 'Wonder Book of Europe').[28]

In South Asia, specifically, the British ruled over one of the largest Muslim populations in the world.[citation needed] Upon coming into contact with such a population, the British authorities forged a uniquely Muslim identity for the local believers. This was, in part, due to the way British historians periodized South Asian history into an "ancient" Hindu one and a "medieval" Muslim one. Under the system, the colonial period was classified as "modern".[29] Debate rages on concerning the utility and legitimacy of these labels themselves. Problems with these labels range from the connotations coupled with the word 'medieval' to the implications related to labelling the colonial era as "modern". The term medieval itself is quite controversial. Historians writing in journals relating to the time period have asked whether the term is a "tyrannous construct" or an "alien conceptual hegemony".[29] This is because the label was originally developed during the study of European history to mark the period in between the fall of the Roman Empire and the fall of Constantinople.[citation needed]

Such classifications done by British historians throughout their long period of rule paved the way for a more cohesive Muslim identity. In the eighteenth century, this seemed unlikely. Muslims who hailed from Afghan, Turk, Persian, or Arab roots did not find their Muslim identities especially salient. Mughal courts divided not into Hindu or Muslim factions but Persian and Turkish ones. Converts to the religion outside of courtly life, the majority of the Muslim population in the Subcontinent, too were more focused on their regional and lingual cultural identities-whether that be Bengali, Punjabi, Sindhi, or Gujarati.[30]

The first group of Muslims to come to Great Britain in significant numbers, in the 18th century, were lascars (sailors) recruited from the Indian subcontinent, largely from the Bengal region, to work for the East India Company on British ships, some of whom settled down and took local wives.[31] Due to the majority being lascars, the earliest Muslim communities were found in port towns. Naval cooks also came, many of them from the Sylhet district of British Bengal (now in Bangladesh). One of the most famous early Asian immigrants to England was the Bengali Muslim entrepreneur Sake Dean Mahomet, a captain of the East India Company who in 1810 founded London's first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostanee Coffee House.[32]

Between 1803 and 1813, there were more than 10,000 lascars from the Indian subcontinent visiting British port cities and towns.[33] By 1842, 3,000 lascars visited the UK annually, and by 1855, 12,000 lascars were arriving annually in British ports. In 1873, 3,271 lascars arrived in Britain.[34] Throughout the early 19th century lascars visited Britain at a rate of 1,000 every year,[33] which increased to a rate of 10,000 to 12,000 every year throughout the late 19th century.[35][36] A prominent English convert of the 19th century was Henry Stanley, 3rd Baron Stanley of Alderley, who became a Muslim in 1862. Although not a convert himself, the Victorian Age adventurer, Sir Richard Francis Burton visited Mecca in disguise, documented in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night. At the beginning of World War I, there were 51,616 South Asian lascars working on British ships, the majority of whom were of Bengali descent.[37] In 1932, the Indian National Congress survey of 'all Indians outside India' (which included modern Pakistani and Bangladeshi territories) estimated that there were 7,128 Indians living in the United Kingdom.

By 1911, the British Empire had a Muslim population of 94 million, larger than the empire's 58 million Christian population.[26] By the 1920s, the British Empire included roughly half of the world's Muslim population.[25] More than 400,000 Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army fought for Britain during World War I, where 62,060 were killed in action.[38] Muslim soldiers of the British Indian Army later fought for Britain against the Nazis in World War II,[39] where Muslim soldiers accounted for up to 40%[40] of the 2.5 million troops serving the British Indian Army.[41] David Lloyd George, British Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922, stated: "we are the greatest Mahomedan power in the world and one-fourth of the population of the British Empire is Mahomedan. There have been no more loyal adherents to the throne and no more effective and loyal supporters of the Empire in its hour of trial." This statement was later reiterated by Gandhi in 1920.[24] Winston Churchill also stated in 1942: "We must not on any account break with the Moslems, who represent a hundred million people, and the main army elements on which we must rely for the immediate fighting."[40]

Marmaduke Pickthall authored an English language translation of the Qur'an in 1930.

The Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking was the first purpose-built mosque in Britain, and was built in 1889. In the same year, Abdullah Quilliam installed a mosque in a terrace in Liverpool, which became the Liverpool Muslim Institute.[42][43] The first mosque in London was the Fazl Mosque, established in 1924, commonly called the London mosque.

Quran translators Yusuf Ali and Marmaduke Pickthall, who authored The Meaning of the Glorious Koran: An Explanatory Translation in 1930, were both trustees of the Shah Jehan Mosque in Woking and the East London Mosque.[44][45]

Other aristocratic British converts included Sir Archibald Hamilton, 5th Baronet, Rowland Allanson-Winn, 5th Baron Headley, St John Philby and Zainab Cobbold (the first Muslim woman born in Britain to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca).

Immigration and post-World War II

Muslims during an Eid al-Fitr feast at the East London Mosque in 1941

Large-scale immigration of Muslims to Britain began after World War II, as a result of the destruction and labour shortages caused by the war.[46][47] Muslim migrants from former British colonies, predominantly India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,[46] were recruited in large numbers by government and businesses to rebuild the country.[48] Large numbers of doctors recruited from India and Pakistan, encouraged by health minister Enoch Powell in the early 1960s, also played a key role in the establishment of the National Health Service.[49]

British Asians (both Muslim and non-Muslim) faced increased discrimination following Powell's Rivers of Blood speech and the establishment of the National Front in the late 1960s. This included overt racism in the form of "Paki bashing", predominantly from white power skinheads, the National Front, and the British National Party, throughout the 1970s and 1980s.[50] Drawing inspiration from the civil rights movement, the black power movement, and the anti-apartheid movement, young British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi activists began a number of anti-racist Asian youth movements in the 1970s and 1980s, including the Bradford Youth Movement in 1977, the Bangladeshi Youth Movement following the murder of Altab Ali in 1978, and the Newham Youth Movement following the murder of Akhtar Ali Baig in 1980.[51]

The majority of mosques founded after World War II in Britain are reflective of the major strands of Sunni Islam predominating in the Indian subcontinent; namely Deobandi and Barelvi (the latter of which is more Sufi-orientated). There are also a smaller number of Salafi-oriented mosques, inspired by Abul A'la Maududi and Jamaat-e-Islami, are representative of the Arab mainstream or are associated with the UK Turkish Islamic Trust. In addition to this there are Twelver Shia Mosques. The Murabitun World Movement founded by Abdalqadir as-Sufi (born Ian Dallas) in 1968 is a branch of the Sufi Darqawi-Shadhili-Qadiri tariqa which was run out of Achnagairn in the Scottish Highlands.

Martin Lings, an English Muslim scholar, published a biography of Muhammad in 1983 entitled Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. The publication of Salman Rushdie's novel The Satanic Verses in 1988 caused major controversy. A number of Muslims in Britain condemned the book for blasphemy. On 2 December 1988, the book was publicly burned at a demonstration in Bolton attended by 7,000 Muslims, followed by a similar demonstration and book-burning in Bradford on 14 January 1989.[52]

Recently, several wars in the Balkans, Middle East and North Africa have led to many Muslims migrating to the United Kingdom. In 1992, with the outbreak of the Bosnian War, a large number of Bosniaks who fled the ethnic cleansing and genocide ended up settling in Britain. Their numbers currently exist at between 10,000 and 15,000 including their descendants.[53] Just over three years later, an insurgency in Kosovo beginning in 1995, eventually evolving into the Kosovo War in 1998, would see 29,000 Kosovo Albanians flee their homes and settle in Britain. It is commonly believed that many Albanians from Albania moved to the United Kingdom at this time, posing as refugees from Kosovo, in search of a better life in the UK.[54]

A mere decade later, the Arab Spring (and later Arab Winter) brought a wave of Muslim refugees fleeing civil war in Syria, war in Iraq, two wars in Libya, war in Yemen and countless other insurgencies by political groups and other terrorist organisations which exerted control over vast swathes of territory in the Middle East.[55] Britain took on 20,000 refugees from Syria[56] and 11,647 from Iraq.[57]

The growing number of Muslims resulted in the establishment of more than 1,500 mosques by 2007.[58]

Demographics

Muslim Population of the United Kingdom
YearPop.±%
20011,591,126—    
20112,786,635+75.1%
20213,998,875+43.5%
Religious Affiliation was not recorded in the census prior to 2001.
Distribution of British Muslims by local authority, 2021 census
Muslims in the United Kingdom by region and country
Region / Country 2021[62] 2011[67] 2001[72]
Number % Number % Number %
England England 3,801,186 6.7% 2,660,116 5.0% 1,524,887 3.1%
Greater London 1,318,754 15.0% 1,012,823 12.4% 607,083 8.5%
West Midlands 569,963 9.6% 376,152 6.7% 216,184 4.1%
North West 563,105 7.6% 356,458 5.1% 204,261 3.0%
Yorkshire and the Humber 442,533 8.1% 326,050 6.2% 189,089 3.8%
South East 309,067 3.3% 201,651 2.3% 108,725 1.4%
East 234,744 3.3% 148,341 2.5% 78,931 1.5%
East Midlands 210,766 4.3% 140,649 3.1% 70,224 1.7%
South West 80,152 1.4% 51,228 1.0% 23,465 0.5%
North East 72,102 2.7% 46,764 1.8% 26,925 1.1%
Scotland Scotland 119,872[a] 2.2% 76,737 1.4% 42,557 0.8%
Wales Wales 66,947 2.2% 45,950 1.5% 21,739 0.7%
Northern Ireland 10,870 0.6% 3,832 0.2% 1,943 0.1%
 United Kingdom 3,998,875 6.0% 2,786,635 4.4% 1,591,126 2.7%
Muslim population of England and Wales
YearPop.±%
1961 50,000[73]—    
1971 226,000[73]+352.0%
1981 553,000[73]+144.7%
1991 950,000[73]+71.8%
2001 1,600,000[73]+68.4%
2011 2,706,066[74]+69.1%
2021 3,868,133[75]+42.9%
Muslim population pyramid in 2021 in England and Wales
Ethnic composition of British Muslims, 2021 census[76]

Year of arrival (2021 census, England and Wales)[77]

  Born in the UK (51.0%)
  Before 1971 (2.2%)
  1971 to 1980 (3.2%)
  1981 to 1990 (4.0%)
  1991 to 2000 (7.4%)
  2001 to 2010 (13.3%)
  2011 to 2021 (18.9%)

According to the 2021 United Kingdom census, Muslims in England and Wales numbered 3,868,133, or 6.5% of the population.[78] Northern Ireland recorded a population of 10,870, or 0.6% of the population, with the highest number of Muslims recorded in Belfast at 5,487, or 1.59% of the population.[79] The equivalent census was conducted a year later in Scotland and recorded a population of 119,872, or 2.2% of the population. In Scotland, Glasgow recorded the highest number of Muslims at 48,766, or 7.86% of the population.[80] The top 25 local authorities in the United Kingdom with the highest percentage of Muslims in 2021 were:[81][82]

Top 25 local authorities (2021/22 Census)
Local authority Population Per cent
London Borough of Tower Hamlets 123,912 39.93%
Blackburn with Darwen 54,146 34.99%
London Borough of Newham 122,146 34.80%
Luton 74,191 32.94%
London Borough of Redbridge 97,068 31.29%
City of Bradford 166,846 30.53%
Birmingham 341,811 29.85%
Slough 46,661 29.44%
Pendle 24,900 26.00%
Metropolitan Borough of Oldham 59,031 24.38%
Leicester 86,443 23.45%
Manchester 122,962 22.28%
London Borough of Waltham Forest 60,157 21.61%
London Borough of Brent 72,574 21.36%
City of Westminster 40,873 20.01%
Bolton 58,997 19.93%
Rochdale 42,121 18.82%
London Borough of Ealing 68,907 18.77%
London Borough of Enfield 61,477 18.63%
Kirklees 80,046 18.48%
London Borough of Hounslow 48,028 16.67%
Preston 23,825 16.12%
London Borough of Camden 33,830 16.10%
London Borough of Harrow 41,503 15.89%
Hyndburn 12,049 14.65%

In the 2021 census for England and Wales, the main places of birth were the United Kingdom at 1,974,479 people (51.0% of the total Muslim population), South Asia at 993,415 (25.7%), Africa at 366,133 (9.5%), other parts of Europe at 262,685 (6.8%) and the Middle East at 231,261 (6.0%). Among individual countries outside of the UK, the countries of Pakistan; Bangladesh; Somalia; India; Iraq; Turkey; Afghanistan; Iran; Syria; and Italy made up the top ten most common countries of birth for Muslims residing in England and Wales.[83] 59.7% of Muslims identified as either Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Indian, 6.2% were of other Asian heritage, 10.8% identified as Black, 7.2% identified as Arab, 5.9% were White, 3.7% were of Mixed heritage, and the remaining 6.6% identified with other ethnic groups.[76]

The Muslim population of England and Wales has grown consistently since World War II. Sophie Gilliat-Ray attributes the recent growth to "recent immigration, the higher than average birth rate, some conversion to Islam".[84] According to a 2017 projection the Muslim population in the UK in the year 2050 is likely to number around 13 million.[85]

Several large cities have one area that is a majority Muslim even if the rest of the city has a fairly small Muslim population. In addition, it is possible to find small areas that are almost entirely Muslim: for example, Savile Town in Dewsbury.[86]

Initial limited mosque availability meant that prayers were conducted in small rooms of council flats until the 1980s when more and larger facilities became available. Some synagogues and community buildings were turned into mosques and existing mosques began to expand their buildings. This process has continued down to the present day with the East London Mosque recently expanding into a large former car park where the London Muslim Centre is now used for prayers, recreational facilities and housing.[87][88] Most people regard themselves as part of the ummah, and their identity is based on their religion rather than their ethnic group.[89]

The 2001 census recorded that there were 179,733 Muslims who described themselves as 'white'.[citation needed] 65% of white Muslims described themselves as "other white", and would likely have originated from locations such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Adygea, Chechnya, Albania, Turkey, Bulgaria, the region of East Macedonia and Thrace in Northern Greece, and North Macedonia.[original research?] The remainder of white Muslims are converts and mostly identified themselves as White British and White Irish.[citation needed]

Islam is the third-largest religious group of British Indian people, after Hinduism and Sikhism.[90] 8% of UK Muslims are of Indian descent,[citation needed] principally those whose origins are in Gujarat, West Bengal, Telangana and Kerala. Gujarati Muslims from the Surat and Bharuch districts started to arrive from the 1940s when India was under British colonial rule, settling in the towns of Dewsbury and Batley in Yorkshire and in parts of Lancashire.

