To mark the one month anniversary of the Westminster attacks, I reflect on some of the claims made about Birmingham not least that it’s the ‘jihadi capital’. To read the original, click here.
Birmingham Isn’t The ‘Hotbed’ Of Islamist Extremism It Was Claimed To Be
It’s been a month since Khalid Masood drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge – injuring around 50 people and killing four – before going on to crash it into the perimeter fence of the Houses of Parliament where he stabbed to death a police officer before being shot and killed.
As soon as Masood’s identity was made public, the media homed in on how he was from Birmingham. Following a raid on his flat on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, camera crews and journalists from the world descended on the Hagley Road address at which time I like many of my peers were called on to give interviews, most asking us to explain that which we didn’t yet know.
My remit included speaking to news outlets from Belgium, France, Switzerland and the US as also the UK. Almost all of the interviews focused on why Birmingham was a ‘capital of jihadism’, the ‘new Londonistan’, and as one a Belgian journalist put it, the new Molenbeek (the Brussels suburb where police raided a number of houses in March 2016 in connection to the Paris terror attacks four months earlier). The same was true of others too.
Among the British news media a similar line of enquiry emerged. Take for instance the Financial Times and a quote describing Birmingham as a ‘hotbed’ for Islamist activity or the Independent when it referred to the city as a ‘breeding ground for British-born terror’. It was the Daily Mail that surpassed itself and indeed all other reports. Under the rhetorical headline, ‘So how DID Birmingham become the jihadi capital of Britain?’ the piece focused on where Masood lived and hired the car used to commit the atrocities. As the Mail put it, both were “in Birmingham. Birmingham. Birmingham. Birmingham. It’s always Birmingham”. For the Mail, the blame for Masood’s actions was undoubtedly Birmingham.
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