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Islam Attracts Top Britons in a Growing Trend




Islam Attracts Top Britons in a Growing Trend


Over 14,000 Britons have embraced Islam, according to the UK's Sunday Times. Citing the first authoritative study of the phenomenon, the paper said that they had done so because of disillusionment with Western values.

Some of Britain's top landowners, celebrities and the offspring of senior Establishment figures have embraced Islam.


The trend is being encouraged by Muslim leaders who are convinced that the conversion of prominent figures will help protect a community stigmatized by terrorism and fundamentalism.


Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Imams and Mosques Council, said: "The community has been unfairly targeted and these developments encourage it in a time of difficulty."


Meanwhile, the Muslim Council of Britain has co-opted Joe Ahmed− Dobson, son of Frank Dobson, the former Labor health secretary, to chair its regeneration committee.


The study by Yahya (formerly Jonathan) Birt, son of Lord Birt, former

director general of the BBC, provides the first reliable data on the

sensitive subject of the movement of Christians into Islam. He uses a

breakdown of the latest census figures to conclude that there are now

14,200 white converts in Britain.


Speaking publicly for the first time about his faith, Birt, whose

doctorate at Oxford University is on young British Muslims, argued that

an inspirational figure, similar to the American convert Malcolm X for

Afro−Caribbeans, would first have to emerge if the next stage, a mass

conversion among white Britons, were to happen.


"You need great transitional figures to translate something alien (like

Islam) into the vernacular," he said. "The image of Islam projected by

political Islamic movements is not very attractive."


Initially, Birt said, he had no coherent reasons for converting, but: "In

the longer term, I think it was the overall profundity, balance, coherence

and spirituality of the Muslim way of life which convinced me."


The faith has made inroads into the Establishment. It emerged this weekend

that the great-granddaughter of a British prime minister has converted.

Emma Clark, whose ancestor, the Liberal Prime Minister Herbert Asquith,

took Britain into the First World War, said: "We're all the rage; I hope

it's not a passing fashion."


Clark, who helped design an Islamic garden for the Prince of Wales at

Highgrove, his Gloucestershire home, is now helping create a similar

garden for a mosque in Woking, Surrey, on the site of a car park.


Many converts have been inspired by the writings of Charles Le Gai Eaton,

a former Foreign Office diplomat. Eaton, author of 'Islam and the Destiny

of Man,' said: "I have received letters from people who are put off by the

wishy-washy standards of contemporary Christianity and they are looking

for a religion which does not compromise too much with the modern world."


Others have come to Islam through love or marriage. Kristiane Backer, a

former friend of the cricketer Imran Khan, said she was introduced to the

religion by him. She had shrunk from speaking publicly about Islam before

because of fears it might affect her work prospects.


Some prominent converts are even more wary. The Earl of Yarborough,

40, who owns a 28,000−acre estate in Lincolnshire, declined to discuss

anything about his faith. "I have nothing to say to you," said Yarborough,

who has apparently taken the name Abdul Mateen.


Muslim leaders are harnessing modern campaigning methods to promote

their faith. Groups have sprung up on the Internet publishing "trophy lists"

of white converts. The state funded school in London established by

Yusuf Islam, formerly the singer Cat Stevens, has turned to Premiership

footballers to provide role models. Sources close to the school say

converts including Nicolas Anelka, the Manchester City striker, and

Omer "Freddie" Kanoute, of Tottenham Hotspur, have made visits.


Fresh evidence came this weekend that Islam has received formal

acceptance at the heart of the Establishment. The Queen has approved

arrangements to allow Muslim staff at Buckingham Palace time off to

attend Friday prayers at a mosque: a member of staff in the finance

department is the first to take advantage of it.


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