South Asian

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Pakistanis

See also: British Pakistanis

The single largest group of Muslims in the United Kingdom are of Pakistani descent. Pakistanis were one of the first South Asian Muslim communities to permanently settle in the United Kingdom, arriving in England first in the late 1940s. Immigration from Mirpur in Pakistan grew from the late 1950s, accompanied by immigration from other parts of Pakistan especially from Punjab, particularly from the surrounding Punjab villages of Faisalabad, Sahiwal, Sialkot, Jhelum, Gujar Khan and Gujarat, in addition to from the north-west Punjab including the chhachhi Pathans and Pashtuns from Attock District, and some from villages of Ghazi, Nowshera and Peshawar. There is also a fairly large Punjabi community from East Africa found in London. People of Pakistani extraction are particularly notable in West Midlands, West Yorkshire, London, Lancashire/Greater Manchester and several industrial towns such as Luton, Slough and High Wycombe in the Home Counties. There are smaller numbers of Sindhis in Greater London. Pakistanis were traditionally working class but are slowly progressing into a Metropolitan middle class; they continue to face social integration issues.

Bangladeshis

See also: British Bangladeshis

The East London Mosque was one of the first in Britain to be allowed to use loudspeakers to broadcast the adhan.[91]

People of Bangladeshi descent are the second largest Muslim community (after Pakistanis), 15% of Muslims in England and Wales are of Bangladeshi descent, one of the ethnic groups in the UK with the largest proportion of people following a single religion, being 92% Muslim.[92] The majority of these Muslims come from the Sylhet Division of Bangladesh. Many mosques opened by the British Bangladeshi community are often named after Shah Jalal and other Sufi saints who took part in the Islamic conquest of Sylhet in 1303. British Bangladeshi Muslims are mainly concentrated in London (Tower Hamlets and Newham), Luton, Birmingham and Oldham. The Bangladeshi Muslim community in London forms 24% of the Muslim population, larger than any other ethnic group.[93] Other smaller Bangladeshi Muslim communities are present in Newcastle upon Tyne, Bradford, Manchester, Sunderland, Portsmouth, and Rochdale.

There are groups which are active throughout Bangladeshi communities such as The Young Muslim Organisation. It is connected to the Islamic Forum Europe, associated with the East London Mosque and the London Muslim Centre – all of which have connections with the Bangladeshi political party, the Jamaat-e-Islami.[citation needed] Other large groups include another Sunni movement, the Fultoli (founded in Sylhet),[94] and the Tablighi Jamaat – which is a missionary and revival movement,[95] and avoids political attention. The Hizb ut-Tahrir calls for the Khilafah (caliphate) and influences by publishing annual magazines, and lectures through mainly political concepts,[96] and the other which is a movement within Sunni Islam is the Salafi – who view the teachings of the first generations after Muhammed as the correct teachings,[97] and appeals to younger Muslims as a way to differentiate themselves towards their elders.[87][98] All these groups work to stimulate Islamic identity among local Bengalis or Muslims and particularly focus on the younger members of the communities.[88][99][100] The British Bangladeshi community has held a strong point in Islam, often opening large mosques such as East London Mosque and Brick Lane Masjid, as well as opening madrassas and Islamic TV channels.

Indians

There are large numbers of Gujarati Muslims in Dewsbury, Blackburn (including Darwen), Bolton, Preston, Nottingham, Leicester, Nuneaton, Gloucester and London (Newham, Waltham Forest and Hackney).[citation needed]

Middle Eastern

Kurds

See also: British Kurds

The UK has a significant Iraqi Kurdish population. Iraqi Kurds are mostly Sunni Muslims.[101][102]

According to the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Iraqi Kurds make up the largest group of Kurds in the country, exceeding the numbers from Turkey and Iran.[103]

Arabs

London Central Mosque interior

See also: British Arabs

People of Arab origin in Britain are the descendants of Arab immigrants to Britain from a variety of Arab states, including Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Palestine. Most British Arabs are Sunni Muslim, although some – such as those of Iraqi and Lebanese origin – are Shi'ite. The main Arab Muslim communities in the UK live in the Greater London area, with smaller numbers living in Manchester, Liverpool, and Birmingham. There are also sizable and very long-established communities of Muslim Yemenis in the United Kingdom in among other places Cardiff and the South Shields area near Newcastle.

The 2001 UK Census recorded 32,236 Iraqi-born residents,[104] and the Office for National Statistics estimates that, as of 2009, this figure had risen to around 65,000.[105] According to estimates by the Iraqi embassy, the Iraqi population in the UK is around 350,000–450,000.[106]

Turks

See also: British Turks

A Turkish girl in London.

Turks in the United Kingdom represent a unique community in the country because they have emigrated not only from the Republic of Turkey but also from other former Ottoman regions; in fact, the majority of British Turks are Turkish Cypriots who migrated from the island of Cyprus from the British colonial period onwards. The second largest Turkish community descend from Turkey. There has also been ethnic Turkish migration waves from Arabic-speaking countries (such as Iraq[107] and Syria) as well as the Balkans (including Bulgaria,[108] Greece,[109] and Romania).[108] A report published by the Home Affairs Committee in 2011 claimed that there was 500,000 British Turks,[108] made up of approximately 150,000 Turkish nationals, 300,000 Turkish Cypriots, and the remainder from other countries.[110] As of 2013, there was a growing number of ethnic Turks from the modern diaspora in Western Europe; for example, Turks with German and Dutch citizenship (i.e. Turkish Germans and Turkish Dutch) had also immigrated to Britain in accordance with the freedom of movement under EU law.[111]

Suleymaniye Mosque in Hoxton, London.

Turkish Cypriots first began to migrate to the United Kingdom in 1917.[112] At the time, the British Empire had already annexed Cyprus and the residents of Cyprus became subjects of the Crown. Migration continued through the 1920s;[113] during the Second World War, the number of Turkish-run cafes increased from 20 in 1939 to 200 in 1945 – creating a demand for more Turkish Cypriot workers.[114] However, due to the Cyprus conflict, many Turkish Cypriots began to leave the island for political reasons in the 1950s,[115] with the numbers increasing significantly after the intercommunal violence of late 1963. With the subsequent division of the island in 1974 (followed by the declaration of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus in 1983) an economic embargo against the Turkish Cypriots by the Greek Cypriot controlled Republic of Cyprus, caused a further 130,000 Turkish Cypriots to leave the Island for the United Kingdom.[116][117]

Migrant workers from the Republic of Turkey began to arrive in large numbers in the 1970s, followed by their family members in the late 1970s and 1980s.[118] Many of these workers were recruited by Turkish Cypriots who had already established businesses such as restaurants.[119] These workers were required to renew their work permits every year until they became residents after living in the country for five years.[118] By the 1980s, intellectuals, including students, and highly educated professionals arrived in the country, most of which received support from the Turkish Cypriot community.[120] Mainland Turks settled in similar areas of London in which the Turkish Cypriots lived in; however, many have also moved to the outer districts, such as Essex.[118]

Aziziye Mosque in Stoke Newington, London.

The Turkish community have established several mosques in the country. The first was Shacklewell Lane Mosque, established by the Turkish Cypriot community in 1977.[121] There are numerous other Turkish mosques in London, mainly in Hackney, including the Aziziye Mosque[122] and Suleymaniye Mosque.[123] Notable Turkish mosques outside London include Selimiye Mosque in Manchester, Hamidiye Mosque in Leicester, and Osmaniye Mosque in Stoke-on-Trent.[124]

Turks from the same districts from their homeland tend to congregate in the same quarters in the UK.[125] The majority live in capital city of London, particularly in Hackney, Haringey, Enfield, Lewisham, Lambeth, Southwark, Croydon, Islington, Kensington, Waltham Forest, and Wood Green.[126][127] Outside London there are smaller Turkish communities in Birmingham, Hertfordshire, Luton, Manchester, Sheffield and the East Midlands.

African

Maghrebis

Main article: Maghreb

Although data is short, findings indicate Maghrebis make up a substantial community in Europe and the United Kingdom. Britain has long ties with Maghrebis, through contact with the Maghrebis. Nevertheless, Britain has a far lower count of Maghrebis in comparison to France, the Netherlands and Spain, where the majority of Muslims are Maghrebi.[128]

Nigerians

See also: British Nigerians

A 2009 government paper estimated the Nigerian Muslim community at 12,000 to 14,000 people.[129] The community is concentrated in London.

Nigerian Muslims in the UK are represented by several community organizations including the Nigeria Muslim Forum.[130]

Somalis

See also: British Somalis

Somali women at a Somali community gathering event in London

The United Kingdom, with 43,532 Somalia-born residents in 2001,[131] and an estimated 101,000 in 2008,[132] is home to the largest Somali community in Europe. A 2009 estimate by Somali community organisations puts the Somali population figure at 90,000 residents.[133] The first Somali immigrants were seamen and traders who arrived in small numbers in port cities in the late 19th century, although most Somalis in the UK are recent arrivals. Further more Somali European such as from Holland or Denmark have been emigrating in recent years.[133] Established Somali communities are found in Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool and London, and newer ones have formed in Leicester, Manchester and Sheffield.[134][135][136][137]

White European

The history of native British Muslims has a long presence in the country. The earliest known Englishman to convert to Islam was John Nelson of the 16th century. Thomas Keith was a Scottish soldier who converted to Islam and became the governor of Medina.[138] The pirate Jack Ward, one of the inspirations for Captain Jack Sparrow, converted to Islam in the early 1600s. Another famous convert was the Victorian explorer Richard Francis Burton who successfully completed a Hajj to Mecca in 1853, although later in life he declared himself an atheist. Abdullah Quilliam was a 19th-century Englishman who converted to Islam and built what is argued to be the first mosque in the country in Liverpool. He was known locally for his work advocating trade unionism and divorce law reform and persuaded more people in Liverpool to convert but they faced abuse from the wider society.[139]

Ethnic composition of British Muslims over time
Ethnic group 1987 estimates[140] 2021 census[141]
Number % out of total Muslims Number % out of total Muslims
Asian 609,440 84.9% 2,550,022 65.9%
Indian 121,760 17% 246,968 6.4%
Bangladeshi 111,360 15.5% 593,136 15.3%
Pakistani 376,320 52.5% 1,470,775 38%
Chinese 1,890
Other Asian 237,253 6.1%
Other 533,505 13.8%
Arab 79,000 11% 277,737 7.2%
Other 255,768
Black 416,327 10.8%
African 29,000 4% 378,219 9.8%
Caribbean 7,167
Other 30,941
White 226,233 5.8%
White British 90,939 2.4%
White Other 135,294 3.5%
Mixed 142,045 3.7%
Total 717,440 100% 3,868,132 100%

Branches

See also: Islamic schools and branches

Demographics of British Muslims (JPR), 2017[142]
Non-denominational Sunni
51.1%
Other Sunni
14.1%
Shia
5.0%
Barelvi
4.5%
Salafi
3.8%
Deobandi
3.1%
Ahmadiyya
1.0%
Other form of Islam
19.0%

An August 2017 survey by the Bertelsmann Stiftung foundation found that among British Muslims, 75% were Sunni and 8% were Shia.[143] A September 2017 survey by the Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that among British Muslims, 77% were Sunni, 5% were Shia, 1% were Ahmadiyya, and 4% were members of other denominations. 14% of British Muslims said they did not know or refused to answer the survey.[144]

The denominational or theme breakdown of mosques and prayer rooms in the UK in 2017 with a sum total of more than 5% were as follows: 41.2% Deobandi, 23.7% Barelvi, 9.4% Salafi, and 5.9% Shia (Twelver, Bohra, Ismaili). 7.4% were non-denominational prayer rooms.[145]

Sunni

In 2015, The Economist stated that were 2.3 million Sunnis in the UK.[146]

Among British Sunnis in 2017, 66.7% were just non-denominational Sunni, 5.9% were Barelvi, 5.0% were Salafis, 4.1% were Deobandi, and 18.3% adhered to another Sunni Islam denomination.[147]

The majority of British mosques are Sunni, including Deobandi, Barelvis and Salafi. In 2010 the affiliation of the mosques was: 44.6% Deobandi, 28.2% Barelvi and other Sufi, 5.8% Salafi, 2.8% Maudoodi-inspired; of the remainder many were part of other Sunni traditions or unaffiliated, while 4.2% were Shi'a (4%). The majority of mosque managers are of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, with many Gujarati, and fewer Arab, Turkish and Somali managed entities.[148]

Shia

In 2015, The Economist stated that were 400,000 Shias in the UK.[146]

Shia mosques are usually Twelvers but also cater for Zaydis and the 50,000-strong Ismaili community;[149] they usually include facilities for women. Various Shia mosques include the Husseini Islamic Centre in Stanmore, Harrow which acts as one of the main Shia Muslim mosques in Britain as well as Masjid-e-Ali in Luton, one of the largest Imam Bargah/community centres in the UK, and the Islamic Centre of England in Maida Vale, also a large multi-ethnic community centre. Others include Al Masjid ul Husseini in Northolt, Ealing, and Imam Khoei Islamic Centre in Queens Park, Brent. Across the country Manchester, Birmingham and London have the most Shia residents.

