16th June 2000
The MCB welcomes the Government’s change of strategy for progressing the Census Amendment Bill through Parliament. The decision to now allow time on Tuesday 20 June within its own legislative programme increases the possibility that the Census Act will be amended in time to allow the proposed religion question to be included in 2001 Census in England and Wales.
Muslims, along with other faith communities, had been critical of leaving the religious identity question to the fragile device of a Private Members Bill. The Bill has been postponed on three previous occasions and looked set to be defeated on a technicality. Backbench objections to legislation without discussion would have ruled the question out for another ten years.
For Muslims the question is not about numbers. The MCB along with other faith communities has argued consistently that it is the only way to make a diverse community that is not defined by race or ethnicity but only by common faith visible. More than an acknowledgement of existence, the religious question will pave the way for proper provision of public services in areas such as education, health, housing and employment. It will enable proper allocation of resources and monitoring of discrimination.
The MCB Secretary General Yousuf Bhailok said “The eleventh hour it may be, but this is the right decision. It’s a clear recognition that the faith identity of its citizens is important, and that must be understood in all its aspects. We urge all MPs to give their fullest support. “
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