work in progress in social theory and cultural sociology

“Islamification” again…

01.10.2011 · Posted in Uncategorized

The paranoid myth of the “Islamisation of Europe” is easy to debunk, but doesn’t seem to go away nonetheless. Normally being the anti-Muslim bigots’ favourite fixed idea, it’s the Independent’s turn to talk, rather unhelpfully, about the “Islamification of Britain” – and this time it’s not as usual about immigration and absurdly misrepresented Muslim birth rates but British converts to Islam. No question the topic of conversioin to Islam is a sociologically interesting one and there has been some very good research (e.g. Wohlrab-Sahr 1999) – but will it lead to Muslim Britain in the 21st century – or the 22nd?

According to the Independent the numbers are impressive as

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.

Wow.

100,000 – that’s nearly 0.15 per cent of the population – and growing fast, too. 5000 a year – that’s half a million per century, meaning that if the trend persists 2111 there will be 600000, bringing up the proportion of British converts to Islam up to 0.9 per cent. That adds substantially to the 2.3 per cent British Muslims (both old and new) identified in the newest British Social Attitudes Survey (p.70). No doubt it’s interesting that conversions contribute to the growth of Islam in Britain – and from this perspective one may want to ask the question whether this makes Islam in Britain “more British”. I’m not really into long-term predictions, so I won’t bother to calculate the number of centuries or millenniums we’ve got to wait to see an Islamic Britain …

Otherwise the main message has been correctly picked up by the British Humanist Association – namely that “the majority of people in Britain now say they are non-religious” (50.7%). Add to that the fact that of those people saying they belong to a faith community nearly half (47.7%) say “never or practically never” when asked

“Apart from such special occasions as weddings, funerals and baptisms, how often nowadays to you attend services or meetings connected with your religion?”

and you’ll find that none of the faiths – including Islam – is likely to take over any time soon. There is no such thing as the “Islamification of Britain”, just plain old secularisation. Announcing Islamification is bad journalism and plays into the hands of paranoid politics, however liberal the intent.

References

Wohlrab-Sahr, Monika (1999): ‘Conversion to Islam between Syncretism and Symbolic Battle’, in: Social Compass 46: 351-362

Update (11/01/2011)

… I’ve been a bit slow on this apparently – 5th of January at Liberal Conspiracy this had already been demasked as a “classical non-story” (as here on the grounds of the numbers being not exactly big and with reference to the new British Social Attitudes Survey)

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