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MCB urges participation in April Census
After an historic late night debate in June 2000,
Parliament accepted a legislative amendment to allow the next Census to include a question on
religion affiliation. This is the first time since 1851 that a religion question has been asked
in a census in England and Wales. It was the culmination of a long and intense lobbying campaign
first spearheaded by the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs (UKACIA) and then taken up by the
MCB, in cooperation with the other faith communities. Such a census statistic serves as a marker to
central and local government that religion is a living force in society and faith cannot be ignored
as a factor in the allocation of services and resources.
The campaign has not been without controversy within
the Muslim community, but on balance the majority view has perhaps been that a truer picture of Muslim
demographics would be of benefit. The MCB has held that the success of the campaign was a matter of
strategic significance for the Muslim community. The campaign had its dramatic moments, particularly
in May 2000 when it was realised that the amendment, if presented as a private members bill, would
have little chance of success. The MCB then launched a hectic last-minute lobbying effort for Government
to change its approach and ensure it made parliamentary time available. A direct appeal was made to the
Prime Minister on 24th May 2000. The MCB would also like to place on record the support of Lord Weatherill
in the Lords and MP Jonathan Sayeed in the Commons. Eleven MPs however voted against the amendment.
The MCB is disappointed that the religion question will be
presented as a voluntary rather than compulsory one, and it urges Muslims to participate in the
Census and complete the religion question on 29th April 2001. Muslims in Scotland, under the
leadership of Bashir Maan, have also successfully lobbied for the question in the Scotland census.
For further information please contact the MCB:
The Muslim Council of Britain
PO Box 52
Tel: 020 8903 9650
Fax: 020 8903 9026