Revealed: Islam officially Manchester’s fastest growing religion, expanding more than twice as fast as Christianity

Exclusive by Marios Papaloizou

Islam is officially Manchester’s fastest growing religion and is expanding at more than double the rate of Christianity, MM can reveal.

University of Manchester data analysed by MM revealed that Islam is out-growing every other religion in the city.

According to the data 12.5% of those identifying themselves as Muslim in the 2011 census were aged between 0-4.

This is more than double the 5.6% of Christians aged 0-4 and significantly larger those of no religion at 6.8%

Ludi Simpson, Professor of population studies at the University of Manchester, said that while the stats do indicate a much faster growth they only tell part of the story.

“Immigrants tend to be young adults and have children in the few years after they come to Britain, but don’t get old enough to die at the same rate for many decades,” he told MM.

“Of course it might also be that some adults are happy to say their children are brought up as religion X, and others are not.

“In Northern Ireland most children are catholic or protestant whether they like it or not!”

Dr Hassan Alkatib director Manchester Islamic Centre told MM that Muslim’s tend to bring up children within the religion which can differ from modern European ways of bringing up kids.

“Islam does not allow people to have sex outside marriage,” he said.

“So people get married into the religion and then their children are brought up in it.

“The size of Muslim families in general is double that of the European family and we have waves of Muslim immigrants coming to the UK.”

This explanation was echoed by Professor Simpson: “Maybe Christian parents consider religion as something their children will choose later, while Muslim parents consider their religion as an identity of origin, that their children have without choice,” he said.

According to Dr Alkatib the prospects available to immigrants in Manchester mean that the trend of rapid growth for Islam will continue.

“Islam has a positive message and I think there is a duty on Muslims to promote the message which helps the religion to grow,” he said.

“There are more job opportunities in Manchester just like in London which makes it an appealing place to go to.

“I think because of this the trend will continue.”

While Islam is rapidly growing the numbers of young Christians is, comparatively, rather small.

Reverend Jane Barraclough, minister of Cross Street Chapel, believes that this is due to the fast-pace of city life that has diminished the power of religion.

“Traditional ways of worshipping are not suited to modern life,” she said.

“We draw a lot of students and young post-graduates who are a mobile population; they don’t come to church every Sunday so it’s a different model.

“You can’t deny the reality, you have to deal with it and be imaginative and creative.”

However, while the growth of Islam is largely down to large-scale immigration, Reverend Andy Braunston of the Metropolitan Community Church of Manchester believes that the growth of Islam is accentuated by people of western backgrounds converting to the religion.

“Sometimes it is people who were raised Christian that convert and sometimes from people with no real religious background,” he said.

“This isn’t too surprising as there are many areas of agreement between the two faiths.

“Add to this the contemporary search for authentic spirituality which wants more than nominal religion and Islam provides that.

“Islam can affect how you dress, how you eat, how, and when you pray and gives a framework of certainty – for some – in a very uncertain world.”

Image courtesy of Ranoush, with thanks

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