Islam 'will be dominant UK religion'


By ROBERT SMITH

http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/Articles.asp?Article=76212&Sn=BNEW

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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