Islamistan in Britain?

islam in BritainTensions in the growing Muslim population within Great Britain do not get much coverage in the United States, largely because the issues are different on the west side of the pond. Sometimes it’s hard as an American to understand just how much Islam is changing and challenging Britain, but this New York Times piece by Jane Perlez does a great job summarizing the issues.

Perlez hooks her story to a decision by a town to allow a building that used to be a Methodist church to become a mosque. The decision didn’t come easily or quickly. Many within the community vigorously opposed the decision, and police were to summoned to quell violence that people expected would follow the vote. (The violence did not occur.)

The battle underscored Britain’s unease with its Muslim minority, and particularly the infiltration of terrorist cells among the faithful, whose devotion has challenged an increasingly secular Britain’s sense of itself.

Britain may continue to regard itself as a Christian nation. But practicing Muslims are likely to outnumber church-attending Christians in several decades, according to a recent survey by Christian Research, a group that specializes in documenting the status of Christianity in Britain.

More conspicuous than ever in both the halls of power and in working-class neighborhoods, Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims, about 2.7 percent of the population, are at once alienated and increasingly assertive.

The headline reads like a story about Muslims and their growing presence, but the subplot is the shrinking presence of Christianity within British culture. Growing secularism creates a culture clash that offends many Muslims and doesn’t exactly encourage them to assimilate, while the same secularism makes Britons increasingly hostile to conservative Muslim traditions and viewpoints.

Other cities have already seen the change and can see through a demographic telescope that the changes are not going to reverse anytime soon:

In working-class neighborhoods, the differences are stark between white Britons and immigrant Muslim Asians, who began arriving in significant numbers from former British colonies in Pakistan and Bangladesh in the 1970s. The whites are less likely to marry, and they bear more children out of wedlock, trends many Muslims, who put stock in intact families, find disturbing.

The high rate of alcohol consumption among whites sets the groups apart, too. In Blackburn and Preston, increasing numbers of neighborhoods have become exclusively Muslim, and the growing influence of the conservative Wahhabi school of Islam is more and more apparent among women who wear black robes and cover all but their eyes.

In Blackburn, the constituency of Jack Straw, the leader of the House of Commons, there are 30,000 Muslims among a population of 80,000. But in a telltale sign for the future, the number of children 10 years and younger is evenly divided between Christian and Muslim.

It is those demographics, and the visibility of Blackburn’s 40 mosques alongside the ancient Christian church spires, that frightened the mosque opponents in Clitheroe.

The story line closely follows that of moderate Muslims (one character forms an interfaith scout group called the Beaver Scouts that honors all sorts of religious occasions, including the Taoist and Jewish new year celebrations). The reader is comforted to know that these people exist during a tense a time between non-Muslims in Britain and radical Muslims that became very well known in July 2005 during the London suicide bombings.

The contrast presented in the story is between backward non-Muslim British who unnecessarily fear the moderate Muslims who have stronger families and avoid alcohol. But what are the cultural and religious beliefs of the growing Muslim population in Britain?

For this story in particular, I would have liked to know the religious beliefs and practices of the Muslims who pushed to turn the Methodist church into a Mosque. What are their views on the role of women in society? What about the British legal system versus Islamic law? How should non-Muslims be treated in their society? Is legal abortion on demand legal? What about homosexuality?

Muslims will be changing more than just the church buildings in British society. The story hints at that issue by mentioning “an increasingly secular Britain’s sense of itself,” but that angle of the story could have been explored more.

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  • Deacon John M. Bresnahan

    Looking at the population statistics in the areas mentioned, I would like to see a few stories in the media on how the self-genocide of the West began with the ridicule Pope Paul VI endured from other so-called Christians and even Catholic priests for his encyclical “Of Human Life” Today we can clearly see that it was an accurate prophecy of the first order in its opposition to the stifling of human life within marriage. Maybe as the West continues to flush itself down the demographic toilet, it might take a few moments to apologize to a pope who clearly had to be receiving divine guidance to stand up to the whole world–and be right when noone else was.

  • Judy Harrow

    Two entirely separate points:

    1. That “Methodist Church” shut down some forty years ago. Since then, the building has been used as a factory. Does that change the emotional “*they* are taking over” reactions?

    2. Deacon John calls a permissive attitude towards birth control cultural suicide. The alternative, however, continued human population growth, leads to species suicide at the very least. Which is worse?

    warmly / Judy

  • Jack

    Deacon John is absolutely right. The contraception mentality perverts the natural end of the sexual union between man and woman. Physical pleasure becomes the ultimate goal of sexuality and the creation of a new life is seen as a negative concequnce against which one needs “protection.” When contraception fails (which it does), the contraceptive mentality leads naturally to abortion as an acceptable means to liberate one’s body from the interloping child in order to once again pursue the ultimate goal of physical pleasure. Having destroyed tens of millions of innocent human lives through abortion over the course of the past 30 years alone, we must ask ourselves how many future scientists, doctors, inventors and peace makers we killed in their mothers’ wombs. Judy’s fears about population growth may certainly come true if we continue to kill the people who have been sent to discover new means of food production, water purification and disease prevention.

  • Jerry

    I’m not sure where I saw this, but recently there was a story about Islam in the UK which discussed the struggle going on there between those the fanatics and Muslims who see Islam in a modern light. I do remember one image of someone who was ranting at a crowd and was subsequently arrested for promoting terrorism. Maybe someone else here will know the source.

  • Str1977 (commoner)

    your term “species suicide”, apart from being not in line with facts, is an example of new-speak: suicide is ending one’s life, not procreating it.

  • Elizabeth

    I know this site focuses on print journalism, but it’s worth mentioning in regards to this article that CNN did a Special Report on Muslims in England – I believe it’s called The War Within – that has run several times in the past couple of months. (I think this may be what Jerry was referring to)
    It’s at least an hour long, and was very well done, taking a look at the strife within the Muslin community between moderates and extremists, the relationships between Muslims and non-Muslims, and how it’s all affecting life in some communities (including the plan to build a mega-Mosque).
    So NYT is definitely not the first to take a look at the issue. Based on what you reference, it seems they got their idea from the CNN special.