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Let’s Be Counted - The 2011 Census
It has been ten years since the UK Government last conducted a survey of the whole UK population. This exercise is known as the Census. The term itself comes from Latin word cēnsēre, to assess, used by the Romans of 500 BC. However the Romans were not the first nation to do this kind of exercise, in fact records of census go as back to 4000BC.
In the modern times the census provides important information to understand the social and economic composition of society. It tells us, for example, how many young persons there are within certain age group, so that schools and colleges can be built in the right places. It also provides information on family size, health, employment and use of transport.
It is Interesting to note that for the first time in the modern British history the 2001 UK Census included the question of `what is your religion?’ The information collected also helped to provide an accurate and official statistics on the number of Muslims in UK.
In general past governments have been reluctant to include questions related to religious affiliation. This reluctance has worked against Muslims, first by denying official recognition of Islam as a religion and secondly by playing down the numbers, undermining the Muslims community of being considered an important numeric component of the UK society.
The Muslim community had to work very hard to ensure the Census included the religion question - it needed years of campaigning, lobbying and working together with other faith communities in the UK.
According to the 2001 census, 1.54 million Muslims lived in England and Wales, where they form 3.3% of the population.
Since 2001 there have been many attempts to estimate the current Muslim population of Britain. In 2010, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life published a figure estimating the Muslims of Britain at 2,869,000, which is equivalent to 4.6% of the population. This makes the Muslim population of the UK the third largest Muslim community on the continent, after Germany (4,119,000) and France (3,574,000).
Providing Muslim do not shy away from the census and are willing to be counted by 2011 we should have more accurate figure of the size of the Muslim community.
However being counted in the 2011 census is not just about the numbers. When data is elaborated after March 2011 we will be able to understand if there has been any improvement in the condition of the Muslims in this country since 2001.
2001 Census showed that two-thirds of the British Muslims are ethnically Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi, but one-third comes from diverse European, African, North African, Middle Eastern and other Asian sources. The 2001 census has also shown clear sign of underachievement in the Muslim community. Muslim population is young and rapidly growing; its socio-economic profile is depressed, marked by the exceptionally low participation rate of women in the official labour market, and by high concentration in areas of multiple deprivations.
We hope that the 2011 census will show a marked improvement in the condition of the Muslim community that would give a boost of self-confidence and pride in the knowledge that it can be looked up by other communities and the rest of the society.
By Anousheh Mireskandari
From “Living Islam” no.65 March 2011 (Newsletter of the Islamic Centre of England)