Towards the end of last year, Office for National Statistics (ONS) published the results of their latest census which showed that the UK has witnessed rapid growth in the Muslim population. In 2011, the Muslim population was 4.9% of the entire population, whereas, in 2021, it rose to 6.5%. This means that Britain’s Muslim minority is the second largest religious group in the UK after Christianity.
This is the first time that fewer than half of people in both England and Wales associated themselves with Christianity.
On Monday 16 January, Mercy Mission published The British Muslim Civil Society Report, which presented why British Muslims are a vital part of the civil society in the UK. What’s more, it reported that British Muslims are also some of the most generous givers of charity in the UK.
With a rapid increase in the thriving British Muslim population comes a more vibrant society. A society that has contributed exponentially over the period of the pandemic and continues in doing so to this day. With an increase in charity organisations, educational establishments, national umbrella bodies, and media organisations, British Muslims have helped in bringing a more unique ethos into civil society in Britain. Much of it is inspired by their faith, as Islam focuses heavily on contributing to society through the act of selflessness.
Islamic values have been at the heart of all civil duties for British Muslims. With a natural need to serve one’s community, Islam emphasises the importance of this, despite the choice of faith of the community.
As mentioned by the Prophet PBUH, “An act of charity is due for every joint in each person’s body for every day that the sun comes up: to judge fairly between two people is an act of charity; to help a man with his mount, lifting him onto it or hoisting up his belongings onto it, is an act of charity; a good word is an act of charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is an act of charity.” (Bukhari and Muslim)
Hadith such as this and others act as an impetus behind the work of many British Muslims. Whether it’s the environment, education or family well-being, prophetic traditions have heavily influenced the lifestyle of Muslims.
COVID-19 and British Muslims
The pandemic was a clear indication of the many sacrifices British Muslims made. With COVID-19 being one of the worst crises the world has seen since World War II, British Muslims stepped into deliver and serve the country. Earlier on in the pandemic, Muslims were seen making PPE, delivering food to their community, donating sanitisers, and setting up temporary morgues.
The UK-based charity, Muslim Hands, set up appeals to deliver thousands of meals free of charge throughout the pandemic. Many British Muslims also set up crowdfunding pages to help pay for funeral costs and raise money for several charities.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, a spokesperson from the Muslim Council of Britain said, “In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen incredible work in Muslim communities, from repurposing mosques to create facilities to alleviate pressure on the NHS to grassroots initiatives supporting those who are vulnerable and in need”.
Muslim Women Leading The Way
With over 2,000 mosques in the UK, it is integral that women are given voices which they can use to make positive changes. Progress has been made, but it is evident that more can be done. British Muslim women make up a large part of our society, which is why they must be utilised for the improvement of Britain.
In 2021, Zara Mohammed was elected to head Muslim Council Britain (MCB), which is the country’s largest and most representative Muslim umbrella body. Thanks to the many positive contributions she made over the years, she was re-elected this year. Being the first woman, the first Scot and the first person under 30 to be elected to this role, it is groundbreaking what she has accomplished. In an age of challenges, chaos and Islamophobia, Ms Mohammed is leading the way and setting examples for many younger British Muslim women.
Improvements Need To Be Made
Whilst successes are present, there remains work to be done. Poverty levels are high amongst British Muslim communities, with 30% of British Muslims living in the poorest 10% of local authority districts. Many British Muslims are still sending much of their charity donations abroad, which is why many poorer Muslims in the UK are missing. This is why donations must be utilised strategically in the UK to better manage the poverty levels amongst the poorer British Muslim neighbourhoods.
It is also important that mosques and Islamic centres become community hubs as opposed to a place for prayer only. Communities are fast disappearing, which is why mosques and Islamic centres need to start welcoming Muslims for more than just prayers, This can be done through local events, workshops, community afternoon teas, weekend activities and programmes for the youth. What’s more, leaders must understand the need for employing a more diverse set of skills by creating a more diverse panel to help address each community’s problems.
Beyond everything, one of the most integral factors to consider is the art of looking into the future. According to the report by Mercy Mission, a key matter British Muslim authorities should be focusing on is the idea of long-term planning.
“Britain’s Muslim community needs to ask long-term questions about its direction and the role it will play in strengthening the fabric of our society. These questions include: What will the Muslim community’s role be in the next ten, twenty, or fifty years? How can it successfully adopt a model of civil society contribution that makes Muslims an integral part of Britain’s civil society land-scape? What investments should be initiated today in order for the Muslim community to be in a better position to respond to the needs of British society in future decades?”
The British Muslim Civil Society Report