Study: White Women in UK Converting to Islam More Than Men

Study: White Women in UK Converting to Islam More Than Men

Jan 5, 2011 – 2:20 PM

Dana Kennedy

Dana Kennedy
Contributor

A new survey sponsored by a British Muslim organization estimates
that about 5,200 people in the United Kingdom converted to Islam last
year, part of a steady increase since 2001.
White British women made up the biggest number of converts, and the average age of conversion was 27.

The report, titled “A Minority Within a Minority,” was issued by the Faith Matters organization and conducted by Kevin Brice, an office administrator at Swansea University.

Using figures drawn from the 2001 Scottish census, Brice estimates that
the number of converts to Islam in the U.K. may have risen from around
60,000 in 2001 to up to 100,000 in 2010.

Lauren Booth

Stefanos Kouratzis, AFP / Getty Images

British journalist Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of former British Prime
Minister Tony Blair, fixes a Palestinian-style headscarf after arriving
with other peace activists on boats at the southern Cypriot port of
Larnaca on Aug. 20, 2008. Booth converted to Islam following a visit to
Iran, saying she is a “proud member” of the Muslim community.

A key area of the study involved a survey of 122 converts in August and
September. About 56 percent were white British and 62 percent were
women.

The majority (66 percent) said that their families reacted badly to
their conversions but that their attitudes softened in time and became
more accepting.

The release of the findings comes just less than three months after
former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, broadcaster Lauren Booth, shocked the country by converting to Islam at the age of 43.

“I think what the survey shows is that people who converted to Islam are
normal people,” Brice told AOL News today. “They’re not a group of
people trying to undermine the Western world. They feel that being a
Muslim goes hand in hand with their British identity.”

Brice, a white British national, said he converted to Islam in 1990.

One of the questions respondents were asked in the survey was whether
their conversion had occurred because they felt their lifestyle was
“bad,” “sinful” or “lost.” About 59 percent said they had indeed felt
“lost” before deciding to embrace Islam.

Brice said that “media cliches” about Muslim extremism did not show up in answers given by those who were polled.

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For example, only a very few said they thought that celebrating a
birthday, listening to music or reading fiction goes against Islam.
Fewer than 10 percent said that attending a family Christmas dinner
would be forbidden.

Most of the women polled said they wore more modest clothing after converting and many adopted the hijab, or headscarf.

Most women disagreed with the niqab, or face veil, but supported the right to wear it.

“The report shows there is a vibrant and growing Muslim convert
community that feels at ease living in the U.K. and being Muslim,” said
Fiyaz Mughal, the founder and director of Faith Matters.

Currently, white British people make up 80 percent of the population of Britain, Brice said.

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