A new study found that the number of Britons converting to Islam is growing, a London-based newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The Independent newspaper said that the estimated number of British converts has always been difficult to count because “census data does not differentiate between a religious person that has adopted a new faith or was born into it.”
According to a new study by the inter-faith think tank Faith Matters, the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.
The study used data from the Scottish 2001 census, the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey; researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were by ethnicity and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole, the newspaper said. In all they estimated that there were 60,699 converts living in Britain in 2001.
The researchers polled mosques in London to try to calculate how many conversions take place a year. The results gave a figure of 1,400 conversions in the capital in the past 12 months, which, when extrapolated nationwide, would mean approximately 5,200 people converting to Islam every year.
Meanwhile, the figures are comparable with studies in Germany and France, which found that there were around 4,000 conversions a year in each country.
“This report is the best intellectual ‘guestimate’ using census numbers, local authority data and polling from mosques,” Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, told the newspaper.
“Either way, few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”
Asked why people were converting in such large numbers, he replied: “I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about, and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives, but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”
London School of Islamics Trust