Islam in the United Kingdom

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Image:Jamia Masjid, East Ham.jpg
Jamia Masjid, example of a typical small mosque in East Ham


[edit] History

Islam is generally thought of as being a recent arrival in the United Kingdom, but there has been contact for many centuries. The eighth-century King of Mercia, Offa, had coins minted with an Islamic inscription on them - these were copies of coins of the near-contemporary Muslim ruler Al-Mansur, and it is thought that they were minted to facilitate trade with the expanding Islamic empire in Spain. Muslim scholarship was well known among the learned in Britain by 1386, when Chaucer was writing. In the Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, there is among the pilgrims wending their way to Canterbury, a 'Doctour of Phisyk' whose learning included Razi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) and Averroes (Ibn Rushd). Ibn Sina's canon of medicine was a standard text for medical students well into the Seventeenth Century.

John Nelson converted to Islam in the 16th Century (although 16th century writer Richard Hakluyt claimed he was forced to convert). Captain John Ward of Kent,was one of a number of British sailors who became pirates based in the Maghreb who also converted to Islam. Later, some unitarians became interested in the faith, and Henry Stubbes wrote so favourably about Islam that it is thought he too had converted to the faith.

Mosques also appeared in British seaports at this time, the first being in Cardiff in 1860. From the 1950s, with large immigration to Britain from the former colonies of Britain, large Muslim populations developed in several British towns, and cities.

[edit] Demography and ethnic background

According to the 2001 census 1,536,015 Muslims are living in England and Wales[1], where they form 2.7% of the population, in Scotland they represent 0.84% of the population (42,557)[2]. The Northern Ireland census indicated 1,943 Muslims[3].

The local authorities with the highest percentage of Muslim population are:

The town of Dewsbury is also known as an area with a large number of Muslims, making up around 30% of the population. Three of the town's schools are specifically Islamic. However, it is part of the district of Kirklees, which is only 10.12% Muslim.

The local authorities with the highest percentages and absolute numbers of Muslims in Wales and Scotland are Cardiff (3.7%, 11261) and Glasgow (3.1%, 20,000) respectively. In rural parts of Scotland, Wales, South West, North East and North West England the Muslim percentage of the population is far below 1%.

The first Muslim community which permanently settled in the United Kingdom consisted of Yemeni sailors who arrived in ports such as Swansea, Liverpool and South Shields shortly after 1900. Later some of them migrated to inland cities like Birmingham and Sheffield where there are 23,819 Muslims.

Kashmiris from Mirpur (today a part of Pakistan Administered Kashmir, Pakistan) were the first South Asian Muslim community which settled in Britain permanently. The first of them arrived in Birmingham and Bradford in the late 1930s. Immigration from Mirpur grew from the late 1950s onwards. It was accompanied by immigration from other parts of Pakistan, mainly the north of the Punjab and the area around Attock in the North-West Frontier Province. People of Pakistani ethnic background are particularly strong in the West Midlands, West Yorkshire, Lancashire/ Greater Manchester and industrial towns in South East England like Luton, Slough and Oxford.

The first large group of Muslims in Britain arrived about 300 years ago. They were sailors recruited in India to work for the East India Company, and so it's not surprising that the first Muslim communities were found in port towns.

Ships' cooks came too, many of them from Sylhet in what is now Bangladesh. There are records of Sylhetis working in London restaurants as early as 1873.

There are also communities of Somali, especially in London, Bosnian and Albanian Muslims from Kosovo in Britain.

There are also a growing number of converts, many White British and Caribbean people become Muslims. Most of the Bangladeshis live in Tower Hamlets while most of the Algerians live in Haringey. Such clusters can be found throughout the Isles. Marriage between the Muslim nationalities is rare, despite much media stereotyping.

[edit] Religious currents and organisations

It is most likely that the majority follows the Barelwi school of thought,[citation needed] which amalgamates certain aspects of Sufism with a strict adherence to the Hanafi school of law. Due to the fact that a large proportion of Muslims in Britain came there from South Asia, the Muslim population also includes Muslims from Turkey, Africa, Middle East, Far East and more recently there has been a growth in the number of White English, Welsh or Scottish Muslims. Religious traditions of the Indian subcontinent are not to be confused with Islamic Culture.The most influential movement of Barelwi group is World Islamic Mission [ WIM] with its branches all over the world. The Deobandis are more puritan but they do still follow the Hanafi school. The Tablighi Jamaat which concentrates on missionary activities is an important subgroup of the Deobandis. Its centre is located in Dewsbury. The Ahl-i Hadith reject the authority of the schools of law and Sufism. They are nowadays closely associated with the Salafis of Saudi Arabia.[citation needed] Most of their members in Britain come from the Punjab.[citation needed]} Islamic Mission] is the counterpart of the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami which follows the ideology of Abu l-Ala Mawdudi. It is relatively strong among Muslim students.[citation needed]

South Asian Shias either come from the Punjab or Gujarat (the Khoja Ithna-aheris, who are usually found under the umbrella organisation "The World Federation"). There are also Shias from Lebanon and Iraq. The al-Khoei foundation belonging to one of the most important Iraqi Shii families of scholars is located in London. Among the Gujarati Ismaili Muslims, both branches of Ismailism the Dawoodi Bohras and the Nizaris are represented.

The Ahmadiya from Pakistan, who are considered heretical by mainstream Muslims, have relocated their centre to Tilford near Farnham in Surrey due to persecution in Pakistan.

Not much is known about the organisations of Arab Sunnis in Britain, although many of the congregation of London's most famous mosque (London Central or Regent's Park Mosque, see below) hail from this group. In Birmingham the main Arab run mosque is the Muath Trust more commonly known as the 'Amaanah'. The Hizb ut-Tahrir is a political party (in exile) originally from the Palestinian territories. Today it has a following among Muslim of various nationalities.

Most Turkish Muslims are Sunnis and rather secularised. The religious authority of Turkey runs a mosque in London. The Alevi minority owns several cemevis.

The Muslim Council of Britain is an umbrella organisation for many local, regional and specialist Islamic organisations in the United Kingdom.

[edit] Political organisations and pressure groups

[edit] Personalities

[edit] Academic

[edit] Activism

[edit] Arts

[edit] Media

[edit] Politics

[edit] Sport

[edit] Notable mosques

[edit] Literature

  • Joly, Danièle: Britannia's crescent: making a place for Muslims in British society, Aldershot: Avebury, 1995 ISBN 1-85628-680-0
  • Philip Lewis: Islamic Britain: religion, politics and identity among British Muslims ; Bradford in the 1990s, London: Tauris, 1994 ISBN 1-85043-861-7
  • Matar, Nabil Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery,Columbia University Press 2000 ISBN 0-231-11015-4
  • S.E.Al-Djazari The Hidden Debt to Islamic CivilisationBayt Al-Hikma Press September 2005 ISBN 0-9551156-1-2

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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