This evening I received a number of notifications on my Facebook page – somebody had tagged me in a link to a video. It was a clip taken from a recent Fox News broadcast, and when I watched it, I was horrified. I discovered that the reporter – terrorism ‘expert’ Steven Emerson – was informing everyone about Birmingham (UK), my beloved city, and the apparent fact that not only is it totally Muslim, but it is a ‘no go’ area for non-Muslims. To add insult to injury, he went on by stating that in parts of London, there are religious police that go around ‘beating and wounding’ people if they aren’t dressed in Muslim dress. This is clearly in response to the awful events of the last week in Paris – the anchor genuinely looks a little worried as headlines of ‘FRANCE URGES EXTREME VIGILACE’ and ‘TERROR IN PARIS’ fills the bottom of the screen and once again Fox News is attempting to incite racial hatred and using completely fabricated stories to justify it.
I moved to Birmingham in 2001 to do my degree at a respected music conservatoire. I was nervous, having only visited once before during my audition. It took about half a day to completely fall in love with the city, and it’s has been a love affair that has continued ever since. It’s a beautiful, vibrant and fast-paced place, with one of it’s greatest attributes being that it proudly hosts a hugely diverse and multi-cultural community. I have made friends from all over the world who have introduced me to their culture, their food, their music and their beliefs – I’ve been taught how to make Caribbean dishes, I’ve participated in Sikh weddings (which were the best ceremonies I have ever been to), I’ve been taught how to Bhangra dance, sang in Gospel choirs, celebrated Chinese New Year with Chinese friends and I now teach students that have interesting and varied ancestries… and I’m a better person for it.
Here are a few ‘facts’ that I would like to set straight for Fox News and their report.
1. Being a white girl with dark blonde hair and blue eyes, I am in the majority – in the 2011 census I was one of 621,636 people registered as ‘white,’ which is 58% of the population. 494,398 people were registered as Christian, which is 46%, and 234,411 people in the city were registered as Muslim. That’s just 21.85% of the population. Hardly ‘totally Muslim’ is it? It isn’t even a quarter.
2. While it does have areas in which different communities of people live, Birmingham does not have places that are considered to be ‘no go’ for anybody. Common sense tells me that wandering around alone late at night in any city is not the safest thing to do, but I have never been made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome in any place that I have visited or lived. In fact, when I have attended parties and events that have been hosted by people of a different race or religious background to my own, they have gone out of their way to make me feel accepted.
3. Birmingham was recently voted as one of the ten most exciting destinations to visit in 2015 by travel guidebook Rough Guide and welcomed 34 million tourists last year from all over the world. In 2012, Birmingham was named number 19 in the New York Times’ ’45 Places to Go’ – the only English city outside of London to be selected. Why? Because it’s a wonderful place to be and the diversity in culture makes it an entertaining and educational experience for all who visit.
4. London does not have Muslim police that beat others up for not wearing the correct Muslim dress. Do I really need to justify that ridiculous statement with any further explanation?
After understandably receiving an enormous backlash from thousands of people over his comments, Steven Emerson has recently issued an apology, along with a donation to Birmingham’s Children’s Hospital. I should think so too…
Perhaps it may have made a little more sense to actually do the research first rather than using a wonderful city to incite racial hatred towards valuable and welcome members of my community?
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Video Credit: Stephen Walmsley