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Over half of British Muslims have a South Asian heritage, but Middle-Eastern reform movements such as the Muslim Brotherhood play a significant role amongst British Muslims of Arab heritage, and by gaining new followers from other backgrounds. The Muslim Brotherhood I’ve already compared to Jamaat Islamiyyah, but arguably, the Brotherhood has been more successful. The founder, Hasan al-Banna, led a religious revival in pre-Second World War Egypt attracting young followers through preaching an Islam removed of elitism and sectarianism that had become prevalent in parts of Egyptian society at the time. Al-Banna stressed unity and egalitarianism, while increasingly viewing the military dictatorship of Egypt as a stumbling block to true religious and social reform, thus politicising the movement. The Muslim Brotherhood’s vision was always diverse and often far-reaching, and so the Brotherhood in Britain is largely represented through welfare organisations, youth groups and educational institutions.

Another politically orientated group is the Hizb ut-Tahrir. While the Jamaat Islamiyyah and the Muslim Brotherhood combine traditional expressions of Muslim piety with their political activism, the Hizb ut-Tahrir consider politics a primary religious duty, and in particular, the re-establishment of the Caliphate. They are the prototypical Islamists, and while having never been involved in violent extremism in Britain or elsewhere, their deeply antagonistic position towards every government often brings them under heavy political persecution at worst, and restriction at best. The Hizb ut-Tahrir are not numerous in Britain – the numbers are perhaps at most in the thousands – but their active political campaigning and incendiary message has raised their profile and influence.

The final, and significant, Sunni religious denomination to mention are the Salafis. Salafism traces its origins to Saudi Arabia, and to historic reformers such as Muhammad Abduh (died 1905) and Ibn Taymiyya (died 1328). Salafis differ from their co-religionists through the stress on recreating a pure Islam, free from any cultural influences or heresy. To achieve this, they place an emphasis on the religious scripture (the Quran and the hadith – the narrations of Prophet Muhammad) over the traditions of Islam (the schools of jurisprudence and other sciences). In a reform that has echoes of the Protestant schism, Salafis insist individuals must have a personal relationship with the Quran and the traditions of the Prophet, the Sunnah, to recapture of the pristine Islam practiced by the earliest Muslims – the Salaf (literally, the predecessors). The simplicity of the Salafi message and its stress on scripture resonate well with Western-educated and literate young Muslims, leading Salafism to be one of the fastest growing Islamic movements in Britain.

So in a sentence, the denominational diversity of British Islam can be described as Sunnis, Shias, Ibadis, and Ahmadiyyas; further divided to the Deobandis, the Tablighi Jamaat, the Barelwis, Fultoli Islam, the Jamaat Islamiyyah, the Ikhwaan, the Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Salafis, the Ithna Asharis, the Ismailis, and the Zaydis. It’s a big sentence, but naturally, such a sentence conceals more than it could ever reveal. Hidden behind each of these terms is history and diversity. Such labels also do much to conceal both the porous boundaries between them, and the kaleidoscopic way in which religious identities may amalgamate more than one of these groups.