Ahmadiyyat

Main article: Ahmadiyya in the United Kingdom

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community (AMC) established itself in the UK in 1912 and is thus the longest-standing Muslim community in the UK. The UK and worldwide headquarters of the AMC are currently situated on the grounds of 'The Blessed Mosque' (Masjid Mubarak), inaugurated on 17 May 2019 by Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the fifth caliph of the Ahmadiyya movement,[150] in Tilford, Surrey. The AMC also has the largest Muslim youth organisation, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association (Majlis Khuddamul Ahmadiyya) in the UK (membership of 7,500) and the largest Muslim women's organisation, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Women's Association (Lajna Ima'illah), in the UK (membership of 10,000).[151]

Sectarian relations

There has also been discrimination by orthodox Sunni Muslims against Ahmadi Muslims. In 2014, on the 125 anniversary of the establishment of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, the Community published an advertisement in the Luton on Sunday. Following a written complaint from Dr Fiaz Hussain, co-ordinator of the Preservation of Finality of Prophethood Forum (PFPF), stating that the Ahmadiyya community should not be called "Muslim" because it rejected some of the basic principles of Islam,[152] the paper received a delegation of 'Community Leaders' and shortly afterwards printed an apology disassociating itself from the Ahmadiyya advertisement.[153] Tell MAMA responded by identifying attempts to intimidate or discriminate against Ahmadiyya Muslims "as anti-Muslim in nature".[154]

Society

Economics

In a 2010 aggregate study published by the Government Equalities Office, Muslims in the United Kingdom had the lowest median hourly salary and held the least wealth amongst religious groups. They also held the lowest employment rates amongst religious groups, at 24% for Muslim women and 47% for Muslim men. The study noted that Muslim women who worked earned more than Muslim men and that Muslim men were more likely to be in self employment compared to the general population of men. Muslim men also had the smallest proportion with degrees, at 18%. More than two-fifths of Muslim men and women have no qualification beyond level 1 (equivalent to grades D-G at GCSE).[155] According to analysis based on the 2011 census, Muslims in the United Kingdom faced poor standards of housing and were more vulnerable to long-term illness.[156]

According to a 2013 assessment from the Muslim Council of Britain, it was estimated that there were more than 10,000 Muslim millionaires and 13,400 Muslim-owned businesses in London, creating more than 70,000 jobs and representing just over 33 per cent of Small to Medium Enterprises in London.[157]

Amongst the economically active population in England and Wales, 19.8% of the Muslim population were in full-time employment compared to 34.9% of the overall population.[158] Data from the ONS for England and Wales in 2020 indicated that across religious groups, Muslims continue to hold the lowest earnings, lowest rates of employment, highest rates of economic inactivity, least likely to work in high-skilled occupations, least likely to hold managerial positions, and most likely to report holding no qualifications. However, there had been progress in these metrics.[159] The 2021 United Kingdom census for England and Wales found that the Muslim population had consistently lower rates of employment across every age group compared to the general population. Between the ages of 25–54, the employment rate for Muslims was typically 60% compared to around 80% across the whole population. Overall, 48.6% of working aged British Muslims were in employment, with the employment rate of Muslim women improving to 37%. Muslim women were 3.5 times more likely to report economic inactivity due to looking after family or home compared to the general population of women.[160]

Education

In 2018, 34 per cent of British Muslims had degree level qualifications, compared to 30 per cent of Christians and 35 per cent of those with no religion. 13 per cent of Muslims had no qualifications, higher than every other religious group.[161]

In 2006, it was found that approximately 53% of British Muslim youth chose to attend university.[162] This was higher than the figure for Christians (45%) and the non-religious (32%) but lower than for Hindus (77%) and Sikhs (63%).[162]

There are around 184 Muslim faith schools in the UK, 28 of them being state-funded.[163] In 2008, 86.5% of pupils attending Muslim schools achieved five GCSEs, compared to a figure of 72.8% of Roman Catholic schools and 64.5% of secular schools.[164]

In 2019, four Islamic schools were in the top ten ranking for secondary schools in England, including Tauheedul Islam Girls High School in first place.[165]

In 2018, the Crown Prosecution Service brought its first prosecution in England & Wales against an unregistered school, the Islamic faith school Al-Istiqamah Learning Centre in Southall, London where nearly 60 children aged 5–11 were being taught.[166][167][168] Head teacher Beatrix Bernhardt and director Nacerdine Talbi were convicted as running a school not registered with the Department for Education violates the Education and Skills Act 2008. They received fines and a curfew.[169]

Politics

Pola Uddin, Baroness Uddin was the first Muslim female to sit in the Parliament of the United Kingdom.

Muslims are playing an increasingly prominent role in political life.[170] Nineteen Muslim MPs were elected in the December 2019 general election,[171] and there are nineteen Muslim peers in the House of Lords.[citation needed]

The majority of British Muslims vote for the Labour Party,[172] however there are some high-profile Conservative Muslims, including former Minister for Faith and Communities and former Co-chairman and the Conservative Party Sayeeda Warsi,[173] described by The Guardian as a 'rising star' in the Tory party.[174] The Guardian stated that "The treasury minister is highly regarded on the right and would be the Tories' first Muslim leader." Salma Yaqoob is the former leader of the left-wing Respect Party.[175] Sayeeda Warsi, who was the first Muslim to serve in a British cabinet, was appointed by David Cameron in 2010 as a minister without portfolio. She was made a senior minister of state in 2012. In August 2014 she resigned over the government's approach to the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict.[176]

Muslim political parties in Britain have included the People's Justice Party (UK), a Pakistani and Kashmiri party that won city council seats in Manchester in the 2000s,[177] and the unsuccessful Islamic Party of Britain, an Islamist party in Bradford in the 1990s.[178] In 2023, the Electoral Commission rejected an application to set up a new political party named 'Party of Islam'.[179]

In the 2017 general election, 15 Muslim MPs (12 Labour and 3 Conservative) were elected, up from 13 Muslim MPs in 2015 general election.[180] In the 2019 general election, a record number of 19 Muslim MPs were elected (15 Labour and 4 Conservative).[181][182]

Survey data analysed by UK in a Changing Europe showed that Labour (72 per cent) led Conservatives (11 per cent) by 61 points amongst Muslim voters in 2019. Further analysis showed that many minorities were "necessity liberals" who voted for Labour not because they were social liberals, but because Labour represented a broader political package and distrusted the Conservatives on identity matters. British Pakistani and British Bangladeshi voters in particular, by a margin of 20–30 points, believed that LGBT rights had gone too far.[183]

Muslim MPs by election 1997–2019
Election Labour Conservative Scottish National Party Other Total % of Parliament
1997[184] 1 0 0 0 1 0.15
2001[185] 2 0 0 0 2 0.31
2005[186] 4 0 0 0 4 0.62
2010[187] 6 2 0 0 8 1.23
2015[188] 9 3 1 0 13 2.00
2017[180] 12 3 0 0 15 2.31
2019[189] 14 5 0 0 19 2.92

Law

Main article: Sharia

Public demonstration in the United Kingdom for sharia, October 2009

Although sharia is not part of the British legal system, several British establishment figures have supported its use in areas of dispute resolution in Islamic communities. For example, in February 2008 Rowan Williams the Archbishop of Canterbury (the head of the Church of England) lectured at the Royal Courts of Justice on Islam and English law. In this lecture he spoke of the possibility of using sharia in some circumstances:

[...] it might be possible to think in terms of [...] a scheme in which individuals retain the liberty to choose the jurisdiction under which they will seek to resolve certain carefully specified matters, so that 'power-holders are forced to compete for the loyalty of their shared constituents'.

