Monday, 14 September 2009

Max and Mohammed

Last week, while this blog was taking a well-earned break, the Office of National Statistics released the list of the most popular baby names in 2008.

The coverage has been mentioned fairly comprehensively elsewhere, notably by Anton and Claude.

The Telegraph claimed in its headline that Jack had 'pipped' Mohammed to the top of the list, despite the fact Mohammed came in...err...16th.

But what they did was add up all babies with names which are variations of Mohammed (Mohammad, Muhammed and so on) to give the impression that England and Wales is being overrun with Muslim babies. Despite the fact, as Martin Belam as pointed out, Judaea-Christian names are totally dominant on the list.

The Telegraph neglected to mention that there doesn't appear to be any outwardly Muslim-sounding names in the top 100 girls list.

But it does get a juicy quote from Douglas Murray, the Director of the never-not-complaining-about-Islam-think-tank the Centre for Social Cohesion, who howls:

'It’s pretty disingenuous to put out these different spellings. The names are pretty much spelled in the same way.'

It's a theme that Max Hastings took up in his nasty rant in the Mail.

But why is it deemed beyond criticism that the girl's list contains Isabel, Isobel and Isabelle, but separating Mohammed and its variants is 'shabby' and 'disingenuous'?

You could make a similar case for the (separate) appearances of Joe and Joseph, Ben and Benjamin, Samuel and Sam, Zak and Zachary, Reece and Rhys.

But they don't.

In fact, there are perfectly sound (and rather obvious) cultural reasons for the fact Mohammed is so high. As Alex Massie wrote in the Spectator:

Muslims are much more likely to name their sons Mohammed than Christians are to call their son any single name. That is, there's much greater variance amongst non-Muslim families. In other words, unless you're wanting to stoke panic and resentment what kids are called is not a terribly useful metric.

Quite so. But stoking panic is the order of the day. Here's a quick look at the available figures. Based on the three top 100 entries (that is Mohammed, Muhammad and Mohammad) there were 6,591 babies given those names in England and Wales in 2008. That represents 1.81% of the total (362,963) of boys born that year.

Even of you include all the other variants mentioned by the Telegraph, it only comes to 2.09%.

In 2007, those top three totalled 6,245 out of 354,488 - 1.76%.

In 1997 it was 3,635 - 1.12%.

So the number of boys being given the names Mohammed, Muhammad and Mohammad - the three most popular versions - has increased by 0.69% in ten years.

This is what the BNP refer to as 'Islamic Colonisation via the Cradle'. And here's what Hastings says:

The ONS's hit parade of children's names, as released for publication, seemed designed to mask a simple truth which dismays millions of people, and which politicians and bureaucracies go to great lengths to bury: the Muslim population of Britain is growing extraordinarily fast.

Obviously there are other factors that increase the 'Muslim population of Britain' - such as immigration - but an increase of babies called Mohammed of less than one percent over ten years doesn't appear to warrant the claim of 'growing extraordinarily fast'.

But Hastings talk of masking truths is apt given his very next paragraph:

In 2007, 28 per cent of children born in England and Wales, rising to 54 per cent in London, had at least one foreign-born parent. In 2008, 14.4 per cent of primary school children claimed some other tongue than English as their first language.

See what he did there? Talking about Muslims one sentence and then slipping into overall immigration figures the next and hoping Mail readers think the two are the same thing. And he has the cheek to accuse the ONS of being 'deceitful'.

He goes on to repeat claims of a Muslim takeover of Europe, suggesting it is respectable American neocon (no, those words shouldn't go together) pundits, rather than the BNP, who believe:

Europe, and Britain in particular, is threatened by a Muslim tide which will not merely transform its traditional culture but, frankly, bury it.

In a series of recent books, they argue that Islam is colonising this continent in a fashion that will render it unrecognisable a generation or two hence.

