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England’s growing Islamic awakening

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Visitors read information board about Muslims in Britain during an open day at Finsbury Mosque in London. Photography: Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

Islam becoming the dominant faith in England

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O’Neill’s Pub now occupies the former Muswell Hill Presbyterian Church in North London. The church closed for lack of interest and contributions.

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the United Kingdom. Most of my time was spent in my ancestral homeland Shropshire County on the border of Wales.

I went there to get a close look at the spiritual history of the land; and what I discovered was profoundly surprising. I found that the God of Abraham the English once sought in Christian churches and Jewish synagogues is now more likely to be worshiped in Muslim mosques! Sadly many churches have closed, and many of the buildings have been converted to bars, dance clubs, skate boarding rinks and grocery stores. There are now six mosques in Shropshire–five of them opened in former church buildings.

It does appear that over the past 50 years the British people have lost faith in organized religion much faster and more completely than many other western states. The most recent survey to show this comes from Win/Gallup, which found that Britain now appears to be one of the most irreligious countries on earth, with only 30% of Brits calling themselves “religious.”

Quite apparent in Shropshire County

Mohammed Abbasi of Football for Peace with Paul Armstrong, director of Association of British Muslims.

Mohammed Abbasi of Football for Peace with Paul Armstrong, director of the Association of British Muslims.

In England Islam is growing rapidly, and the numbers of Muslims worshiping faithfully is increasing daily. Islam is expected to become the most dynamic religion in the United Kingdom in just 10 more years.

According to the British online journal The Mail (2 September 2016), “Mohammed,” for the second year in a row, remains at the top of the list of most popular baby boy names in England and Wales.

Quite a few former Christians are finding Islam to be more loving, kind and emotionally supportive than the cold, dying Christianity offered by the more traditional denominations. As British men and women are finding Islam to be a “living faith” to their liking, closed church buildings are finding new life in Islam.

An Englishman by the name of George, in his mid-sixties, shared his observation with me. When I told him I was Muslim, he said, “I’m not interested in converting to Islam, but I do think Islam has more to offer the people of England than the passive, fake religiosity and unconcern that has taken hold in many Christian churches.”

He told me he identified with the concerns of Muslims who preach modesty and dedication to family life and service to others. “They are more what I think Christians ought to be,” he said.

International growth of Islam

According to the Pew Research Center, worldwide, “The number of Muslims will grow more than twice as fast as the world’s population from now until 2050.”

While the world’s population is projected to grow 35 per cent before the middle of the century, the number of Muslims is expected to increase by 73 per cent–from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 2.8 billion.

In 2010, Muslims made up 23.2 per cent of the global population. Four decades later, they are expected to make up about three-in-ten of the world’s people (29.7per cent), the Washington, DC-based think tank said.

Muslim leaders in Shropshire

Sam met with Abdurraheem Green, an English

Sam met with Abdurraheem Green, an English convert to Islam and founder of Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA).

In the short time I was here I was able to a number of Muslim leaders here in Shropshire County.

I was particularly impressed by the outreach of the faithful at Telford Central Mosque and the Shropshire Islamic Foundation.

Members of the six Shropshire mosques are offering spiritual counseling and organizing shelter to the homeless. They are reaching out to refugees who are fleeing war and offering healthcare and other assistance to needy British individuals and families.

I was honored also to meet Abdurraheem Green, founder of the Islamic Education & Research Academy (iERA), a dynamic organization based in Shropshire. Abdurraheem is a Muslim convert who is known in Muslim communities for his work on Peace TV and Huda TV and on college and university campuses. For the better part of 30 years, Green has been active in the field of dawah, inviting people to Islam.

I am grateful to Abdurraheem for having invited me to his home for dinner and introducing me to his wonderful family. (He has been blessed with 10 children!) He told me about his work with iERA. I was captivated by his genuine, meek and beautiful spirit. I found him to be a man full of God’s grace and mercy.

Also, meeting with me at the Telford Central Mosque were Mohammed Abbasi of Football for Peace and Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, director of the Association of British Muslims–the UK’s oldest Muslim organization. I was deeply impressed by the fervent spirit of all these leaders and all the Shropshire Muslims I met. Their desire to make a positive difference in the lives of broken and needy people was clear.

What we Muslims must consider

The question we Muslims must ask is, what kind of Muslims will be produced simply by birth statistics? It is not enough to say that one is Muslim simply because he or she was born to a Muslim family.

Yes! Those who are born Muslim must be imbued with a living faith–given to self-denial and to prayer and service to others.

I have heard it said often by Muslim leaders travelling from the Middle East to the West, “In the West we have seen ‘Muslims’ without Islam, and here in the Middle East we often find Islam without Muslims.” In other words the outward manifestation of faith is not always evident in the lives of those who consider themselves Muslim simply by birth.

Further thoughts

Since 2011 Muslim Relief for victims of war has expanded nationwide.

Since 2011 Islamic Relief for victims of war has expanded nationwide. Thousands of British Muslim men and women serve as volunteers.

It is not enough to say one is born Jewish, Christian or Muslim.

Truly, a vibrant, heart-felt, life-changing Islam is needed in England and our world today—not a religion of just traditionally “born Muslims.”  I am talking about a living faith most evidenced by the truly concerned humanitarian servants it produces.

One must believe and act accordingly to the dictates of faith! Of what value is a Jew who does not truly worship wholeheartedly the God of Abraham? Of what value is a Christian who does not follow and obey the teachings of Jesus (pbuh)? And similarly, what good is a Muslim who simply says he is Muslim by birth, but does not submit daily to God, observing and obeying the truths of the Qur’an and all God’s prophets?

