Concealing truth? Vienna govt glosses over popularity of ‘Mohammad’ among top baby names – media

Concealing truth? Vienna govt glosses over popularity of ‘Mohammad’ among top baby names – media
Authorities in Vienna deliberately cover up the fact that Mohammad has been in the top five most popular baby names in the city since at least 2014, Austria’s major newspaper claims. The city council denies it and accuses the media of a frame-up.

The official list of the top ten most popular names for newborn boys published by the Vienna City Council on its website does not mention the name ‘Mohammad.’ Instead, it suggests that the most popular names given to babies in the Austrian capital include options such as David, Maximillian, Alexander or Paul.

However, a popular Austrian daily, the Kronen Zeitung, recently challenged this narrative. A piece written by Richard Schnitt, the editor-in-chief of the daily’s online version Krone.at, says, that in fact, the name often given after the Muslim prophet has been the fifth most popular one for newborn boys in the city since at least 2014.

The Kronen Zeitung also said the number of babies named ‘Mohammad’ in Vienna has been constantly growing over recent years. It referenced figures from 2010, when only 99 boys were given the name, while in 2016, parents gave the name Mohammed to as many as 124 children. In its report, the daily cited government data not been presented to the media, but obtained by the newspaper. 

Vienna authorities were quick to deny the paper’s allegations. On Saturday, November 10, Klemens Himpele, the Head of the city council’s Department for Economy, Employment and Statistics, called the report “absurd” and said there is actually nothing “scandalous” about the facts presented in the piece written by Schmitt. 

Himplete explained in a Facebook post that the city council relies in its statistical reports on an approach, under which various spellings of phonetically identical names are considered different ones. In other words, such names as “Thomas/Tomas, Hannah/Hanna, Anna/Ana, Klaudia/Claudia, Julia/Iulia, Alexander/Aleksandar” are all listed as separate in such reports, he said, implying that the same goes for ‘Mohammad.’

He added that the daily apparently relied on an approach used by the federal statistics office, under which all various spellings of a name are regarded as one and the same. The difference in approaches explains the difference in rankings, he said, adding, that he considers the method used by the city council to be more accurate, as his parents “deliberately named him Klemens and not Clemens.”

“The Krone [the Kronen Zeitung] accuses the city [authorities] of concealing something. It absurd in this regard,” Himpele wrote. He added that the media outlet focuses primarily on “emotions” and not facts.

The daily did mention that the list it cites considered all various spellings of the name ‘Mohammad’ as one and the same. It also cited the Vienna mayor’s spokesman, who confirmed that both lists mentioned in the article are “correct.”

The source of the data published by the Kronen Zeitung is in fact the governmental open data portal data.gv.at co-owned by the Austrian Chancellor’s Office and the Vienna City Council, even though the paper does not mention this. A report published on this website and called “The ranking of 100 most commonly given names in Vienna by sex” indeed shows that Mohammad has been the fifth most popular name given to the newborn boys in the city since 2014 with more than 120 boys having been named this way since 2013. It is apparently this report that the Kronen Zeitung took a screenshot from.

Interestingly, it is the Vienna City Council’s Department for Economy, Employment and Statistics – and not the Federal Statistics Office – that is mentioned as the “responsible information source” in the description of the document. The report, however, clearly uses the approach, under which all various spellings of a name are considered to be one and the same.

Austria is not the first European country to see a Muslim name topping the list of most popular names given to newborn babies. In 2014, it was reported that ‘Mohammad’ became the most popular name for baby boys in the entire UK.

The name surged from its 27th place in 2013 to number one, beating Oliver, Jack, and Noah, according to the UK branch of the US-based media company, the BabyCenter, which provides information on pregnancy, birth and early childhood development for parents in 11 countries. Before reaching number one on a national level, the name also topped the list of most popular names for boys in London.