Why doesn’t the Office of National Statistics want us to know that Mohammed is the most popular boys' name in England and Wales? Yesterday, it put out its annual survey of the top 10 baby’s names. In 2014, it reported, the most popular boys’ names were Oliver, Jack and Harry. This contrasts somewhat with a similar survey by the website BabyCentre last December which claimed that the most popular boys' name was now Mohammed.
When that survey was reported in the Daily Mail it was jumped upon by various left-wing ‘fact-checker’ websites who denounced the survey as an abuse of statistics. Not only were the figures based only on respondents to a single website – which is true – but they had been arrived at by the ‘dubious’ means of adding together various spellings of Mohammed, while ignoring different spellings of other names. Though the Mail reported the survey purely as a matter of interest – as did the Guardian, in fact – the accusation was clear: the tabloids were yet again trying to stir up fears of Britain being over-run by muslims.
Yet when you look beyond the ONS press release – which makes no mention of the name Mohammud other than revealing that that variant of spelling is the most popular name in London – you get a different story. Examine the spreadsheet on the ONS website, and the raw figures reinforce the BabyCentre survey: Mohammed really is the single most popular name. The totals it gives are Muhammad 3588, Mohammed 2536, Mohammad 1116, a total of 7240. There were, by contrast, 6649 Olivers, 5804 Jacks and 5379 Harrys. You can get to 7555 if you add the Olivers to the 906 Ollies. But then Oliver and Ollie are not really the same name. The latter is a shortened, bastardised version of the former. Muhammad/Mohammed/Mohammad, on the other hand, are different transliterations of the same name, and are pronounced the same. There is no other name where different spellings come close to challenging it.
Ten years ago, the ONS was quite happy to announce in its press release that Mohammed – then apparently the preferred spelling -- had entered the top 20 most popular baby’s names. But now it seems it has become shy of informing us that it is now the single most popular boys' name in England and Wales.
Having lots of baby Mohammuds/Mohammeds/Mohammads running around doesn’t turn us into an Islamic country, of course, because Islamic names are easily outnumbered by Christian ones overall. But if our national statistical agency is going to publish a list of popular names I don’t see why it shouldn’t let us know the true picture, which is after all surely of as much interest to multiculturalists as it is to Islamophobes.