Myth busting: Selective stats and Muslim demographics

A recent Daily Mail article highlighted how a child in Birmingham is ‘more likely to be Muslim than Christian.’

The evidence comes from the most recent census, and hints at ‘fast changing’ demographics in England.

Bradford, Leicester, Newham (East London), Tower Hamlets (East London), Redbridge (North-East London), Slough, and Luton highlight a similar trend.

But we should avoid drawing wider conclusions as the data is selectively picked from local authority districts with the largest Muslim populations:

Tower Hamlets (35 per cent), Newham (32 per cent), Blackburn with Warden (27 per cent)*, Bradford (24.7 per cent), Luton (24.6 per cent), Redbridge (23.3 per cent), Slough (23.3 per cent), Waltham Forest (22 per cent), Birmingham (21.8 per cent), Brent (18.65 per cent)*, and Leicester (18.6 per cent).

*Excluded from the Daily Mail article

Blackburn with Warden and Brent buck the trend, as both areas registered more Christian children than Muslim. Yet, both areas are suspiciously absent from the Mail report.

Buried near the bottom of the article, is this glaring admission, “The figures show that Christianity is still the dominant religion in every local authority area in England and Wales, even in the most culturally diverse towns and cities.”

For example, in Bristol, there are three times as many Christian children (aged 0-17) than Muslims of the same age. Whilst in Leeds, there are nearly five times as many Christian children (aged 0-17) as Muslim.

In both cities, non-religious children (aged 0-4) outnumber Muslim children (aged 0-17) by a few thousand.

Yet, there are two major caveats to religious census data: the question is voluntary and it does not measure religiosity. Faith might be a product of their upbringing. Or a person simply self-identifies with one faith whilst not being a practising believer.

The taboo of apostasy should not prevent young British Muslims from changing or leaving their faith later in life. No individual (of any denomination) should face harassment or the threat of violence for doing the same.

In Birmingham alone, almost 20,000 children (aged 0-17) did not state their religion (or lack of belief). So we must draw caution when examining these figures in isolation.

Devoid of nuance, the original Mail piece became a viral hit and generated various angry reader comments:

“Should NEVER have been allowed to happen in a Christian Kingdom. Thanks Bliar.”

“Thank that nice Mr Blair who opened our borders to the world! Our hospitals, schools, housing and benefits cannot cope! But he and his Mrs have made millions!”

“That’s immigration left out of control for the last 40 years,”

The far-right picked up the disingenuous story with a bigoted gusto as many simply exercised their own confirmation bias. Changing demographics continue to inspire suspicion and a misguided fear of Islamisation. A conspiracy of ‘Muslim demographics’ remains just that.