Mohammed Challenges for Top British Baby Name

In Britain the classic boys' names like Jack and Oliver are being challenged in popularity by the non-traditional British baby name of Mohammed.

Taking into account the differing spellings of Mohammed or Muhammed, the name of the Islamic prophet would be in the top five of the country's most popular baby names for boys in 2009.

Some British publications, however, have determined that Mohammed has risen to be the No. 1 favorite name and are indignant that Jack, the king of British boys names for the last 14 years, has been dethroned.

"It's obvious how it's an area of great interest," said Office of National Statistics media relations officer Richard Miles, which released the data Wednesday. Miles said he'd fielded calls on Mohammed all day.

The surge in the number of British boys named Mohammed stems from a growing Muslim community in Britain that the 2001 census put at 2.8 percent of the population, and a rise in Islamic pride.

"It's a popular name because he is the prime prophet of the Muslim community," said Khalid Anis, a spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain. "Muslims are becoming more aware of their own faith. Part of the reaction to this is being proud of who you are, and part of that might be the increase in the name Mohammed."

Keziah Mookram-Gray, a Catholic resident of London who's six months pregnant with her second child, said she could understand why a Muslim mother would name her son Mohammed.

"Ultimately you want your kid to be popular," said Mookram-Gray.

She spent months going back and forth with her husband to find the perfect name for her first born. "In this competitive world, if you give them a good popular name it will give them a little head start," she said, indicating why one would pick a popular name.

London resident Fernanda Palone is pregnant for the first time and spent about three months choosing the name of her upcoming baby. She works at a pregnancy center and hears all sorts of baby names, including ones she finds strange like Apple. Naming a baby, she said, can bring a lot of pressure.

Mohammed Among Top British Baby Names

"It's really difficult. It might be very popular now, but then in two or three years it could be weird," she said. Her and her husband selected Noah for their child. "He's going to have to carry his name his whole life so it is a very big decision for us."

Palone said choosing a popular name was important to her, but she couldn't understand all the Mohammeds.

"It is a bit surprising, especially here in England," she said. "It's something I wouldn't consider."

The other top boys names in Britain were Oliver, Jack, Harry and Alfie. The most popular names for girls were Olivia, Ruby and Chloe.

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