Among early Christians the issue of faith and works was fiercely debated. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (Injil / Epistle of James 2:15-17).

And we have this promise from God in the holy Qur’an, “Those who believed and did good works, We shall blot out their transgressions and shall reward them according to the best of that which they used to do” (Qur’an / Al Ankabut 29:7).

It is absolutely true that genuine faith will be evidenced by the good works we are commanded to do. God desires obedience from each of us. Ours must be a pure faith planted miraculously in the hearts of men, women and children by the very God of Abraham (pbuh), transforming those who believe into servants of God and providing hope and direction for all mankind.

Islam’s English history and interfaith outreach

The British Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), one of the oldest Christian denominations in England, has developed strong ties with Muslims in a number of communities. Most recently, Quakers and Muslims have realized a working union on several levels–a powerful force for reconciliation and peace. These positive dimensions, they say, stem from “the love of God and of neighbor, and are at the heart of both Muslim and Christian faiths.”  Quakers are working to develop peaceful understanding both locally, nationally and internationally with their Muslim brothers and sisters.

Islam is not new to England. Its positive influence on British society began in the 19th century.

Please take a few minutes to watch the following BBC documentary about the history of Islam in England. Here you will hear the little-known story of three British leaders–William Quilliam, Baron Headley and Marmaduke Pickthall–who embraced Islam at a time when to be a Muslim was to be seen as a traitor to the Church of England and to the Crown.

This superb BBC program looks at the amazing achievements (good works!) of these three men and how their legacy lives on today.

November 29, 2016 Posted by | Interfaith, Islam, Refugees, Religious architecture, Religious Reconciliation, Travel, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

World Conference of Friends Meeting in East Africa

Sam with conference plenary speaker Nancy Irving, general secretary of the Friends World Committee on Consultation (FWCC).

Largest international Quaker gathering since 1967

I’m currently attending the World Conference of Friends (Quakers) at Kabarak University near Naguru, Kenya. One thousand Friends have gathered on the campus. They have come from many parts of Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, Latin America and North America.

This is the largest worldwide conference of Friends since 1967!  The theme is “Being Salt and Light – Friends Living the Kingdom of God in a Broken World.”

A biblical text was selected as a guide for the conference speakers: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16 / The Message / a paraphrase).

Follow the conference!

You can follow the conference by clicking here!  This website is being updated in as close to real-time as possible with full coverage of the event, including the texts of speeches, videos, photos, blog posts, etc. Bookmark this page now, and check back regularly for updates. You can also follow the conference on Facebook and YouTube.

An appeal for world peace and eco-justice

We tried hard to get everybody together for a conference photo. Here are most of the international attendees and delegates.  Click on the photo to enlarge!

“The Kabarak Call for Peace and Ecojustice” was approved on 24 April 2012 at the Sixth World Conference Friends, held at Kabarak University near Nakuru, Kenya. It is the culmination of the FWCC World Consultation on Global Change which was held in 2010 and 2011. It is being circulated with the Conference Epistle.In past times God’s Creation restored itself. Now humanity dominates nature and we must become careful stewards of all life. Earthcare unites the traditional Quaker testimonies: peace, equality, simplicity, love, integrity, and justice. Jesus said “As you have done unto the least… you have done unto me”. We are called to work for the peaceable Kingdom of God on the whole earth, in right sharing with all peoples. However, few our numbers, we are called to be the salt that flavours and preserves, to be a light in the darkness of greed and destruction.

We have heard of the disappearing snows of Kilimanjaro and glaciers of Bolivia, from which come the life-giving waters. We have heard appeals from peoples of the Arctic, Asia and Pacific. We have heard of forests cut down, seasons disrupted, wildlife dying; of land hunger in Africa; of new diseases, droughts, floods, fires, famine and desperate migrations – this climatic chaos is now worsening. There are wars and rumors of war, job loss, inequality and violence. We fear our neighbors. We waste our children’s heritage. All of these are driven by our dominant economic systems – by greed not need, by worship of the market, by Mammon and Caesar. Is this how Jesus showed us to live?

We are called to let our lights shine

• We are called to see what love can do: to aid the widow and orphan, to appeal to consciences and bind the wounds.

• We are called to teach our children right relationship, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to live in harmony with each other and all living beings in the earth, waters and sky of our Creator, who asks, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the world?” (Job 38.4).

• We are called to do justice to all, to repair the damage, and to walk humbly with our God, to cooperate lovingly with all who share our hopes for the future of the earth.

• We are called to be patterns and examples, in a 21st century campaign for peace and ecojustice, just as difficult and decisive as the 19th century abolition of slavery.

Therefore, we dedicate ourselves to let the living waters flow through us — where we live, regionally, and in wider world fellowship. We dedicate ourselves to the peace that “passeth all understanding,” to the repair of the world, opening our lives and hearts to the Light to guide us in each small step.

A spirit of renewal and divine awakening

I’m spiritually blessed and encouraged to be with so many people who are committed to following Jesus in service projects to men, women and children throughout the world.  Our message of peace and reconciliation in this borken world is sorely needed. Here we are singing and rejoicing about God’s love, mercy and grace. Here we are revived to continue our work.

Here’s some upbeat conference singing in Swahili by our Kenyan brothers and sisters. They will put a smile on your face and bring gladness to your heart:

 

April 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment