01 June 2017

Al-Britannia, My Country by James Fergusson review – a compelling survey of British Islam

That Islam is on the rise in the United Kingdom is one of the few things that Islamophobes and Islamophiles agree on. Since 2001, the number of Muslims has doubled, to more than 3 million, or 5% of the population; for years, Muhammad in its various spellings has been at the top of the list of names for baby boys.

By 2020, half the population of Bradford, one of the most Muslim cities in the UK, as well as one of the most fecund, will be under 20. A question that has grown even more salient in the light of the recent Manchester bombing – the handiwork of Salman Abedi, a 22-year-old Mancunian of Libyan background – is: what to do with our young Muslims?

A condition for answering this, as James Fergusson makes clear in his compelling and compassionate survey of British Islam, is to recognise that the story of Muslims in this country isn’t solely – or even mainly – one of faith.

To take the example of Bradford once more, its schools are way down the league tables, and poverty and drug dealing are widespread, while in early 2016 – when Fergusson made his research trip to the city – a gang of Asian men from neighbouring Keighley were jailed for using an underage white girl as a sex slave.

The story of Islam in Britain is one of integration and segregation, education and employment, family cohesion and criminality. It’s also a story of British nativists sticking it to all those interlopers who bomb “our” concert venues and groom “our” girls. [The Guardian] Read more