— Rowan Williams, 2008[190]

Several months later, Lord Phillips, then Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales supported the idea that sharia could be reasonably employed as a basis for "mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution", and explained that "It is not very radical to advocate embracing sharia law in the context of family disputes, for example, and our system already goes a long way towards accommodating the archbishop's suggestion."[191]

In March 2014, The Law Society issued guidance on how to draft sharia-compliant wills for the network of sharia courts which been established to deal with disputes between Muslim families.[192] The guidance was withdrawn later in 2014 following criticism by solicitors and by Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary.[193]

In 2016–2018 an independent panel commissioned by the UK government investigated the practices of sharia councils operating in England and Wales. The councils have no legal status and no legal jurisdiction in the UK. Estimates for their number range between 30 and 85. The investigation found that most people consulting the councils are women seeking an Islamic divorce. The review concluded that "there is unanimous agreement among the sharia councils themselves that discriminatory practices do occur in some instances within the councils in England and Wales" and made legislative and administrative recommendations to remedy the abuses. The panel was not aware of any sharia councils operating in Scotland.[194]

According to Kaveri Qureshi, while women educate themselves and follow Islamic norms and values referring to colonial era Islamic advice literature about marriage not for continuation but to end their marriages and for justification of remarriages contrary to original intention of authors of the literature.[195]

Media and culture

See also: List of Islamic television and radio stations in the United Kingdom

There are several Islamic television channels operating in the UK, including British Muslim TV, Muslim Television Ahmadiyya International (MTA International),[196][197] Ummah Channel,[198] Ahlebait TV, and Fadak.

British Muslims are represented in various media positions across different organisations. Notable examples include Mehdi Hasan, the political editor of the UK version of The Huffington Post[199] and the presenter of Al Jazeera English shows The Café and Head to Head,[200] Mishal Husain, a British news presenter for the BBC, currently appearing on BBC World News and BBC Weekend News, Rageh Omaar, special correspondent with ITV and formerly Senior Foreign Correspondent with the BBC and a reporter/presenter for Al Jazeera English,[201] and Faisal Islam, economics editor and correspondent for Channel 4 News.[202]

In 2013, there were 40 Muslim players in the English Premier League, up from one in 1992. Man of the Match awardees were awarded bottles of champagne, which is forbidden in Islam, and after Muslim player Yaya Toure refused the award, champagne was phased out for small trophies instead. Children playing football have been seen falling to their knees as if in prayer after scoring a goal, a common practice of Muslim footballers.[203]

Associations

Practice

Proselytization

See also: Conversion to Islam in prisons

It is estimated that 5,200 Britons convert to Islam annually, with a total of about 100,000 converts in 2013. For men, prisons have proven a fertile ground for conversions. About 18% of the British prison population, or over 14,000 prisoners, are Muslims, disproportionately higher than the general population.[206] The proportion of Muslims in the UK prison population rose from 8% in 2002 to 15% in 2016.[207] According to the UK prison officers' union in 2013, some Muslim prisoners in the UK had allegedly forcibly converted fellow inmates to Islam in prisons.[208] There have been multiple cases of non-Muslim prisoners threatened with violence[209] with "convert or get hurt" being a commonly used phrase by Muslim gangs according to an independent report published by the government.[210] A 2010 report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons stated that 30% of the Muslim prisoners interviewed had converted to Islam while in prison, some of whom were "convenience Muslims" who adopted the religion in order to get benefits available only to Muslims.[211] Mosques in the country are sometimes seen as ethnic clubs which are not welcoming of new converts but there have also been recent convert led mosques.[212] A study in 2023 found that amongst some schools, there were tensions between Hindu and Muslims pupils. Hindu students were labelled as "kaffirs" and threatened to either convert or face "hell for disbelievers".[213]

Extremist ideology

See also: Terrorism in the United Kingdom § Islamist, and United Kingdom and the Islamic State

According to Gilles de Kerchove in 2017, the UK had the highest number of Islamist radicals in the EU numbering between 20-25,000. Of those, 3000 were considered a direct threat by MI5 and 500 were under constant surveillance.[214] Among those known to security services but not considered an immediate threat were the terrorists of three ISIS-linked attacks in 2017 which killed 35 victims in the UK.[214]

In June 2017, Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party, said that difficult conversations are needed, starting with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states that have funded and fuelled extremist ideology.[215][216] Tom Brake, Liberal Democrat, foreign affairs spokesman has said that Saudi Arabia provides funding to hundreds of mosques in the UK, espousing a very hardline Wahhabist interpretation of Islam.[217] In July 2017, a report by the Henry Jackson Society, a neo-conservative[218][219] think tank, claimed that Middle Eastern nations are providing financial support to mosques and Islamic educational institutions that have been linked to the spread of extremist material with "an illiberal, bigoted Wahhabi ideology".[220][221] The report said that the number of Salafi and Wahhabi mosques in Britain had increased from 68 in 2007 to 110 in 2014.[222]

Between 2011 and 2014 during the Syrian civil war, more British Muslims left the UK to join and fight for ISIS and Al-Nusra Front than joined the British armed forces.[223] In the 3-year period, Khalid Mahmood MP estimated at least 1,500 British Muslims travelled to the region to become jihadists meanwhile 220 Muslims joined either the British army, navy or air forces in the same time.[224][225] Poor levels of integration, idolatry towards the Islamic state and threats from within the community have been provided as reasons for this discrepancy.[226][227]

The French political scientist Olivier Roy argues that the majority of Islamic terrorists are radicals first and are drawn to fundamentalist Islam as a result,[228] whereas fellow political scientist Gilles Kepel argues that terrorists are radicalized by Salafi ideology before choosing violence.[229] Roy has also argued that the burkini bans and secularist policies of France provoked religious violence in France, to which Kepel responded that Britain has no such policies and still suffered several jihadist attacks in 2017 while there were no major attacks in France.[229]

Hardline groups, including Hizb-ut-Tahrir, use accusations of Islamophobia to silence legitimate debate about extremism. While they in general are opposed to Western-style human rights, they use human rights to promote an Islamist ideology.[230] The Independent Reviewer for the government's anti-terror programme, Sir William Shawcross, has stated that there was a reluctance to investigate Islamist threats due to fears of being labelled Islamophobic or racist.[231]

In 2020, a report by a crime and justice consultancy firm found that British Muslims shared the same level of concern as the general population about Islamist extremism, with 63% being fairly or very worried. British Muslims were also more likely (66% compared to 63% of the general population) to refer someone they knew to the Prevent programme if they suspected them of being radicalised. 80% of British Muslims supported the Prevent programme once an explanation was provided as to what it was.[232]

A report published in 2020 found that of the 43,000 extremists on MI5's watchlist, around nine-tenths on the list are Islamist extremists.[233] Islamic terrorism represented 67% of attacks since 2018, 75% of MI5's caseload, and 64% of those in custody for terrorism-connected offences according to the 2023 CONTEST report.[234]

