The introduction of a madrassa curriculum at a secular state school in Birmingham and talk of Christian pupils at risk of 'cultural isolation' seem to have come as a revelation to non-Muslim Britain. They should not have. Islam in Britain is dominated by a very specific, and rather illiberal, version of the faith — one that, if anything, seems to be becoming more conservative over time.
As the Muslim population became more established, one might have assumed that a westernised form of Islam would have come to dominate Britain's mosques. According to a database of British Islam, however, only two out of 1,700 mosques in Britain follow modernist interpretations of the Koran. It's not the same elsewhere in the West. In a 2011 survey of Islam in the United States, 56 per cent of mosques described themselves as following an interpretation of Islam adapted to modern circumstances. This has not happened in Britain.
For the past seven years I have spent my spare time travelling around the UK, talking to Islamic leaders and grass-roots followers, trying to find out more about the structure of Islam in Britain. In the main, I have been treated with courtesy — and often with warmth.