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The 2001 census suggests 21,000 but demographers believe the figure is considerably higher.

The publication of the document, which will receive a high-profile launch at Westminster Abbey today, is significant because those supporting it include imams from the more orthodox Islamic schools of thought and evangelical Christians.Among those who have signed up to the document include Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a prominent Leicester-based imam from the conservative Deobandi school, the Right Rev Paul Hendricks, associate bishop of Southwark Catholic Archdiocese, and Amra Bone, one of the only women in the country to sit in a Sharia court.Estimating the number of people in mixed-faith marriages is difficult.But the knowing ones, the Christians who seemed to have all the answers, told her, "You're young, there's plenty of time, and you need to learn patience." So she concentrated on her education without worrying too much about men.She graduated from college and found a good job, and then she started to look in earnest for the right man."It makes sense for pastors and imams to be ready for such situations rather than be left without help of guidelines when they get approached by couples seeking their advice."Those with experience of inter-faith marriages say couples often face a variety of difficulties.

In Islam, men are allowed to marry "people of the book", Christians and Jews.

We were not asked what drew us together, how we met, how we managed differences. We had discussed the option of one of us converting but decided this was not for us.

We were shocked by how divisive and underhanded some Muslim clerics were.

Among the recommendations are speaking out against forced conversions, recognising the legality of inter-faith marriages in British law, non-judgemental pastoral care and a complete rejection of any violence."It might sound a little like we are stating the obvious but it does need to be said," Sheikh Ibrahim told The Independent.

"In reality Christian and Muslim couples often face very challenging scenarios where there is not enough tolerance or the right pastoral care and that can lead to a very damaging and negative experience for them."The Leicester-based imam said clerics were motivated to come up with the guidelines because they were seeing increasing numbers of inter-faith marriages over the years."It's clearly already an issue and something that will become more and more common," he said.

Heather al-Yousef, a counsellor with Relate who married a Shia Muslim man, was one of those asked by the Christian Muslim Forum to give advice for the guidelines."There are, of course, a whole range of Muslims and Christians.