This article from yesterday’s Daily Mail is the latest in the newspaper’s long-running series of “Islamification of Britain” scare stories. It begins:
“There are more Muslim children than Christian growing up in Birmingham, figures show. The latest statistics, extracted from the 2011 Census, give an insight into the fast pace of demographic change across Britain. They pinpoint several parts of the country where traditional religious beliefs are being eclipsed for the first time.”
(Quite why Christianity alone should fall into the category of “traditional religious beliefs” is unclear, given that Islam along with Judaism and other minority faiths have a long historical tradition in the UK.)
We are then offered the following table to show how Christianity is being “eclipsed”:
The examples selectively chosen by the Mail to demonstrate the supposed eclipse of Christianity are of course all areas with untypically large Muslim communities.
The Daily Mirror has done some number crunching of its own and points out that there is in fact a grand total of 7 local authorities across England and Wales where there are more Muslim children than Christian, compared with 340 in which Christian children outnumber Muslims.
The Mirror also notes that there are 21 local authorities where children registered as having no religion outnumber those registered as Christian, although for some reason the Mail seems less concerned about the “eclipse” of Christianity by atheism.
The Mirror helpfully provides a bar chart to illustrate the situation at national level:
To obscure the statistically flimsy basis of its scaremongering, the Mail concludes its article by shifting the emphasis from numbers to the alleged threat of segregation, reporting that “experts said more must be done to ensure that society does not become polarised along religious lines”.
But the only expert it produces is Ted Cantle, who is quoted as saying that we face the problem of “deepening segregation exacerbated by the loss of white population from cities and more intensive concentration of black and minority ethnic groups as a result of replacement”. According to Cantle: “This is the real problem, as residential segregation is generally compounded by school and social segregation.”
Needless to say, the Mail ignores those specialists in population studies who have challenged Cantle’s arguments – notably Ludi Simpson, co-author with Nissa Finney of the book Sleepwalking to Segregation? Challenging Myths About Race and Migration, who has debunked claims of growing segregation, describing them as “bogus and alarmist”.
Which, come to think of it, also serves as an accurate characterisation of the Mail‘s Islamophobic reporting. This irresponsible journalism not only helps to create an atmosphere of general hostility towards the Muslim community but also provides a direct inspiration to the far right: