LONDON — It is true that England’s second city is home to the nation’s finest collection of curry houses but, much to the surprise of a misguided “terrorism expert” on Fox News, that does not make it some kind of Islamist ghetto. Hit the town any night of the week and you’ll find aromatic restaurants packed with diners from every race and religion enjoying Britain’s national dish: chicken tikka masala.
Obviously, that pleasure has yet to be experienced by Steve Emerson, who considers himself “one of the leading authorities on Islamic extremist networks.” During an interview on Fox News on Sunday, he claimed Christians, Jews, and Hindus were too terrified to enter the city. “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 said.
That would come as quite a surprise to Birmingham natives, known as Brummies, like John Oliver, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Ozzy Osborne. In fact, more than 65 per cent of the city’s million-strong population describe themselves as Christian or non-religious.
Emerson thinks Birmingham is one of the European cities “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.”
There are quite a lot of Muslims in Birmingham, about one in five of the population practices Islam, but it’s hard to say what proportion of a city would have to be Muslim for Emerson to consider it too scary to visit. Great swaths of London, must also be crossed off his vacation wish list because he seems to think an Islamic militia is operating a shadow policing system within the city.
“Parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim, religious Muslim attire,” he said.
Actually, there aren’t.
To the Fox News presenter Jeanine Pirro, who apparently believed what this man was saying, it seemed terrifying. “You know what it sounds like to me, Steve? It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country,” she said.
The world’s oldest parliamentary democracy does not, in fact, harbor any caliphates. In Pirro’s defense, Emerson should have known a lot better. He has written six books on terrorism and claims to have testified before or briefed Congress on dozens of occasions.
When asked to explain his confusion by Raf Sanchez, from British newspaper The Telegraph, Emerson’s apology was fulsome to the point of hysteria. “I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing an apology and correction on my website immediately for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham,” he said.
“There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake.”
He also promised to make a donation to a local charity and take an ad out in a Birmingham newspaper to apologize to the city’s residents.
Emerson probably thought he had sparked some sort of outrage among the victims of his smear, but being British, most just thought it was hilarious: