Only socialite/media influenced Christian names are supposed to be a factor in the name bump to the top of the charts, when it comes to Mohamed, well, now it’s,
The Name that “Does Not Matter”
If we were confident about most of the people involved going overwhelmingly the proud to-be-British way, then we would discuss it. But we aren’t, so we don’t.
Last week the news arrived that the most popular name given to boys in the UK in 2014 was “Mohammed.” The reactions and non-reactions to this story betrayed the deep unease and denial that are now part of the debate around Islam in modern Britain.
We have of course been here before. For some years now, there have been stories of “Mohammed” creeping up the list of most popular names in the UK. And each time the reaction has been similar.
|The most popular name given to boys in the UK in 2014 was Mohammed. “So what?” Nothing to see here, please move on… (Image source: BBC video screenshot)|
Because despite the obvious concern and cultural disorientation of the gentleman in the BBC audience who asked the question, this is not a story to which the answer should be “So what?” The story does mean something. And our apparent national desire to shift the story does not change that fact. We do not evade knowledge in any other situation.
When “George,” for instance, heads back to the top of the list of baby names in the UK, endless commentary is given over in the newspapers to how the choice of name bestowed upon their firstborn by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge trickled down and influenced the baby name choices of other British parents. This was the situation when Prince William himself was Christened, when his brother was Christened and it is the same every year when this story comes around. The way in which people are named each year shows an ebb and flow of fashion and events. It reveals underlying trends of considerable interest to the British public. The one exception, it now seems — the one time when everyone seems to think we should say, “Nothing to see here, please move on” — is if the most popular boy’s name in the country is Mohammed.
I doubt if anybody in Britain actually believes that all these little Mohammeds are going to grow into Conservative cabinet ministers who are proud to be British, like Sajid Javid. If they did, then they would all be saying so proudly. But we have had a lot of Mohammeds go wrong in Britain in recent years. There have been bombers, and beheaders and fighters and more. And the name is not entirely connected, in the minds of any news-observant person, solely with peacefulness. We also know that at best, many of these Mohammeds will experience a considerable struggle over their religious and cultural identities. How many go which way is anybody’s guess. Nobody could possibly say. But my own feeling is that if we were confident about most of the people involved going overwhelmingly the proud-to-be-British way, then we would discuss it. But we aren’t, so we don’t.
Finally, of course, there is the matter of who they are named after. I tread — I am well aware — on tricky ground. But let us put it this way. Although “Mohammed” is a name that many cultural Muslims bestow on their firstborn son and sometimes more, it is also apparent that the role model is — how might one say this — not entirely to be emulated. People called “Jesus,” as some people in Latin American countries (awkwardly to some of our ears) are, have been named after someone who, even if you do not think he was the son of God, was certainly one of the nicest people of all time. But Mohammed seems to have been more of a mixed bag, was he not?