The number of Britons choosing to become Muslims has nearly doubled in the past decade, according to one of the most comprehensive attempts to estimate how many people have embraced Islam.
Following the global spread of violent Islamism, British Muslims have faced more scrutiny, criticism and analysis than any other religious community. Yet, despite the often negative portrayal of Islam, thousands of Britons are adopting the religion every year.
Estimating the number of converts living in Britain has always been difficult because census data does not differentiate between whether a religious person has adopted a new faith or was born into it. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.
But a new study by the inter-faith think-tank Faith Matters suggests the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year.
When conversions come to public attention, it is usually for one of two reasons. Either the people involved are celebrities or closely connected to celebrities; Tony Blair’s sister-in-law is one example.
Or else they are the subject of police attention as suspects in jihadi violence. But the great majority of converts are neither famous nor in any way prone to violence, they are simply products of a cosmopolitan age where all kinds of cultural experiences, whether through travel, social life or simply surfing the net, are available to all kinds of people, and the results can be surprising.
How to become a Muslim
Islam is one of the easiest religions to convert to. Technically, all a person needs to do is recite the Shahada, the formal declaration of faith, which states:
“There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet.”
A single honest recitation is all that is needed to become a Muslim, but most converts choose to do so in front of at least two witnesses, one being an imam.