In March 2024, Communities Secretary Michael Gove announced that five organisations would be assessed against the government's new definition of extremism. Three of these organisations, named as Cage, Muslim Association of Britain, and Muslim Engagement and Development, were of concern due to their Islamist orientation and views.[235] The latter two groups threatened to sue after the announcement.[236]

Relations with wider society

Attitudes of British Muslims

According to the 2006 Pew Global Attitudes Survey, around 81% of Muslims think of themselves as Muslim first. This is consistent with Muslims living in Muslim-majority countries, who also tend to think of themselves as Muslim first rather than identifying with nation states (for example 87% of Pakistanis identify themselves as Muslim first rather than Pakistani).[237] However, around 83% of Muslims are proud to be a British citizen, compared to 79% of the general public, 77% of Muslims strongly identify with Britain while only 50% of the wider population do, 86.4% of Muslims feel they belong in Britain, slightly more than the 85.9% of Christians, 82% of Muslims want to live in diverse and mixed neighbourhoods compared to 63% of non-Muslim Britons.[238] In polls taken across Europe in 2006, British Muslims hold the most negative view of westerners out of all Muslims in Europe, whilst overall in Britain 63% of British hold the most favourable view of Muslims out of all the European countries (down from 67% the year before).[239]

In the wake of the cartoon depiction of Muhammad in Danish newspapers and the 7/7 attacks, a 2006 ICM Research poll found that 97% of British Muslims believed it was wrong to show Muhammad with 86% of respondents feeling personally offended by the depiction.[240] 96% believed it was wrong for Muslims to have bombed London during 7/7, although 20% had sympathy with the feelings and motives of the attackers. 40% of those surveyed also supported the introduction of Sharia law in Muslim-majority areas of Britain.[241] Another poll by GfK revealed that 28% of British Muslims hoped that Britain would one day become an Islamic state, while 52% disagreed, and 20% did not venture an opinion either way.[242]

On religious issues, a 2007 poll by Populus reported that 36% of 16 to 24 year olds believed if a Muslim converted to another religion they should be punished by death, compared to 19% of British Muslims aged over 55. The polling also reported that 59% of Muslims would prefer to live under British law, compared to 28% who would prefer to live under Sharia law. 61% of respondents agreed with the statement that homosexuality is wrong and should be illegal.[243][244][245] This appeared to be borne out by a Gallup poll in 2009 of 500 British Muslims, none of whom believed that homosexuality was morally acceptable.[246] Such polls suggest that British Muslims have strongly conservative views on issues relating to extra-marital and/or homosexual sexual acts compared with their European Muslim counterparts – who are markedly more liberal.[246]

A survey by Gallup in 2009 found that the Muslim community claimed to feel more patriotic about Britain than the general British population as a whole,[247][248] while another survey found that Muslims assert that they support the role of Christianity in British life more so than British Christians themselves.[249]

However, a poll conducted by Demos in 2011 reported that a greater proportion of Muslims (47% – slightly higher than the 46.5% of Christians who agreed with the statement) than other religions agreed with the statement "I am proud of how Britain treats gay people", with less than 11% disagreeing.[250][251][252] On 18 May 2013, just as the bill to legalise same-sex marriages was being prepared to pass into law, over 400 leading Muslims including head teachers and senior representatives of mosques across the country, published an open letter opposing the bill on the grounds that "Muslim parents will be robbed of their right to raise their children according to their beliefs, as homosexual relationships are taught as something normal to their primary-aged children".[253] A face-to-face survey conducted in 2015 by ICM Research for Channel 4 found that 18 per cent of British Muslims agreed with the statement that homosexuality should be legal in Britain, while 52 per cent disagreed, and 22 per cent neither agreed or disagreed.[254][255]

In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shooting in 2015, a ComRes poll for BBC Radio 4 found that 27% of British Muslims had some sympathy with the motives of the attackers, 45% believed that Muslim clerics who advocate for violence against the west are aligned with mainstream Muslim opinion and 78% of British Muslims were deeply personally offended by the publication of the images of Muhammad. The poll also found that 95% of British Muslims felt loyalty to Britain, 93% believed that Muslims should obey British laws and 46% felt that being Muslim in Britain was difficult due to prejudice.[256][257] In November of the same year, a Survation poll found that 19% of British Muslims had "sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria" which was a fall from the 28% figure the same polling company recorded in March.[258]

A 2016 report by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange in conjunction with ICM Research found that 93 per cent of British Muslims hold fairly or very strong attachment to Britain, 53 per cent wanted to "fully integrate with non-Muslims in all aspects of life" and British Muslims were found to be more likely to condemn terrorism than the general population.[259] The report, which was co-authored by Khalid Mahmood MP, also found that British Muslims had "separatist" tendencies and were inclined to believe in conspiracy theories to do with 9/11 and plots to "do down Muslims". When asked what they would do if someone they knew was involved with supporters of terrorism in Syria, only 52% said they would report them to the police.[260][261]

In 2018, Ipsos MORI published a review which analysed previous surveys of British Muslims. The report found that British Muslims placed greater importance on their British and religious identity than the general population. 63% believed that different religious and ethnic groups should mix together more in their local area and Muslim children had higher levels of university aspiration than the general population. British Muslims tended to have more conservative social attitudes, with about half of Muslim men and one third of Muslim women believing that "wives should always obey their husbands" and 38% of Muslim men and 23% of Muslim women believing that it was acceptable to have more than one wife.[262][263]

Protest against Israel's bombing of the Gaza Strip in London on 11 November 2023

A survey carried out by J.L. Partners in 2024 reported that 40 per cent of British Muslims found it desirable for women to take a more traditional role in society, 39 per cent supported the formation of a Muslim political party and 32 per cent supported Islam to be declared the national religion with the same proportion desiring Sharia law to be implemented in the UK.[264] 52 per cent wanted to make it illegal to show a picture of Muhammad, 46 per cent believed Jews have too much power over UK government policy and 41 per cent believed they have too much power over the UK media industry. The survey was conducted between February and March during the Israel–Hamas war; when asked which of the two entities they had sympathy with, 46 per cent of British Muslims sympathised more with Hamas compared to 3 per cent sympathising more with Israel. 36 per cent had a positive view of Hamas, 21 per cent had a positive view of jihad and 24 per cent believed that Hamas committed murder and rape in Israel on October 7th. Younger and more educated Muslims were more likely to hold these beliefs.[265][264] Among 18 to 24 year olds, 65 per cent agreed with the statement that "Israel does not have a right to exist as a Jewish homeland" compared to 34 per cent of 45 to 54 year old British Muslims.[266]

Attitudes towards British Muslims

The British media has been criticised for propagating negative stereotypes of Muslims and fueling Islamophobic prejudice.[267] In 2006, several British cabinet ministers were criticised for helping to "unleash a public anti-Muslim backlash" by blaming the Muslim community over issues of integration despite a study commissioned by the Home Office on white and Asian-Muslim youths demonstrating otherwise: that Asian-Muslim youths "are in fact the most tolerant of all" and that white youths "have far more intolerant attitudes," concluding that the attitudes held by members of the white community was a greater "barrier to integration."[268][269]

