The growth of Islam

One hundred years after Muhammad's death in AD 632, Muslims had conquered half the territory which had belonged to the 'Christian' Roman Empire. Within another 100 years they had entered Central Asia and China. But with the rise of European powers in the 19th century, it was the turn of the Muslims to suffer defeat, culminating in 1922 with the end of the Ottoman Empire. A conference of Muslim leaders in Mecca in 1899 was called to discuss the decline of Islam. However the second half of the twentieth century has seen a Muslim revival for several reasons: There are now over a billion Muslims in the world, a majority in 50 nations. While Islam's strength still lies in the heartland of the Arab world, there are hundreds of millions of Muslims in Asia and the world's largest Muslim population is in Indonesia. Just 2% of the world's Muslims live in the West.

Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world today, in large part due to population growth, which averages 2.6% per annum in Muslim countries. This compares with negligible or even negative growth in the West. However conversion growth is also a reality, particularly in Africa where many nominal Christians are being won to Islam, often for financial reasons. In the UK, Islam is the fastest growing religion among the Afro-Caribbean community. There are perhaps 10,000 British converts to Islam, predominantly white, middle-class women.

Islam is growing in organisational strength, not just numbers, in Britain. It has undergone massive restructuring in the last five years. Mosques and other institutions are proliferating, and Muslims are exerting their influence in such fields as education, censorship and politics. This is no accident. A document produced by a prominent Muslim leader in the UK in the early 1980s described the Islamic movement in the West as 'an organised struggle to change the existing society into an Islamic Society with the Qur'an and Sunna as its base'. It clarified the aim as not being just Islamic schools, cultural centres and religious rights but 'the ushering in of an Islamic revolution'.

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