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Did Emerson Mean Bradford When He Described Birmingham as a ‘Totally Muslim’ City?

A good deal of the controversy that resulted in the mayor of Paris trying to sue Fox News for “insulting” her city emanates from remarks made by Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, who was a guest on a Fox program, not the host.  Fox News is certainly responsible for whatever its employees say, and has apologized for errors they made during the “no-go zone” discussion, but responsibility for the commentary of guests is a different matter entirely.  The squalid state of affairs in Muslim-dominated districts of Europe remains a topic of heated debate.

Emerson specifically refers to the town of Birmingham: “In Britain, it’s not just no-go zones, there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in.”  He further described Birmingham as a place where “sharia courts were set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country almost, a country within a country.”

Critics quickly pointed out that Birmingham isn’t like that at all — its Muslim population isn’t large.  It’s possible Emerson was actually thinking of Bradford, where Muslims exercise cultural dominance and there have been controversies involving sharia law.

The intensity of a community’s density, to borrow Emerson’s phrase, is not determined by local ordinances, or what the government is willing to concede in press releases.  If people commonly fear to tread on certain ground, it becomes a “no-go zone” even if it lacks KEEP OUT signs emblazoned with with skulls and crossbones.  Such fears are not an invention of Steve Emerson or Fox News.  They have been discussed in the past by many other news organizations, including CNN — the network currently throwing a fit about Fox News daring to report on the phenomenon.

In one CNN segment, former CIA officer Gary Berntsen spoke of numerous “no-go zones in France where you have Islamic communities that have formed councils that are managing these areas,” and other areas in Sweden where “firefighters or ambulance drivers go in there and they’re attacked — their vehicles are lit on fire, their tires are slashed.”  Are we supposed to believe these are all baseless urban legends?

Bradford had the dubious honor of being chosen as the UK’s most dangerous city in a YouGov poll last September.  The Daily Mirror hastened to note that crime statistics didn’t support that impression – statistically, the most dangerous city in the UK is Glasgow — while judging that Bradford’s reputation was likely a result of “old-fashioned racial or religious unease.”

One of the factors contributing to that unease, specifically mentioned by the Daily Mirror as the subject of many Internet searches related to Bradford, was its splashy YouTubed declaration as a “no-Israel zone” by its left-wing parliamentary representative, George Galloway.  Hmm… you can see how certain people might begin getting the idea that Bradford is a “no-go zone” for them, can’t you?

A group calling itself Muslims Against the Crusades, noted for making a spectacle of itself with such activities as burning the revered poppies on Remembrance Day, openly called for exactly the sort of sharia-dominated “country within a country” Emerson referred to in 2011, naming Bradford as one of the places they wished such conditions to exist.

“We suggest it is time that areas with large Muslim populations declare an emirate delineating that Muslims trying to live within this area are trying to live by the sharia as much as possible with their own courts and community watch and schools and even self-sufficient trade,” their press release reads.

Last summer, the BBC published an investigative report on “Trojan Horse” claims that Islamic law and custom were being insinuated into Bradford schools. The network discovered Islamic practices such as workshops segregated by sex, boys-only school trips, and alterations to the curriculum.  There were allegations that a head teacher was forced out of her position in 2012 because she wasn’t on board with this agenda; Muslim administrators later complained they were unfairly terminated as part of a backlash against the program.  The measures were defended as important elements of cultural outreach to Muslim students, with an eye toward improving their academic performance.  Similar complaints were lodged against schools in Birmingham, which might be one of the reasons Emerson thought of that town.

Valid observations can be distorted with hyperbole. But this business of “no-go zones” in Europe didn’t come up recently, it didn’t come up without reason, and it wasn’t an invention of distant observers.

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