The Sun’s coverage of the most popular boys’ name in England and Wales recycles an unhelpful tabloid myth about the popularity of the name Muhammad.
This myth endures because it privileges all the variations of Muhammad, but not others.
For example, the Sun’s coverage ignores the fact that Harry is a diminutive of Henry, combining these variations gives us a total of 8,811, making their original claim redundant, as all variations of Muhammad fall below that figure, totalling 7,992, according to the Sun’s analysis.
Olivier only falls narrowly behind Muhammad if we include other variations (Olly and Ollie), bringing the total to 7,840, hardly a ‘whopping’ difference.
Muhammad has entered the top 10 most popular boys’ names, but it’s not the most popular.
Analysis from the Official of National Statistics (ONS) did find that Muhammad is the most popular name in London and the West Midlands, as Harry and Oliver were the most popular boys’ names in other parts of the country.
Nick Stripe, Head of Life Events at the Office for National Statistics, offered a list of predictions for the most popular boys’ names in 2026, in a blog for the Huff Post UK, and Muhammad did not make his list. This prediction perhaps reflects how inflated the issue has become in some sections of society.
Nor does the article consider the historical significance of the name Muhammad in England and Wales. Data confirms that the name Mohammed has ebbed and flowed in popularity between 1924 and 1994, appearing in successive top 100 lists for boys’ names.
In 2016, the ONS visualised this trend in a helpful graph, including a discussion about changing religious demographics since 2001.
As Dr Seán McLoughlin pointed out to the Guardian about this very topic, in December 2014, that Muslims in India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan consider it an esteemed blessing to bestow boys with the name of the prophet, as it serves symbolically as a first name, unlike in the Christian tradition.
Dr McLoughlin added that the number of variations in the name Muhammad owes to the transliterations in various Muslim communities.