In January 2010, the British Social Attitudes Survey found that the general public "is far more likely to hold negative views of Muslims than of any other religious group," with "just one in four" feeling "positively about Islam," and a "majority of the country would be concerned if a mosque was built in their area, while only 15 per cent expressed similar qualms about the opening of a church."[270] The "scapegoating" of British Muslims by the media and politicians in the 21st century has been compared in the media to the rise of antisemitism in the early 20th century.[271]

A 2013 survey by YouGov indicated that immigrants from Muslim countries were perceived as integrating less well into British society than immigrants from other countries, with 71% of respondents believing migrants from Muslim countries were not integrating well.[272] Another YouGov poll conducted in 2015 found that 55% of the British public believed there was a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society. Only 22% believed British values and Islam were generally compatible.[273]

In 2015, in light of a growing number of radicalised British Muslims joining ISIS to fight in Syria, a Survation poll for Sky News found that 70% of non-Muslims in the UK believed that British Muslims were not doing enough to integrate into British society, 44% became more suspicious of Muslims and only 30% believed that the values of British society were compatible with Islam. When British Muslims were asked the same questions, over four in five believed that Islamic values were compatible with British society and 71% believed that British Muslims were doing enough to integrate into British society.[274]

In polling conducted by ComRes in 2016, only 28% of those surveyed believed that Islam was compatible with British values. 72% agreed with the statement that "most people in the UK have a negative view of Islam" and 43% believed that Islam was a negative force in the UK. Younger people were more likely to say they have a better understanding of Islam and hold less negative views.[275][276]

A survey conducted in 2017 by Chatham House revealed widespread opposition to Muslim immigration across the UK. 47% were opposed to further Muslim immigration meanwhile 23% disagreed with stopping further migration from mainly Muslim countries. This opposition figure was lower than in other European countries, Austria: 65%; Belgium: 64%; France: 61%; Germany: 53%; Italy: 51%, and lower than the European average of 55%.[277]

In 2019, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 78% of Britons had a favourable view of Muslims, while 18% had an unfavourable view of Muslims. This was the most favourable in Europe.[278]

A 2021 study published by the University of Birmingham found that Muslims are the British public's second ‘least liked’ group, after Gypsy and Irish Travellers with 25.9% of the British public holding negative views towards Muslims and 23.5% holding a positive view.[279] People from middle and upper-class backgrounds were more likely to hold prejudiced views about Islam compared to those from working-class backgrounds. 71% of respondents named Islam as having a more negative impact on society compared to other religions with 18.1% of those surveyed supported banning all Muslim migration to the UK.[280]

Islamophobia

Main article: Islamophobia in the United Kingdom

See also: English Defence League and Muslim patrol incidents in London

A survey conducted in 2024 by Opinium for Hope not Hate found that 30 per cent of the British public believed that Islam was a threat to the British way of life and the existence of 'no-go' zones for non-Muslims in European cities. Members of the Conservative party were more likely to hold these views, with 58% believing Islam was a threat and 52% believing in the existence of 'no-go' zones.[281]

There have been cases of threats,[282] one fatal attack,[283] and non-fatal attacks on Muslims and on Muslim targets, including attacks on Muslim graves[284] and mosques.[285] In January 2010, a report from the University of Exeter's European Muslim Research Centre noted that the number of anti-Muslim hate crimes has increased, ranging from "death threats and murder to persistent low-level assaults, such as spitting and name-calling," for which the media and politicians have been blamed with fueling anti-Muslim hatred.[286][287][288] However, Met Police figures showed an 8.5 per cent fall in anti-Muslim crimes between 2009 and 2012, with a spike in 2013 due to the murder of Lee Rigby.[289] In the four months following the 2023 Israel-Gaza conflict, Tell MAMA reported a more than three-fold increase in Islamophobic incidents to 2,010, with Muslim women targeted in two-thirds of incidents.[290]

The emergence of the English Defence League resulted in demonstrations in English cities with large Muslim populations.[291][292][293][294][295] The EDL was a right wing, anti Islam[292][293][291][296][297] street protest movement which opposed what it considers to be a spread of Islamism, Sharia law and Islamic extremism in the United Kingdom.[298][299][300][301] The EDL has been described by The Jewish Chronicle as Islamophobic.[302] The group has faced confrontations with various groups, including supporters of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) and Anonymous.[303][full citation needed][304][305]

Relations between Muslims and Sikhs

See also: Sikhism in the United Kingdom § Alleged grooming of Sikh girls by Muslim men

In 2018, a report by a Sikh activist organisation, Sikh Youth UK, entitled "The Religiously Aggravated Sexual Exploitation of Young Sikh Women Across the UK" made allegations of similarities between the case of Sikh women and the Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal.[306] However, in 2019 this report was criticised by researchers and an official UK government report led by two Sikh academics for false and misleading information.[307][308] It noted: "The RASE report lacks solid data, methodological transparency and rigour. It is filled instead with sweeping generalisations and poorly substantiated claims around the nature and scale of abuse of Sikh girls and causal factors driving it. It appealed heavily to historical tensions between Sikhs and Muslims and narratives of honour in a way that seemed designed to whip up fear and hate".[308] Another investigation by another Sikh scholar, Katy Sian of the University of York, also found no truth to the allegations and instead found it was an allegation being pushed by extremist Sikh groups.[309][310]

Antisemitism

See also: Antisemitism in Islam and Antisemitism in the United Kingdom

According to British Muslim journalist Mehdi Hasan, "anti-Semitism isn't just tolerated in some sections of the British Muslim community; it's routine and commonplace".[311] A 2016 survey of 5,446 adult Britons, part of a report titled Anti-Semitism in contemporary Great Britain conducted by the London-based Institute for Jewish Policy Research found that the prevalence of antisemitic views among Muslims was two to four times higher than the rest of the population,[312] that 55% of British Muslims held at least one antisemitic view (compared to 30% of the general population), and that there was a correlation between Muslim religiosity and antisemitism.[313] A 2020 poll by Hope not Hate found that 45% of British Muslims held a generally favourable view of British Jews, and 18% held a negative view.[314] A 2024 poll by a polling and research firm J.L. Partners ordered by Henry Jackson Society found that "Muslims in the South East are the most likely to hold antisemitic views, while Scottish Muslims are the least antisemitic."[315]

In March 2024, the Civil Service Muslim Network (CSMN) was suspended by the Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden due to widespread use of antisemitic remarks and tropes. The network hosted webinars during working hours to coach civil servants on how to "lobby" and "petition" senior officials to change government policy on Israel, encouraged others to take up "resistance" against the government's stance, and taught members how to be "strategic and smart" in avoiding disciplinary action. This included using mental health facilities to "advocate" for Palestinian positions so that any advocacy would be done from a wellbeing perspective.[316] The CSMN has also been criticised for promoting homophobic websites as guidance for government officials.[317]

Notable Muslims

For a more comprehensive list, see List of British Muslims.

Media and entertainment

Politics

Sports

Religion

Philanthropy

Notable mosques

See also: List of mosques in the United Kingdom and Category:Mosques in the United Kingdom

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Scotland held its census a year later after the rest of the United Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, data shown is for 2022 as opposed to 2021.

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Sources

Further reading