‘Record numbers embrace Muslim faith‘, claimed an Independent article in which Jerome Taylor and Sarah Morrison “investigated” (churnalised) figures produced by a religious think-tank, designed – says Matt Hill, guesting on the Liberal Conspiracy blog – to play to an audience eager to hear stories of the spread of Islam in the west. But in reality, he says:
But more striking is the generational change the survey reveals. While 76.3% of people say they were raised as Christians, only 43.7% of people now identify as such. The real story, when it comes to British religion, is the number of people converting to godlessness.
And while 2.3% of people were raised in the faith, 2.4% call themselves Muslims: hardly a story of British ‘Islamification’.
A closer look at the figures quoted by the Independent shows it hides a classic non-story. A religious think tank has calculated the number of annual conversions to Islam by polling London mosques – who have an obvious incentive to over-estimate – and extrapolating the figures nationwide.
Even the head of the New Muslims Project, a group set up to support converts, is quoted as calling the hardly earth-shattering guess of 5,200 converts per year ‘a little on the high side’.
That a few Britons choose to convert to Islam every year – most in order to marry into Muslim families before continuing to live much as before – is hardly news. More remarkable is the growing number of former Muslims who have bravely gone public with their embrace of secularism, despite facing ostracism and sometimes violence for the offence of ‘apostasy‘.
The British Humanist Association supported the launch of The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain in 2007, which supports those “non-believers, atheists, and ex-Muslims” who do not want to be pigeonholed as Muslim based on cultural or ethnic assumptions, and aims to break the taboo that comes with renouncing Islam.