Early insights from the 2021 Census for Muslims

Written by Mariam Akhtar
Published November 29, 2022

UK Muslim population grows by 1.2million in just 10 years as overall faith populations fall.

The Office for National Statistics today released faith data for England and Wales from its 2021 Census. The results are in line with predictions regarding the religion residents of England and Wales connect or identify with, with religious adherence showing a decline, but diversity of faith on the increase.

With the topic of faith and values increasing in relevance in Britain, due to a number of factors concerning shifting values and norms, the question, which is an optional element of the 2021 census questionnaire, saw 94% of the population respond, a 2% increase from the 2011 census. Of the 56 million that responded, 46.2% identified as Christian, a 13.1% decrease, marking the first time less than half the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian. In an almost symmetrically opposite trend, those that identified as having ‘no religion’ saw a 12% increase, making it the second most common response, and encompassing 22.2 million people.

As expected, the Muslim population saw an increase, with 3.9 million residents in England and Wales identifying as Muslim, a 44% increase from the 2.7 million Muslim population total from 2011. Muslims now represent 6.5% of the overall UK population.

Unsurprisingly, London remained the most religiously diverse region, while Christianity was still the most common response at 40.7%, over a quarter of Londoners identified with a religion other than Christianity. Islam was the second most common response for Londoners, with 15% of the capital’s residents identifying as Muslim, a total of 1.3 million.

Muslims also continue to hold the youngest age profile of all religions, with a third of the population who identify as Muslim being under the age of 16. These results demonstrate the capacity and potential of the Muslim community – particularly given the concentration of Muslims in major cities, and the implications this has for future workforce profile in the UK. 

Mirroring results of the 2011 census, Tower Hamlets remains the area with the highest percentage of  Muslims, with 39.9% of the borough identifying as such, up from 38.0% in 2011. Birmingham, now one of two ‘minority majority’ cities, also had one of the largest populations of Muslims, with over 341,000 Muslims residing in the city – making up 30% of the total Birmingham population.

Muslim Census took part in consulting the ONS during their analysis phases and will be releasing a holistic report regarding what these statistics mean for Muslims in the UK soon.

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