It's a crass and unpleasant bit of rhetoric and could easily have come from the BNP. And indeed has. In a recent story about Europe being 'overrun by Islam' they wrote:

The controlled media has finally admitted what the British National Party has been saying all along: that all of Europe stands on the brink of being overrun and colonised by masses of Third World Muslim invaders...

The BNP has been the only party to warn about the coming demographic tidal wave which, if left unchecked, will extinguish all of Europe and bring an end to thousands of years of Western civilisation.

Spot the difference? So the BNP is taking comfort from the 'controlled media' peddling myths that supports its racist views. Well done Max. Again.

In fact, that BNP article was based on an earlier Telegraph piece which was discussed on this blog before and which doesn't really stand up to any close scrutiny. And Max draws the same incorrect conclusions.

He goes on to claim:

Today, the adolescent children of immigrants tell pollsters that they feel much less integrated into British society than many of their parents profess.

It's hard to know where is evidence is for this, because the latest academic research done on integration showed:

Watching soaps, reading tabloids and turned off by politics – the children of International Migrants in Britain show a high degree of cultural assimilation compared to their European Neighbours.

Alas, most of the media ignored the findings, for obvious reasons, so no wonder Max (conveniently) missed that one.

But Max warms to the theme, suggesting unless they read Jane Austen or listen to The Archers they aren't integrating. As less than 5 million people a week listen to The Archers, that seems a hard test - and one that anyone with no tolerance for utterly tedious radio programmes would probably fail.

But it's also a very particular test. Because The Archers is so crushingly Middle Class, Middle England, white it reveals what Hastings is really on about: They aren't like you, the Mail reader, and me, the Mail columnist:

Parts of this country - its middle-class islands - are still wonderful places to inhabit. They are still definably old Britain.

Others, above all the inner cities, seem lost to civilisation. Everyone outside them, and especially our politicians, have abandoned them to unemployed families, feral children, unchecked crime and huge immigrant communities which may live in this country, but are tragically not of it.

Got it? If you aren't in Middle Britain, you aren't British. If you are in Middle Britain, you won't find a single criminal or out-of-control kid or unemployed person. And most importantly, no bloody foreigners.

He doesn't exactly hide his real thoughts either:

in Birmingham or Leicester...Muslims are soon expected to outnumber whites.

Is Hastings really peddling some imaginary battle between Muslims and whites here?

But he surely misses another point. If he thinks there is a problem with Muslims integrating into British society, maybe he should consider the impact of daily, misleading scare stories from tabloid newspapers and their ill-informed columnists about how evil and threating Muslims are. The type of articles that give succour to racist groups such as the BNP and the English Defence League and which put a 'respectable' face to their intolerant views.

In other news, Mail columnist Melanie Phillips has found her latest book added to the BNP's 'recommended reading' list.


  1. As someone from Leicester, I can tell you, that terrifying fact is that whites will probably, at some point in the vague future, cease to be the majority ethnic group. Hitler Hastings seems to be assuming that there are only two ethnicities in my beautiful city, white and Muslim.

    Incidentally, isn't it a bit odd, comparing a race and a religion? Like white converts to Islam and their children (like I went to school with). Are they a point for each side or does no-one get anything? (This is important as it counts against Sikhs). Or does being a Muslim disqualify you from that all-important official White status? Or, maybe, has he spent so long internalising BNP dog-whistles that he assumes 'Muslim' actually does mean 'darky'.

  2. Life through the eyes of limited, suburban, middle-class white 'victims' of a cultural 'invasion'... It's obvious why they're so afraid of the 'bloody foreigners' since they've all convinced themselves (with the help of the Mail) that the cities are totally crime ridden and its all the immigrants' fault. And single mothers on benefits, but they wouldn't be there if we didn't have immigrants.

    You know how children/animals get threatened by anything that isn't their own kind and proceed by victimising/attacking them? Yeah, that would be this, right here. Good work, Littlejohn, you turn bullying/primal instincts into lousy journalism.


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