1 in 10 Britons Will Be Muslim

1 in 10 Britons Will Be Muslim

One in ten Britons will be Muslim within the next two decades. So says the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

There will be some wriggling on seats about this demographic projection. But what there won't be is enough serious consideration of how secular Britain must meet Islam half-way in the UK.

What do I mean by this?

Let me start by saying that I grew up in Britain's most Islamic city.

And my experiences in Bradford were one of the reason why I spent many months in my twenties travelling through parts of the Muslim world. Some of the warmest welcomes I have ever received by strangers were in Iranian cities like Teheran and Isfahan and Pakistani cities like Quetta, Multan and Lahore.

Subsequently, I became a journalist and returned to spend several months in Pakistan, as well as travelling widely in Afghanistan, Iraq and a number of Arab states.

I spent two months in Kuwait in 2003. But here's the thing. By 2030 there will be more Muslims in Britain than there are in Kuwait. The UK, still a global power in the western world, is poised to become a major player in the wider Islamic world by dint of its multi-million-strong Muslim population.

But is Britain getting its head around this? Or are many non-Muslim Britons failing to engage with what Islam requires.

As Baroness Warsi said last week, it is not helpful to divide Britain's Muslim population into radical and moderate camps.

On average all Muslims, up to a point, share a particular worldview. It is more conservative, for instance, on questions surrounding family life, than many non-Muslims would appreciate.

And, in many respects, an infusion of cultural values which put old-fashioned ideas of decency front and centre may not be a bad thing in a country where, as Family Affairs has noted before, family life has been dissolved by the unforeseen consequences of a well-meaning welfare state.

It is up to us, non-Muslims, to show more interest in a faith which means so much to its adherents.

On one level this is a personal choice. My contacts with devout Muslims have made me consider my own Catholic faith in a fresh light. I have taken Lent more seriously after talking to one Muslim about the fasting and abstinence demanded by Ramadan.

But on another level British society needs to reflect the growth in British Islam.

Watch TV and wait for the evidence of British Islam - it is virtually invisible. Or, at least, it projects a particular kind of progressive or regressive Islam.

You will know Islam is being taken seriously when, by 2030, there is a commercial for soap powder featuring a woman in a hijab.