The second largest religion in Great Britain is Islam, with an estimated population of around 2.8 million, almost 5% of the population. There are a number of variants of Islam practised in the UK, due largely to the number of immigrants stemming from numerous former colonies in South Asia. Estimates also put the number of white converts to Islam at up to 100,000.
The majority of Muslims in Britain practise Sunni Islam, although there is a significant Iranian-Shia minority. With a total of over 1500 mosques and over 166 numerous independent Islamic schools, Islam has a prominent presence in Great Britain which has in recent years caused numerous areas of concern for certain groups.
Fears and suspicion
With the decline of Christianity, rise in conversions and areas with high concentrations of Muslims (for example in London, Bradford and Leicester) concern has arisen about the Islamification of Great Britain. A startling 75% of the British population believes that Islam has a negative impact on British society and tensions remain following the 7/7 bombings in London. The press has also been largely negative, publishing articles on extremism in schools and mosques.
Despite these problems and difficulties, religious freedom laws in the UK make it one of the most accepting in Europe. There is no law restricting Islamic dress, acceptance of prayer schedules in most workplaces, and heavily protected freedom of speech laws. Although some extremists do give UK Islam a bad name, the majority of Muslims in the UK can and do practise their religion to its full extent.
There exist also numerous initiatives in the UK that hope to change negative perceptions and reduce fears, leaving Islam to become an accepted and respected religion in Great Britain. ‘Muslims in Britain’ and other bodies are working to create awareness and acceptance whilst maintaining Islamic identity.