The Internet Takes Down Fox News’ ‘Terrorism Expert’ for Saying Birmingham Is a No-go Area for Non-Muslims

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Fox News stand at Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport, 2006. Taken by Rae Whitlock. Licensed under Creative Commons.

The Twitter hashtag #FoxNewsFacts continues to poke fun at the American news channel Fox News after its “terrorism expert” Steve Emerson declared Birmingham a no-go area for “non-Muslims”, live on air.

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, Emerson told Fox News presenter Jeanine Pirro; “In Britain… there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in.”

Although the religious make-up of Birmingham is diverse, Muslims are not in the majority. The BBC reports: 46.1% of Birmingham residents say they are Christian, 21.8% Muslim and 19.3% had no religion.”

Pirro and Emerson were talking about no-go areas for non-Muslims or what they refer to as “caliphate(s)” within Western countries. This is not the first time Birmingham has been held up as an example of ‘Britain’s Islamization’. A Daily Mail article used the city to illustrate “the changing face of Britain” and the British Nationalist Party’s (BNP) website calls it an unravelling “multi-cultural experiment”.

However Brits on Twitter laughed off Emerson's comments. The hashtag #FoxNewsFacts has been used over 400,000 times (according to Topsy), mostly to poke fun at the channel's anti-Muslim inaccuracy.  

Scott Lucas, professor of American Studies at the University of Birmingham told the BBC that Emerson's comments might appeal to some in the US: “Some people want to hear it's us versus them, it's America versus the rest of the world, that it's white Americans versus – let's be honest – those who aren't white and those who profess a different faith.”

Fox News, which was created by Rupert Murdoch, has a reputation for its attitudes towards race. In the past, its presenters have compared an African-American lecturer at Columbia University to a coke dealer and articulated worry that those protesting over the death of Eric Garner may disrupt Christmas. 

Emerson has since apologized for his comments on Fox. He also said that bearing the brunt of public outrage was “like being water boarded, I guess”.  His comments come soon after December's report on the CIA, which said the American security services used water boarding, among other torture techniques, as part of their “advanced interrogation”. However, speaking on Radio 4's, Mr Emerson said: “I don't want people to use this to claim there's no such thing as radical Islam.”

Emerson also said he would donate £500 to Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

British Prime Minister, David Cameron told ITV News that Emerson is “clearly a complete idiot”. He went on to praise Birmingham as a “world class, brilliant city” which brings “people together of different faiths and different backgrounds”.  3,200 people have signed a petition calling for Emerson to apologize live on air. Maryam Snape, who started the petition, told the BBC: “The fact of the matter is the American people saw this story and they are still going to believe it is the truth until he puts it right.”

On his website, Emerson describes himself “as the Executive Director of The Investigative Project on Terrorism, one of the world's largest storehouses of archival data and intelligence on Islamic and Middle Eastern terrorist groups.”

He then quotes Robert Blitzer, former Counterterrorism Chief at the FBI, who praises him professionally: “Steve has been on the cutting edge of [investigating terrorism] for many, many years… he has provided an extremely valuable service.”

In the same news interview on Fox, Emerson also said, “In 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 he “absolutely” stood by comments about “vigilante Muslim groups” in the UK capital.


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