Muslims in the UK
The United Kingdom has one of the most culturally diverse Muslim populations in the world, with over 50 ethnic languages. It is a reflection of Muslim diversity the world over. Some ethnicities are in greater numbers than others. This is a reflection of Britain’s history – its Empire and the Commonwealth – and not a reflection of Muslim populations in different parts of the world. As a result, the common lived-experience of the general public is to perceive Muslims as mainly South-East Asian… few, if any, think of Indonesia’s Muslims, which represents the largest Muslim population of all!
The last Census (2021) provides the most accurate Muslim population count of all. There are some 3.9 million Muslims in the UK. Whilst that is roughly 6.5%, some regions having much larger Muslim population ratios than others. Given the numbers and diversity, there is really no such thing as “the Muslim community”, and Muslims see this diversity as beautiful and a communal strength. Most Muslims live in cities and urban towns, although family homes can be found in every part of the nation. The largest numbers are from families that arrived in Britain from the former Empire in the 1950s and 1960s when they were encouraged to come and help rebuild Britain after the War. People have migrated since for economic, political, professional and academic reasons. But there were communities of Muslims living in Britain before the World Wars, again a reflection of the British Empire.
There are, of course, people who have “changed their religion” to become Muslims. Even before the two Wars, there have always been individuals who have become Muslim. To this day, many individuals – of different social backgrounds and ages – become Muslim each year, for a very broad range of personal reasons. One can come across someone who “converted” a few months ago as easily as someone who did so more than 50 years ago. Some set up a full-on Muslim family life and for others it remains private and personal. Some take their Islamic learning very seriously and some are content ‘knowing the basics’. There are also individuals who find it personally challenging and change back. There is generally no requirement to record a change in religion and so, we cannot really know the number of people in the UK who have become Muslim. What we do know is there is no one-glove-fits-all picture.
Muslims in the UK work in a very broad range of professions and represent every stratum of wealth and material success. Muslims are, on average, younger than the average population, and attitudes across Muslims and households vary greatly, including how people practice and ‘wear’ their religion.