Change of faith: Why young Brits turn from Christianity to Islam
The UK’s official religion is dwindling at a record speed, with the decline of the Church "approaching rock bottom," experts warn. While Christian congregations age, most British mosques are bringing more and more young people on board.
Public mosque services attract thousands of British Muslims, but when you check out a church, there are hardly a dozen participants at Sunday morning worship, RT’s Polly Boiko reports from London.
“The decline of churches in the UK is long term, now it just happens to be approaching rock bottom. So 95 percent of people don’t attend church on an average Sunday. Christian worship is already the concern of a tiny minority of people,” Andrew Copson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, told RT.
“I think over time even the weak cultural identity that still seems to be associated with Christianity will banish away, probably all over Europe, not just in the UK,” Copson added.
The British Muslim population has surged dramatically over the past 15 years, increasing by 75 percent. According to the latest data from the Office for National Statistics, Muslims have the youngest age profile of the religious groups, with 48 percent (1.3 million) aged under 25.
Dr. Muhammad Abdul Bari, Honorary Chairman of one of the largest mosques in the UK, the East London Mosque, believes that’s because Islam’s family values are “really bonded, and families really try to nurture young people in the folds of Islam.”
He told RT that the Mosque he goes to, founded in 1910 and accommodating 7,000 worshippers for congregational prayers, has a congregation over 50 percent young people, who feel “part of the Mosque establishment” these days.
Contrary to Islam, Christianity showed the oldest age profile among the leading religious groups in 2011. And while the main reason for Christians being economically inactive was retirement, for Muslims economic inactivity was mainly because they were students, or because they were looking after the home or family.
Some argue that unlike Islam, which gives security to people, Christianity isn’t helping young Brits to survive on the violent streets of England.
In fact, the UK had a greater number of murders in 2007 than any other EU country, making it the most violent place in Europe, according to Eurostat. By comparison, there were over 2,000 crimes recorded per 100,000 of population in the UK, and 466 violent crimes per 100,000 in America.
Latest figures from the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) estimate that in the year ending March 2013 there were 8.6 million crimes in England and Wales.
“The passivity that Christianity promotes is perceived as alien and disconnected to black youths growing up in often violent and challenging urban environments in Britain today,” the former chairman of Brixton Mosque, Abdul Haqq Baker, wrote in the Guardian. "’Turning the other cheek’ invites potential ridicule and abuse, whereas resilience, strength and self-dignity evokes respect and, in some cases, fear from unwanted attention,” he said.
At some point in his life, Baker, raised as a Roman Catholic like his father, converted to Islam. Turning the other cheek has never been an option since then. The majority of young people he had interviewed converted from Christianity to Islam for similar reasons, he says.
“With my newfound faith, there existed religious guidelines that provided spiritual and behavioral codes of conduct. Role models such as Malcolm X only helped to reinforce the perception that Islam enabled the empowerment of one's masculinity coupled with righteous and virtuous conduct as a strength, not a weakness,” the founder of Street UK, Strategy to Reach Empower and Educate Teenagers program, explained.
According to academics, the total obedience that Islam demands from its followers has made it more appealing to worshippers and converts from other religions. Islam says no to drinking, smoking, gambling, pornography, helping those who truly follow its laws and values become complete and firm in their decisions.
“Islam says NO – this is no and full stop. And people find a sense of direction in it, because their religion of origin has lost that, and not because it never had it in the first instance,” Dr. Sara Silvestri, Senior Lecturer at City University, told RT.
Demographers say that if current trends continue, Islam could eclipse Christianity as the dominant religion in the UK, in as little as a decade.
The 2011 census puts the Muslim population of the UK at around 5 percent, a total that has been boosted by around 600,000 Muslim immigrants who have arrived in the UK over the past decade. Nearly half of all Muslims were born in the UK.
US-based religious think tank the Pew Forum estimates that if the current trend continues, the Muslim population of the UK would swell to almost double within the next 20 years, totaling 5.5 million. So, by 2030 Britain may have more Muslims than Kuwait.