The Beginnings of Islam in Britain

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Believe it or not Islam has been in Britain for centuries and there are references to Islam in the (1386) Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales Prologue.

After the anti-Islamic crusades were over, Britain became friends with a few Islamic countries. Elizabeth I asked the Ottoman Sultan for assistance against the Spanish Armada.

The first recorded Englishman to become a Muslim was John Nelson. John Nelson converted to Islam during the 16th century. There was a document in 1641 that referred to “a sect of Mohamatens” that were found in London. Several years later a English version of the Quran became available, translated by Alexander Ross.

During the 18th and 19th Centuries there were further conversions to the Islamic faith amongst the upper English classes such as Edward Montagu the son of the Turkish embassador.

Muslims arrived in England as long as 300 years ago, these Muslims were sailors that were recruited to work for the East India Company, so it makes sense that the first Muslim communities were in British ports. Along with the sailors came the cooks, and records show that these cooks worked in resturants as early as 1873. The next wave of Muslims came when the Suez canal was opened in 1869. The increase in trade created a demand for more sailors and port workers. Many of the Muslims came from Yemen, as Aden was a refuelling stop for ships travelling between Britain and the Far East. Many of the sailors settled in Cities such as London, Hull and Liverpool. Yemenies constitute the longest established group of Muslims in Britain today and it is estimated that there are around 80,000 Yemenis living here.

The first ever mosque in Britian is recorded as having been at 2 Glyn Rhondda Street, Cardiff in 1860.

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