Steven Emerson, the Executive Director of the Investigative Project on Terrorism, recently made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when he said live on Fox news, “There are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim, where non-Muslims just simply don’t go in. And parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and actually wound seriously, anyone who doesn’t dress according to religious Muslim attire.”
[Check out the video above and see at seven to eight seconds how the female interviewer opens her mouth and rocks back on her chair. Is that a look of horror where she thinks oh no, please no, what on earth are you saying on live television?]
My immediate gut responses were outrage, then sadness. I was outraged because the statements are pure fabrication and I was sad because they promote a negative and scary view of the world. The first point can be disproved outright. The population of Birmingham (according to the 2011 census) is 21.85% Muslim and I as a non-Muslim, have never had problems in Birmingham or felt that I should not go there. This statement also made me sad because even if the ‘total Muslim’ statement was true, it made it seem that an area full of Muslims is a bad thing. As for the second statement, I have absolutely no idea where it comes from. It seems as if it has been plucked from thin air.
This is not however, a bashing of either Steve or Fox. In fact, Steve came out and said publicly, “I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error.” Despite this, there has been a huge backlash across the internet, most notably on Twitter. #foxnewsfacts
— Pavilion Opinions (@pavilionopinion) January 11, 2015
The worst part of this story is how it shows that the media we consume can be so very wrong. Many years ago, I turned off the news and refused to watch it because it is all bad. It makes us afraid of other people, of other places. It makes it seem that if we go anywhere outside our own country, people will do bad things to us. It makes a great big scary world. These are horrible lies.
I was terrified throughout my childhood because of fear mongering and people who told me about the world being a dangerous place. Then one day, I broke: I quit my job, left my home, and started hitchhiking. It was the best thing I have ever done and I wish I did it sooner. A nomadic life of hitchhiking is not for everyone, but it was right for me at the time that I was doing it. After that, I cycled across Europe, built a raft, ate from bins, and slept many nights sleeping under the stars.
And do you know what I found? The world is awesome and people are too. So please, turn off the news, and make up your own mind about the state of the world from your own experiences. It is the best world I have ever been to.