‘The Infidel Within’

Muslims in Britain Since 1800

September 2018 9781849049474 456pp


Muslims constitute Britain’s second largest religious grouping, and writing about their experiences has found a new audience in recent years—though not always through a positive lens. But a proper historical treatment of their arrival, settlement and establishment had been conspicuously absent until Humayun Ansari’s seminal work, reissued here in an updated edition.

‘The Infidel Within’ draws together rich archival research and first-hand experience into a broad, integrated history of the Muslim presence in Britain. Among the topics addressed are migration and settlement in Britain before 1945, the evolution of a British Muslim identity, Muslim women and families, Muslims and education, and the growing mobilisation of Muslims in Britain’s political, religious and economic life.

This definitive and sympathetic history, brought right up to date, is a must-read for anyone seeking to understand modern Britain.


‘Striking diversity is the most distinctive feature of the Muslim community in Britain. Yet, as Ansari argues in this history of Islam in Britain, British Muslims have consistently been portrayed as denizens of a monolithic and undifferentiated world, ill at ease with modernity, secularism and democracy. Through painstaking research, and an inspired exploration of the issues of identity, Ansari sets out to dispel this absurd, but widely held, myth.’ –– The Independent

‘Ansari’s The Infidel Within remains compulsory reading for anyone wanting to understand British Muslims in all their glorious diversity. Packed with evidence, statistics and polling this new edition brings the fast-evolving story of British Muslims up to date. An engaging account that is as relevant for its historical context as it is for its commentary on contemporary challenges.’ — Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, author of The Enemy Within: A Tale of Muslim Britain

‘Essential reading. Humayun Ansari’s is a sober and civilising voice that brings much-needed clarity and rigour to the fraught debate over the British “Muslim question”.’ — James Fergusson, author of Al-Britannia, My Country: A Journey Through Muslim Britain

‘[Humayun Ansari does] an excellent job of providing a historical and country-wide account which is not only descriptive but analytical. It is fluently written and easily accessible to a wide range of readers and has the potential of becoming the initial reference text for people starting research in the area as well as a required text for university courses.’ — Jorgen S. Nielsen, Professor of Islamic Studies, University of Birmingham

‘Impressive … Ansari’s view is panoramic, revealing the Muslim population to be multifaceted, made up of people of different ethnic backgrounds, settled in different locations, and belonging to both Sunni and non-Sunni traditions. … A bold attempt to describe the Muslim population of Britain in its entirety.’ — Patricia Sellick, Journal of Islamic Studies

‘This fascinating book is probably the best available account of Islam and Muslims in Britain … indispensable reading for anyone interested in the subject.’ — Yoginder Sikand, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society

‘A crucial and significant intervention, exploring the long and multiple histories of Britain’s Muslims and their complex engagements with state and society. … “The Infidel Within” creates a rich and complex picture of a community in process, charting a journey between arrival and settlement, hostility and the struggles for recognition, the demand for integration and the desire for distinction, and the continuance and transformation of anti-Muslim sentiment.’ — Claire Alexander, International Journal of Middle East Studies


Humayun Ansari is Professor of the History of Islam and Culture at Royal Holloway, University of London. He has conducted extensive research into the history of Muslims in Britain, ethnic studies and race relations, the employment and career opportunities of ethnic minorities, and racial discrimination and disadvantage in society. In 2002 Dr Ansari was awarded the OBE for his work in race relations.

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