Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent

Inside British Islam

June 2014 9781849043014 288pp
EU Customers


Muslim intellectuals may try to define something called British Islam, but the truth is that as the Muslim community of Britain has grown in size and religiosity, so too has the opportunity to found and run mosques which divide along ethnic and sectarian lines.

Just as most churches in Britain are affiliated to one of the main Christian denominations, the vast majority of Britain’s 1600 mosques are linked to wider sectarian networks: the Deobandi and Tablighi Jamaat movements with their origins in colonial India; the Salafi groups inspired by an austere form of Islam widely practiced in Saudi Arabia; the Islamist movements with links to religious political parties in the Middle East and South Asia; the Sufi movements that tend to emphasise spirituality rather than religious and political militancy; and the diverse Shi’ite sects which range from the orthodox disciples of Grand Ayatollah Sistani in Iraq to the Ismaili followers of the pragmatic and modernising Aga Khan. These affiliations are usually not apparent to outsiders, but inside Britain’s Muslim communities sectarian divides are often fiercely guarded by religious leaders.

This book, of which no equivalent volume yet exists, is a definitive guide to the ideological differences, organisational structures and international links of the main Islamic groups active in Britain today.


‘An admirable and clear-headed study that corrects ugly attitudes to Islam in the West. I urge every commentator and politician who wants to open his or her mouth about British Islam to read this work. This well-written book is a desperately needed antidote to the hare-brained commentary from politicians and writers who ought to know much better.’ — Peter Oborne, The Telegraph

‘The essential guide to Muslim Britain.’ — Robert Fox, The Evening Standard

‘Innes Bowen provides a readable anatomy of the British Muslim scene, with all its intricate subdivisions. The spirit is neither hostile to nor defensive of Islam; it offers a nuanced picture reflecting diligent investigation.’ — The Economist

‘Bowen lays out for the first time in terms accessible to a lay audience something of the inner structures and dynamics of Islam in Britain … You can’t understand today’s Britain without reading this.’ — Andrew Brown, ‘Heroes of 2014: Innes Bowen’, The Guardian 

‘A compelling study … Bowen has a thorough but lively style, filling her work with probing interviews, useful statistics and colourful tales about the historical origins of each sect. She shows that there is little point trying to discern which grouping brings most risk of violent extremism, since notorious individuals have emerged from different factions.’ — The Times

‘A sober and meticulous survey of Muslim thought and practice in Britain … thanks to the work of people like Innes Bowen we no longer have any excuse for ignorance.’ — David Goodhart, Prospect

‘This is a work as accessible to the casual reader as it will be to policy makers and academics … For intra-Muslim understanding the work is a masterpiece of nuance and counteracts the absolutist mentality that has clouded any attempt at understanding others who share the same basic doctrines.’ — Huffington Post

‘After a decade of fear-mongering, here comes a book that cuts through the hysteria. In this short and very readable volume, Bowen shows the complexity and nuances of Islam in Britain. This is a must-read for all people who want to understand the changing nature of Britain and its Muslim communities.’ — Marc Sageman, author of Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-First Century

‘This book by Innes Bowen aims to fill an important and often overlooked gap in current knowledge. Entering into uncharted territory, navigating to find new approaches to understanding, this book is an important and necessary contribution.’ — Ethnic and Racial Studies

‘Innes Bowen provides what is by far the most comprehensive, in-depth overview of Muslim organisations and their ideas in Britain. Anyone interested in understanding the history and contemporary situation of British Muslims must read this book.’ — John R. Bowen, Dunbar-Van Cleve Professor in Arts & Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis

‘Innes Bowen’s book dissects the ideological intricacies of British Islam with the insight of a seasoned investigative reporter and the scholarly analysis of a top-notch academic. One can only hope that policymakers (not only in Britain) will learn from this book how to better engage with Muslim communities.’ — Lorenzo Vidino, Center for Security Studies, ETH Zurich, and author of The New Muslim Brotherhood in the West


Innes Bowen is a BBC radio journalist who has produced programmes such as ‘Analysis’, 'Woman's Hour' and 'More or Less'.

Request an academic inspection copy Request a press review copy
Inspection Copy Request
Review Copy Request
Join our mailing list

Subscribers receive exclusive discounts and early access to new books from Hurst.