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Faith across the generations

14 February 2012

islam faith web

Muslims in England and Wales are practising their faith and passing it on to their children at much higher rates than any other religion, including Christianity, a new Cardiff study shows.

The study, published on-line in the journal Sociology, says that the proportion of adult Muslims actively practising the faith they were brought up in as children was 77%, compared with 29% of Christians and 65% of other religions.

The study also found that 98% of Muslim children surveyed said they had the religion their parents were brought up in, compared with 62% of Christians and 89% of other religions.

The team analysed data from the Home Office’s 2003 Citizenship Survey data, using 13,988 replies from adults and 1,278 from young people aged 11 to 15.

In the study the researchers, from the School of Social Sciences and Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, suggest reasons for the higher rate of transmission of religion. "There is more involvement of Muslim young people in religious organisations," they say. "It is well known that there is considerable supplementary education for Muslim children such as the formal learning of the Qur'an in Arabic.

"The apparently much higher rates of intergenerational transmission in Muslims and members of other non-Christian non-Muslim religions are certainly worthy of further exploration and may in fact pose a challenge to blanket judgements about the decline of British religion.

"These higher rates might suggest support for the theory that for minority ethnic populations, religion can be an important resource in bolstering a sense of cultural distinctiveness."

The research team was Professor Jonathan Scourfield, Dr Sophie Gilliat-Ray, Asma Khan, Dr Sameh Otri, Dr Graham Moore and Dr Chris Taylor. The paper is entitled 'Intergenerational transmission of Islam in England and Wales: evidence from the Citizenship Survey' and Sociology is published by the British Sociological Association.

Professor Scourfield added: "Muslim children tend to lead busy lives, often attending religious education classes outside school three or more times each week on top of any other commitments they have.

"They typically learn to read the Qur'an in Arabic. They also learn a great deal about their faith from parents and other family members. Religion can have an especially important role for minority communities in keeping together the bonds between families from the same ethnic background."

Related links

School of Social Sciences

Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK