Ben Leapman, London Telegraph, September 15, 2009
Telegraph.co.uk today reports that Mohammed has become the most common name for baby boys born in London and in three other English regions.
In the capital, the Islamic name–including its varient spellings–was twice as popular as the second-placed name, Daniel, in 2008.
For those who follow these things, this won’t come as a huge surprise. We know that the UK’s Muslim population is growing, both through immigration and through its higher birthrate. We know that there are particular concentrations in London, the West Midlands and the North of England. We know that Muslim families tend to choose one particular name for their baby boys–Mohammed–a way that other communities do not.
And last week it was reported that the name was now the third most popular in England as a whole. In fact, Mohammed probably rose to the number one slot in the capital some time ago. For several years, I have been trying to pin this down as a fact. But until now, it has proved impossible because for the past decade or so, the Office for National Statistics has not disclosed regional breakdowns of popular baby names, only national totals. My requests for the regional figures were met with the response that this would be impossible to provide, even under the Freedom of Information Act.
Now that the ONS has somehow managed to produce regional figures after all, we can see that Mohammed is number one in London, West Mids, North West and Yorkshire/Humberside. Yet you wouldn’t know it from a cursory glance at the ONS press release, issued on Sept 8, which states that Mohammed is “number three in London”.
That is because the ONS does not take varient spellings into account. Fair enough. But in this case, the number-crunchers were being literal to the point of being obtuse. Some will suspect that they were motivated by a well-meaning attempt to avoid interpeting their own findings in a way which would prove controversial. Some would call this political correctness.
Even before today’s revelation of the regional findings, Max Hastings accused the ONS of a “shabby effort to conceal” the fact that Mohammed is the third-most-popular name England-wide.
The fact that it has taken a week from the publication of the figures for the full story to emerge will surely reinforce this view in the mind of many people who are already sceptical of Government statistics.