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Islam ‘will be dominant UK religion’

Gulf Daily News, Bahrain
Mar. 10, 2004
Robert Smith
www.gulf-daily-news.com

ReligionNewsBlog.com • Wednesday March 10, 2004

Islam will be the most widely practised religion in the UK by 2020, according to British and Muslim magazine editor Sarah Joseph.

She says mosque attendance is expected to outstrip church attendance over the next 16 years.

Estimates suggest that anywhere between 10,000 and 50,000 people a year convert to Islam in the UK, which is currently home to approximately 1.8 million Muslims.

“We are the second largest faith in Britain and will be the largest practising faith in Britain by 2020 if you use church and mosque attendance as a measure,” she told the GDN.

Mrs Joseph is editor of British magazine Emel, which was launched in September and specifically targets Muslim readers.

The English-speaking publication is described as a lifestyle magazine, which focuses on all aspects of Muslim life.

It is published every two months with a print-run of 20,000 copies per issue, but there has already been interest shown in going international.

“We have been asked to do an Emel America, Emel Middle East and an Emel Europe – we have lots of European subscribers,” said Mrs Joseph. “We have also been asked to make an Emel TV show for Europe, but we still need to establish Emel in Britain.”

Mrs Joseph is in Bahrain at the invitation of Discover Islam and has delivered a series of lectures on issues such as Islam in the Western media, challenges to Muslim women and how the war on terror affects European Muslims.

The mother-of three says people in the UK turn to Islam for different reasons.

However, despite the increasing Muslim community in Britain, Mrs Joseph warned that Europe is in danger of falling victim to what she called “secular fundamentalism.”

One example of this is the French ban on Muslim girls wearing hijabs in school.

“It is the other extreme of what they are saying they are trying to fight,” she said. “This secular fundamentalism is creeping through Europe – there is no room for God in political discourse.

“This for me is a particularly worrying trend. People with faith have to stand up and fight secular fundamentalism.”

Mrs Joseph described the French ban on hijabs as a knee-jerk reaction – inferring it is a move designed to win support for President Jacques Chirac away from right-wing opponents such as national Front Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen.

Sentiment

But although Mrs Joseph described the UK as a more tolerant place for Muslims than other parts of Europe – she did report a growing anti-Muslim sentiment.

Such abuse has got worse since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, but Mrs Joseph says problems have existed for over a decade.

Anti-terrorism legislation has also raised eye-brows among the Muslim community in Europe.

However, despite such difficulties – and the challenges that go with bridging Western culture with Muslim life – she says there is strong support in countries like Britain where religious freedom is possible.

She pointed to the two million people who took to the streets of London to demonstrate against the war in Iraq.

“People have to be aware that ordinary non-Muslim people did not support the war,” she said.

“Just as all Muslims do not all think in the same way.

“The actions of the British government are not a reflection of the people of that nation.

“The vast majority of anti-war protesters were non-Muslim. They do care about the Israel and Palestine conflict, about issues that we care about.

“We need to build bridges with these people.”

Mrs Joseph will return to the UK today after spending four days in the country. She concluded her series of talks in Bahrain with a lecture yesterday on women as the stakeholders of the future.

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