This is what happened when Fox News called an English city “totally Muslim”

Published January 12th, 2015 - 08:27 GMT

A terrorism pundit has made a grovelling apology to the people of Birmingham after he claimed their city was 'totally Muslim' and 'non-Muslims just simply don't go in'.

Steve Emerson made the bizarre comments on Fox News, also claiming there were religious police squads roaming the streets of London who 'seriously wound' people in non-Muslim dress.

It sparked bafflement on Twitter under the hashtag #FoxNewsFacts, with users suggesting his theory was about as likely as Brummie TV presenter Adrian Chiles being a radical cleric.

In reality, 22 percent of Brummies are Muslim, according to the 2011 census, fewer than half of the 46 percent who regard themselves as Christian.

Birmingham is the area with the ninth-highest Muslim population in Britain, beaten by five London boroughs alongside Slough, Luton, Bradford and Blackburn.

Mr Emerson has now apologised to Birmingham's 1.1million people, insisting the city is 'beautiful' and pledging a donation to the Birmingham Children's Hospital.

But he stopped short of offering any sort of apology directly to the city's 234,000 Muslims, who he appeared to lump into the same category as extremists in his rant.

The 'expert' has run a group called The Investigative Project on Terrorism for 20 years and written books with tiles such as Jihad Incorporated and The Terrorists Living Among Us.

Critics have accused him of inaccuracies and encouraging Islamophobia, yet he is still called upon regularly by news networks and congressional committees in the US.

His blunder came in a wide-ranging Fox News interview about how to react to the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris.

'In Britain, it's not just no-go zones,' he claimed. 'There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in.'

As the interviewer's eyes widened in surprise, he added: 'And 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.'

Mr Emerson initially seemed happy with the factual accuracy of his performance, posting the entire interview on his website. 

But once told of his fairly significant error, he apologised.

'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.

'I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful.

'I intend to make a donation to a Birmingham charity called the Birmingham Children’s Hospital.'

Thousands of Twitter users were suggesting alternative 'Fox News facts' - with a similar level of factual accuracy - within hours of the gaffe.

One suggested Cardiff had dispensed with cars and was now known as Diff, while another said all the walls in Cornwall were made from corn. 

Because Birmingham was 'totally Muslim' it would have to remove 'ham' from its name, suggested other users.

Factual accuracy aside, many defended the city against what they took to be a crude Islamophobic attack.

Birmingham City Council Labour member Waseem Zaffar ‏wrote: 'Birmingham is a diverse city with people from 187 countries making it home since 2007'.

And school deputy head teacher wrote: 'I live in a multicultural city. I work in a multicultural school. I feel at home. I love it. Birmingham is vibrant because it is diverse.'

Mathew Hulbert, a Liberal Democrat councillor in Barwell, Leicestershire, added: 'Birmingham is a beautiful, industrious city at the heart of our nation. Fox News really are beyond a joke!'.

By Dan Bloom

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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