For many years, we have been hearing reports of insular Muslim communities in Europe, particularly in France and the UK, which became known as “no-go zones” because non-Muslims were not welcome there. Islamic clerics were given autonomous authority, and government agents were hesitant to assert themselves.
Following three significant recent events – the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Louisiana governor and possible GOP presidential candidate Bobby Jindal referring to no-go zones in a London speech, and Fox News reporting on the phenomenon – it suddenly became fashionable to insist that nothing of the sort has ever existed at all. French and British politicians plus Fox News critics have been lecturing that the whole thing is an urban legend that somehow fooled a great many people in Europe and America for years.
Actually, it’s commonly implied that the no-go legend popped out of thin air just a few weeks ago, as if Jindal or Fox News’ guests made it up on the spot. In truth, these areas have been studied for years, and not exclusively by conservatives. Ezra Levant uncovered a video from eleven years ago – when, as he points out, the Muslim population in the Birmingham area of England was half as large as it is today – in which a filmmaker from Trinidad, interested in documenting race relations across the Western world, described a “tense atmosphere” in which “outsiders feel threatened” at the conclusion of the Ramadan holiday (segment begins at 15:18):
A great deal of visual and audio evidence of this tension is provided, with tasteful blurring of the most unwelcoming hand gestures. Clearly the police are on hand – quite a few of them, in fact – so at this point Birmingham’s Muslim district could not be accurately described as a place the police simply refuse to go. They do not, however, look happy to be there.
The tension was particularly acute between blacks and Muslims (or “Asians,” as they are commonly called in the UK.) The black people interviewed in the video speak of facing blocked roads, and being physically pushed out of the area by Muslims. How’s that for a “no-go zone?”
When the black filmmaker tried to sit down with some Pakistani Muslim immigrants to discuss tolerance, things went sour so quickly that he walked away from the meeting… only to be followed, harassed, and threatened with violence. His Muslim director had more success engaging the young men in conversation, which turned to talk about a global Islamic brotherhood uniting for a confrontation with everyone else. The sad conclusion was that Middle Eastern conflicts were spilling over into Muslim neighborhoods “are unleashing a torrent of vitriol on British streets.”
As Levant went on to document, this vitriol was not unleashed exclusively by hotheaded young men with too much time on their hands. The “Trojan Horse” effort to infuse sharia law into Birmingham public schools is mentioned, along with the troubling problem mainstream media and political authorities don’t want to discuss: certain Muslim-dominated areas of Europe have become quite literal “no-go zones” for specific classes of people, even if they’re not labelled on the map as such, or marked with warning signs. A Pakistani-born bishop is quoted criticizing British multi-culturalism for turning “already separate communities into no-go areas” six years ago.
When the pushback against such warnings devolves to hair-splitting about the precise words used to describe insular areas, or whether they’re officially recognized as such in government documents, we are taking leave of reality to engage in rhetorical and ideological combat. There is clearly basis in reality for talking about “no-go zones.” That does not relieve commentators of the burden of describing them accurately. Likewise, their critics are not relieved of the burden of proving that nothing of the kind exists anywhere in Europe.