Boom in UK converts to Islam

British university report concludes number of converts has nearly doubled in the last decade to about 100,000 people.

    The survey, the largest of its kind to date, found the average age at conversion was about 27 years [GALLO/GETTY]

    The number of converts to Islam in the UK has nearly doubled in the last decade, with over half of them being white females, a new study has found.

    The report by Kevin Brice of Swansea University shows that the number of people converting to Islam has risen from about 60,000 in 2001 to about 100,000 in 2010.

    The publication, entitled A Minority within a Minority: A Report on Converts to Islam in the United Kingdom, was based on three surveys, one of which found 56 per cent of respondents to be white British and 62 per cent female.

    Published on Tuesday on behalf of Faith Matters, a UK charity, the report stated that there have been 5,200 conversions to Islam in the last year alone.

    "This is a group of people whose lives are very much a part of British society and their religious affiliations are just a part of that," said Brice, also a convert to Islam.

    Negative media

    The survey, the largest of its kind to date, found the average age at conversion was about 27 years.

    Fiyaz Mughal, founder and director of Faith Matters, said this age shows that people "take time before they come into Islam," and counters claims that people convert to the highly-publicised religion because they are "young and easily manipulated".

    The report also reveals converts' feelings about their experiences of living in the UK.

    It found, for example, that despite the increase in "Islamophobia" in the post-9/11 years, a majority of the converts felt that most British people were not hostile to Islam.

    They did, however, find themselves being negatively portrayed by the media.

    The study found that 62 per cent of stories about converts to Islam covered by British national newspapers since September 2001 focused on terrorism.

    "The overall coverage was picking on very specific individual cases," said Brice, which gave a distorted impression "that anyone who converted to Islam was related to terrorism."

    Mosques criticised

    Feedback from respondents also showed there was often a glaring disconnect between converts and their new Muslim community, with a majority stating that one of their most important problems was a lack of support networks.

    Although the majority of respondents stated that most, or all, of their close friends were Muslims, they felt that mosques had "insufficient provisions for converts" or others generally interested in Islam.

    The study calls for better support networks, stating that "support for new converts is poor at best and non-existent at worst within mosques".

    "The UK mosques are failing a lot of people, but especially converts," said Mughal.

    "Mosques need to desperately up their game to support their public but, more importantly, to support their new Muslims."

    Muslims are a minority in the UK, making up 2.7 per cent of the country's total population of some 60 million people.

    Converts only make up about four per cent of that population, but Mughal said that over 90 per cent of them believe that they are bridges between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

    "Converts, and Muslims in general ... have a strong sense of social justice and core values that are not polar to those of Britain," said Mughal. "That's the core message of this [report]."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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