SRtRC respond to misleading article about Muslims
By Gavin Sutherland: firstname.lastname@example.org
On May 29th, MailOnline published what they described as a “telling insight into religion in the United Kingdom today.” (You can read the piece here).
MailOnline produced its ‘telling insight’ by publishing three photographs. Two showed almost empty church services in East London churches designed to hold over 1000 people, one showed Muslims praying outside a mosque with a capacity of 100 people, in the same area.
The article suggests that "Christianity in this country is becoming a religion of the past, and Islam is one of the future".
Inviting it’s readership to “just look at these photographs. The story they tell is more revealing than any survey.”
Except it isn’t.
The article invites readers to disregard the 33.2 million people in England and Wales who self identify as Christians. Later it states that 4.8 per cent of the population, 2.7 million people are Muslims.
Muslims then, are outnumbered by Christians in England and Wales by 28.4 million people.
It is widely accepted that church attendance has been falling in the UK for many years. Yet, 33.2 million people self-identify as Christians.
What of the 2.7 million self identifying Muslims then? Are they all going to mosques regularly? Is there a proportion who only go for significant religious dates like those Christians who go to Church at Christmas and Easter, or for weddings and christenings?
A Channel 4 poll for Dispatches showed 48% of British Muslims said they never attended a mosque, with another 6% saying they only attended for special occasions.
Data from a recent European Social Survey showed the number of Muslim immigrants who attend mosques drops after they have lived in their new homeland for sometime. The ESS figures show that 60.5% of Muslims immigrants who have lived less than a year in Europe regularly go to the mosque. But after they've lived more than a year in their new homeland, the figure drops to 48.8%. More than half rarely or never go to the mosque to pray.
As UK society has become increasingly secular, regular attendance at churches and mosques has declined. But, in the case of both religions people still identify themselves as followers even if they do not attend services on a regular basis.
The MailOnline took a photograph of worshippers in an area where a lot of Muslims live and gather outside the “tiny mosque” to pray as it is not big enough.
Both of the churches photographed were built to accommodate over 1000 people. If the MailOnline had photographed a mosque of a similar size with 300-400 Muslims in it (the number photographed outside the mosque in East London), would they have published a piece saying 'mosque only one third full, Islam on the wane'?
The purpose of the piece is to invite fear in its readers. Why? Because Islamophobia sells newspapers. At the end of the article it even suggests that the churches could be taken over by Muslims. It concludes:
“unless they (the churches) can reinvigorate their congregations they may finally end up being deconsecrated.
When that happens, such large buildings will be attractive spaces for those who can fill them.
One day, in a few decades, St George’s may well again be packed with worshippers — but they will not be Christians.”
At no point in the article is this possibility suggested by anyone connected with either church. It’s not on the agenda. One church was built in the 1700’s, the other opened in 1849.
The article disregards facts, misrepresents an image and even begins “Set aside the fact that our Queen is the Defender of the Christian Faith. Ignore the 26 Church of England bishops who sit in the House of Lords.”
Say we didn’t ‘set aside’ these facts. It would appear Christianity is pretty safely entrenched in the powerful structures of both monarchy and government.
The MailOnline should retract this piece and apologise for contributing to a climate of fear.