British Muslims form the second largest faith group in the UK. The Office for National Statistics released figures estimating at least 3.4 million British Muslims, constituting 5.9% of the total population of England (ONS 2018; ONS 2020). Britain’s Muslims are younger in age compared with the national average. As such they contribute significantly to the labour market and have been vital during the pandemic as frontline staff.
Yet findings from previous research highlight higher levels of socioeconomic disadvantage and discrimination experienced by British Muslims compared with all other faith groups. During a time when the people of this country work together in order to protect each other, it is imperative that none of our communities are left behind. Comprehensive government statistics, such as those generated by the census, are essential for ensuring support and services reach the communities that need them. A report titled, Engaging British Muslims with the Census, published by the Heritage Rsearch & Policy Institute (HRPI) at the British Muslim Heritage Centre, shares the following observations and recommendations for collecting data on British Muslims, ahead of Census 2021:
• The importance of completing census forms to ensure necessary services are provided within our neighbourhoods has not been successfully conveyed. The report recommends targeted communication with ethnic minority communities on how the data generated by Census 2021 is crucial for national and local level planning and service delivery for all sections of our society.
• Some British Muslims reported disengaging with the census process due to a lack of trust towards the government and concerns about how their personal information is used.
• Given Census 2021 will overwhelmingly be conducted online for the first time in census history, it is recommended that the ONS and relevant census agencies engage with younger members of the Muslim community, rather than the traditional ‘head of household’. Younger family members are more likely to be internet literate and therefore better placed to complete the online form on behalf of their household.
• The British Somali community described feeling invisible, as reported by other Muslim communities such as British Kashmiris (Kalra et al. 2019) due to not having their own ethnic category in the census. This is despite the fact that in some areas, they actually form the largest Muslim group; therefore, capacity building channelled towards helping communities emerge from this apparent invisibility could result in greater engagement with the census and similar government exercises.
Census 2021 may be the last of its kind as the ONS proposes alternative methods for data collection in the future. As such, the census this year may become the benchmark for future population statistics and crucial for helping us to understand the needs of our communities, both now and for years to come.
You can see the full report by clicking the image on top of the page or HERE.
This post is also available in: Arabic