Here's a fact, Fox News: I love Birmingham because of its multiculturalism — not in spite of it

You can find every race and colour on Earth in the city, and I wouldn't change a thing

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The Independent Online

Steve Emerson, a terrorism "expert", declared the British city of Birmingham as 100 per cent Muslim on Fox News this weekend. Unfortunately, given Fox News' usual output, which so often veers on the Islamophobic side, it wasn't surprising.

However, Birmingham received Emerson's bizarre analysis with trademark grace and humour. Following a collective facepalm that could be heard as far north as Sheffield, the city helped spearhead #FoxNewsFacts on Twitter. It was soon trending throughout the UK, and brought a delicious splash of humour to an otherwise frighteningly absurd situation.

Emerson has since apologised, but the ignorance of his original comments really struck a chord with me. I love Birmingham. I choose to live here because it's multicultural, and not in spite of that. Out of the city's 1.1m population, 234,000 say they are of Muslim faith, double that say they are Christian, 206,821 say they are of no religion and the remainder is a mix of Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, Jedis and any sort of religion you can think of. We all live and work side-by-side, dine and learn shoulder-to-shoulder, and we're incredibly proud to do so.

The figures prove Fox's “expert” wrong — but just how wrong was he? It's hard to find the words. Emerson's claim that non-Muslim's don't visit our city comes just weeks after news that a total of 34m visitors came to the city last year, a record 32 per cent increase. What's more, the most came from China and, you guessed it, the USA.

That news landed after the Office Of National Statistics released figures to show that ambitious thirtysomethings are leaving London in droves with Birmingham being the most attractive city. Not visiting? Hell, people of all walks of life are coming here to live, Steve.

 

You've probably heard about the Trojan Horse scandal. But you won't have heard about the thousands of Birmingham schools that have been remarkably good at the integration of new migrants, and the excellent schooling of generations of Muslims alongside generations of Christians.

You'll know we invented the balti, but it's far less likely that you've wandered down Ladypool Road on a Friday night. If you ever did, you'd walk through the visible haze of meaty smoke that billows out of the Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi restaurants, and see them all heaving with every race and colour the city has to offer.

Which is basically every race and colour on Earth. You will have heard about influential extremists operating in our city but you won't have seen the scores upon scores of school kids queueing up to look around the Birmingham Central Mosque as part of their religious studies classes, where I myself remember being welcomed at the age of 12, with Bombay Mix and warm handshakes.

Make no mistake, we're not a city without problems, but it would be nice if Fox let us focus on those issues rather than adding to our concerns with complete tosh. Surely that's not too much to ask?

Tom Cullen runs ichoosebirmingham.com a free e-magazine about the best things to do in Birmingham

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