SHAFAQNA- 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.
In England’s second city of Birmingham, of 278,623 youngsters, 97,099 were registered as Muslim compared with 93,828 as Christian. The rest were of other faiths such as Hindu or Jewish, or none.
A similar trend has emerged in the cities of Bradford and Leicester, the towns of Luton, in Bedfordshire, and Slough in Berkshire, as well as the London boroughs Newham, Redbridge and Tower Hamlets, where nearly two-thirds of children are Islamic.
Last night experts said more must be done to ensure that society does not become polarised along religious lines.
Professor Ted Cantle, of the ICoCo Foundation, which promotes community cohesion, said: ‘What we are seeing are several trends running together. There is a long-term decline in support for the established religions, notably Christianity; continuing immigration from the Asian sub-continent; and higher fertility among the Muslim population, which has a considerably lower age profile.
‘There is also 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.
‘This is the real problem, as residential segregation is generally compounded by school and social segregation.
‘Nothing surprises me about the pace of demographic change. What does surprise me is that the Government has no policy to combat segregation because it inevitably reduces understanding and tolerance on both sides of the divide.’
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.
Of the 45.5million participants, 27.9million subscribed to Christianity, compared with 1.8million Muslims, the second largest grouping.
However, among dependent children – defined as those aged up to 15, or between 16 and 18 and in education and still living at home – the gap is narrower.
Of 12.1million youngsters, 6.1million were Christian and 1million were Muslim. And in some places, the balance has now tipped towards Islam.
In Bradford, 52,135 children are Muslims (45 per cent) next to 47,144 Christians; in Leicester the figures are 22,693 and 18,190 respectively.
The widest gap is in Tower Hamlets where 62 per cent of children are Islamic, outnumbering Christians by 34,597 to 8,995.
Sughra Ahmed, president of the Islamic Society of Britain, said: ‘Britain’s Muslims make up just 5 per cent of the population but have a younger demographic profile than other faiths, as these figures show. It matters to us all that this next generation of young British Muslims develops a clear and confident sense of their British identity alongside their Muslim faith. It’s important that schools teach all of our children the values of respect and tolerance.
‘Britain is doing better at this than many of our neighbours. A major new study this week showed that most people think the children of immigrants are integrating well.
‘This is one of the most tolerant countries in the world. It will continue to be so, provided we all understand how that depends on respect for the beliefs of others too.’