British Arabs

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British Arabs
عرب بريطانيا
Total population
United Kingdom United Kingdom: 249,911
England England: 230,556
Wales Wales: 9,989
Scotland Scotland: 9,366
(2011 census)
Regions with significant populations
London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Glasgow, Cardiff, Newcastle upon Tyne, Leicester, Nottingham, York
Arabic, British English
Islam (Sunni, Shia)
Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic)
Related ethnic groups
other Arabs

British Arabs (Arabic: عرب بريطانيا) are citizens or residents of the United Kingdom that are of Arab ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritage or identity from different Arab countries. Arabs also come from non-Arab countries as ethnic minorities. The majority of British Arabs reside in the British capital of London, and have come largely from the Arab countries of Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gulf States.[1]


"British Arabs" is used as an ethnic designation by the National Association of British Arabs.[2] It is also employed by academics,[3] and in the media.[4]

Unlike Black British or Asian British, the term "British Arab" was not one of those employed in government ethnicity categorisations used in the 2001 UK Census and for national statistics.[5] As a result, community members are believed to have been under-counted in previous population estimates according to the National Association of British Arabs (NABA). This absence of a separate "Arab" category in the UK census obliged many to select other ethnicity categories.[6] In the late 2000s, the British government announced that an "Arab" ethnicity category would be added to the 2011 UK Census for the first time.[7] The decision came following lobbying by the National Association of British Arabs and other Arab organizations, who argued for the inclusion of a separate "Arab" entry to accommodate under-reported groups from the Arab world.[8]

Including both write-in and tick-box responses, 230,556 Arabs were recorded in the 2011 Census in England, 9,989 in Wales,[9] and 9,366 in Scotland.[10] In NABA's own report on the 2011 Census, it adds up answers from the write-in responses that it classifies as Arab, namely "Arab", "African Arab", "White and Arab", "Moroccan", "Algerian", “Egyptian”, "North African", "Other Middle East", or "White and North African", arguing that this gives a total of 366,769 Arabs in England and Wales but noting that there may be double-counting of individuals in this total, since it is uncertain how many of these individual write-in responses are also included in the general "Arab" category.[11]

Most British Arabs live in the Greater London area, and many are either businesspeople, recent immigrants or students.[6] There are also sizable and long-established Yemeni Arab communities living in both Cardiff and the South Shields area near Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

A diverse community, British Arabs are represented in the business and media fields, among other areas. Miladi's 2006 survey of 146 community members during the summer of 2001 reported Al-Jazeera as being the respondents' preferred news outlet. Reasons supplied for the selection included the quality of the station's programs and transmission, its discussion of current issues in the Arab world, and the possibility of giving voice to the community's concerns and positions on various matters.[12]

Additionally, 2010 was a breakthrough year in terms of political participation. Several British Arabs ran for and/or were appointed to office as community representatives.[13][14]


Britain and Arab states have been collaborating with each other in business since the medieval times.[1] Yemenis began to migrate to Britain since the 1860s via Aden, the main refuelling stop in the area, and settled around the docks in the port cities of Cardiff, Liverpool, South Shields, Hull, and London. At the end of the 19th century, Yemenis working as stokers on steamships began moving ashore and set up boarding schools in the dock area. There are now an estimated 70,000 to 80,000 Yemenis in Britain.[15][1] Iraqis also began settling in London in the 1930s. Arab migration to the United Kingdom significantly began in the 1940s and 1960s when Egyptians and Moroccans came in search of employment, and this generally increased as the Arab world wrestled for independence from European colonialism.[1] Palestinians exodus of 1948 and 1967 saw an influx and through the 70s and 80s. More Arabs arrived from the Gulf in the 1970s during the oil-boom era to set up businesses. Arab refugees also arrived as a result of conflicts in parts of the Arab world, such as the Lebanese civil war from 1975 to 1990 or the instability which followed the invasion of Iraq in 2003.[1]


According to the 2011 Census, the religious breakdown of Arabs in England and Wales, and Scotland can be seen in the table below.[16][17]

Percentages of Arab population (2011)

Religion England and Wales[16] Scotland[17]
Star and Crescent.svg Islam 77.27% 80.13%
Gold Christian Cross no Red.svg Christianity 9.54% 6.61%
Om.svg Hinduism 0.46% 0.09%
Star of David.svg Judaism 0.25% 0.05%
Khanda.svg Sikhism 0.22% 0.13%
Dharma Wheel.svg Buddhism 0.17% 0.15%
Not Stated 6.54% 4.84%
No religion 5.18% 7.67%
Other religions 0.37% 0.34%
Total 100%

Notable British Arabs[edit]

  • Jim Al-Khalili (OBE), (British Iraqi) Professor of Theoretical Physics, author, broadcaster and presenter of science programmes on BBC radio and television.[18]
Amal Clooney, UK Mission to the UN.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e BBC. "Arabic London". Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  2. ^ "The National Association of British Arabs". The National Association of British Arabs. Archived from the original on 9 February 2008. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  3. ^ Nagel, Caroline (2001). "Hidden minorities and the politics of 'race': The case of British Arab activists in London". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 27 (3): 381–400. doi:10.1080/136918301200266130.
  4. ^ Akbar, Arifa (10 January 2004). "Kilroy was here... BBC suspends daytime host". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on June 16, 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  5. ^ "Population size: 7.9% from a minority ethnic group". Office for National Statistics. 13 February 2003. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 7 June 2009.
  6. ^ a b Jalili, I.K. "Study for consideration of inclusion of 'Arab' as an ethnic group on ethnicity profile forms" (PDF). National Association of British Arabs. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  7. ^ "2011 Census Questions Published". BBC News. 21 October 2009. Retrieved 27 April 2010.
  8. ^ "Arab Population in the UK - Study for consideration of inclusion of 'Arab' as an ethnic group on future census returns". Archived from the original on 9 January 2013. Retrieved 30 December 2012.
  9. ^ "Table CT0010EW 2011 Census: Ethnic group (write-in responses), local authorities in England and Wales". Office for National Statistics. 30 January 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  10. ^ "Ethnic group (detailed): All people" (PDF). National Records of Scotland. Retrieved 8 March 2020.
  11. ^ "REPORT ON THE 2011 CENSUS – MAY 2013 – Arabs and Arab League Population in the UK". National Association of British Arabs. Archived from the original on May 29, 2014. Retrieved 25 April 2014.
  12. ^ Miladi, Noureddine (August 2006). "Satellite TV News and the Arab Diaspora in Britain: Comparing Al-Jazeera, the BBC and CNN". Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies. 32 (6): 947–960. doi:10.1080/13691830600761552.
  13. ^ Tarbush, Susannah (26 April 2010). "Arab engagement in the British general and local elections". Al-Hayat. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  14. ^ Tarbush, Susannah (17 June 2010). "Mixed results in the British general and local elections for candidates of Middle Eastern origin". Al-Hayat. Retrieved 30 November 2012.
  15. ^ "BBC - Religions - Islam: History of Islam in the UK". Retrieved 2022-06-13.
  16. ^ a b "DC2201EW - Ethnic group and religion" (Spreadsheet). ONS. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 14 January 2016. Size: 21Kb.
  17. ^ a b "Table DC2201SC - Ethnic group by religion". Scotland's Census 2011 (Spreadsheet). National Records of Scotland.
  18. ^ Professor Jim Al-Khalili OBE [1], Profile, University of Surrey.
  19. ^ Nonie Niesewand (March 2015). "Through the Glass Ceiling". Architectural Digest. Retrieved 22 December 2018.

External links[edit]