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Muslims pass on faith to children at higher rates than Christians

Date: 14/02/2012

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 study co-funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) shows.

The research, just published on-line by 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, by academics from Cardiff University, 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.

The study was co-funded by the AHRC and the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of their Religion and Society Research programme. Led by researchers from Cardiff's School of Social Sciences and Centre for the Study of Islam in the UK, their work suggests 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 Quran 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 titled 'Intergenerational transmission of Islam in England and Wales: evidence from the Citizenship Survey' and Sociology is published by the British Sociological Association.

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AHRC Media Contact: Jake Gilmore
Email: j.gilmore@ahrc.ac.uk
Tel: 01793 41 6021


The researchers studied the answers of 13,988 to the 2003 Home Office Citizenship Survey (HOCS) to the questions:

  1. Thinking of your childhood, were you raised according to any particular religion?
  2. Which religion was that?
  3. Do you actively practice any religion now?
  4. Which religion is that?

These answers allowed the researchers to relate the religious practices of adults (broken down by religion, location, education and social class) to their upbringing in a faith or by atheists. The researchers had responses from people with various religions including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, and Sikhs. For their study, they created four categories: Muslim, Christian, Other, No religion.

The researchers also examined the responses of 1,278 young people to an accompanying 2003 survey, the Young People's Survey, carried out at the same time as the HOCS, in which they answered the questions:

  1. Do you have a religion?
  2. Which religion is that?

These answers were then linked to the response their parents gave in the HOCS to enable researchers to relate the religion of the young people with the religious upbringing of their parents.

The Cardiff research project is entitled 'Religious nurture in Muslim families'. It is part of the Religion and Society strategic research programme, which is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council.

For information on the project´┐Żand about the Religion and Society Programme.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC): Each year the AHRC provides approximately £100 million from the Government to support research and postgraduate study in the arts and humanities, from languages and law, archaeology and English literature to design and creative and performing arts. In any one year, the AHRC makes approximately 700 research awards and around 1,100 postgraduate awards. Awards are made after a rigorous peer review process, to ensure that only applications of the highest quality are funded. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK. www.ahrc.ac.uk

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest organisation for funding research on economic and social issues. We support independent, high quality research which has an impact on business, the public sector and the third sector. At any one time, we support over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and independent research institutes.

The Religion and Society Research Programme is a collaborative venture between the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council. Together, these UK government funded research councils have contributed £12m to fund research of the highest quality on the interrelationships between religion and society. The Programme started in January 2007 and finishes December 2012. It has funded over 70 original projects across the arts, humanities and social sciences in three phases, with Phase 2 focused on Youth and Religion. Four types of projects (large grants; small grants; collaborative studentships; networks and workshops) have been funded. These awards are held across UK universities. Research is historical as well as contemporary in focus and many projects are investigating international contexts.

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