By Richard Mather
Britain is no longer a Christian country, according to a committee chaired by the former High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss. Only two in five British people now identify as Christian, while the proportion of people who do not follow a religion has risen from a third in 1983 to almost half in 2014, the report states. Meanwhile Islam, Sikhism and Hinduism have overtaken Judaism as the largest non-Christian faiths in Britain. Lady Butler-Sloss said the findings “amount to a new settlement for religion and belief in the UK, intended to provide space and a role for all within society, regardless of their beliefs or absence of them.”
According to a separate report, the number of Muslims living in the UK – mainly of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin – is around 2,706,100, or 4.5 per cent of the total population. If present trends continue, the Anglo-Muslim population will double over the next fifteen years and hit 5.5 million by 2030. There are several reasons for this: one is immigration, another is high birth rates and another is that Muslims in Britain are passing their faith on to the next generation at much higher rates than Christians or Jews. A recent sociology survey showed that 77 per cent of practising Muslim families successfully pass on their faith to their children, compared with 29 per cent in Christian families and 65 per cent in other religions.
Taken together, the decline in Christianity and the rise of Islam in Britain point to a significant cultural change in the UK. One of these changes is the rise in the number of people who are converting to Islam. Studies show that Brits are converting to Islam at an astonishing rate. Around 5,200 people in the UK convert to Islam every year, according to inter-faith thinktank Faith Matters, which also says that the total number of British converts to Islam could be more than 100,000.
Unlike Judaism, Islam is a missionary religion. Muslims actively seek converts by setting up stalls in towns and cities, and also on university campuses where Islamic societies are engaged in outreach programmes to attract British students. Part of the attraction is that Islam is very easy to convert to. All a person needs to do is recite the Shahada that states, “There is no God but Allah and Mohamed is his Prophet.” (Most converts recite the Shahada in front of two or more witnesses, one being an imam.)
Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, believes there is a direct correlation between conversions and the prominence of Islam in the media: “People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about and when they do that they go in different directions,” he says. “Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”
According to anecdotal evidence, converts are embracing Islam in order to escape modern society, which is portrayed or imagined as decadent, bankrupt and perverted. Young women who are sick and tired of alcohol, drugs, sex, partying and consumerism are particularly susceptible to Islamic missionaries who promise a purer way of life. Figures show that more women than men convert to Islam and that the average age of female converts in the UK is twenty-seven.
Taken as a whole, the British people are concerned about the impact Islam is having on their society. Opinion surveys show that voters view Islam and Muslim immigration as very high on their list of concerns. And yet the same people who complain about the changes in their society no longer attend church on a regular basis. They may claim to believe in God and Jesus but the churches are emptying out at an alarming rate. With the exception of the Protestant evangelical movement (and to some extent the Catholic Church), Anglo-Christianity is at a low ebb. Carol services at Christmas and chocolate eggs at Easter are not enough to sustain an English/British culture that gave the world the Book of Common Prayer, the King James’s Bible, the hymns of Charles Wesley, Milton’s Paradise Lost, Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress and William Blake’s relief etchings.
The only serious alternative is for the British people to embrace secular humanism, but one that is robust and critical, not vague and listless. This involves living ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and empathy, trusting in the scientific method, taking an interest in philosophy and the arts, having a concern for other human beings and animals, and rejecting superstition and dogma.
Humanism, if it is to be embraced, should not be seen as a deficiency but as a positive approach to life. While atheism is the absence of belief, humanism is affirmative. It is centred on human experience and rational thinking, and also asserts that humans have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. According to humanists, we derive our morality from critical thinking, history and personal experience.
While humanism may not appeal to practising Jews and Christians, it is surely better if post-Christian Brits embrace a robust and ethical humanism rather than Islam, which is oppressive, anti-democratic, opposed to free speech, violent and anti-Semitic. If anyone is in any doubt about the dangers of the Islamification of Britain, consider the following:
A poll by Policy Exchange thinktank found that three in ten British Muslims want to live under sharia law. This rises to four in ten among 16 to 24-year-olds. Another poll (by GfK NOP Social research) reveals that three in ten British Muslims hope that Britain would one day become an Islamic state. Six in ten British Muslims hold negative attitudes towards free speech.
More worrying are the statistics that show one in ten British Muslims are “hardcore Islamists” who agree that people who insult Islam should be punished. Some 17 per cent say the Holocaust has been exaggerated, while half of Muslims aged 18-24 believe that 9/11 was an Israel/American conspiracy.
In the words of Spectator writer Douglas Murray, anti-Semitism (particularly the bizarre conspiratorial kind) is “rife and routine” in British Muslim communities. Sadly, many Muslims have made anti-Semitism a core tenet of both their faith and their politics. This can be seen in the growth of anti-Semitism in British political discourse. Anti-Semitism on the Left is now so commonplace and institutionalised that the Labour Party is haemorrhaging Jewish support (around half of all British Muslims vote for left-wing parties).
If the British Jewish community is to remain safe and secure, their only hope is that the British people refuse to tolerate the imposition of Islam. But an ideological bulwark is needed. And that bulwark is unlikely to be a return to Christianity. Humanism is the best option – a humanism that is strong enough to withstand demands for sharia law, a humanism brave enough to denounce Islamic anti-Semitism, a humanism with the guts to stand up for free speech and the right to criticise Islam.
Britain must come to terms with its post-Christian situation and make a choice. Apathy is not good enough. A country that is not prepared to stand up for ethics, compassion, democracy and free speech should not be surprised if the growing Muslim population does not honour these values either.