No, not “regrettable errors”. Lies. #FoxNewsFacts

Image of a St Patrick's Day parade in Birmingham, showing at its centre a white woman and two girls playing drums, with various other white people wearing Irish flags and similar regaliaFox Correction: “We Have Made Some Regrettable Errors On-Air Regarding The Muslim Population In Europe” | Video | Media Matters for America

Fox News, on which a number of ludicrous and obviously false claims about British and French cities, that there were zones and “whole cities” where non-Muslims cannot go, have been made since the Charlie Hebdo attacks, has put out an “apology” in which they “apologised” for things that actually weren’t said. You can see the video at the above link, but here’s a transcript:

A correction now: over the course of this last week, we have made some regrettable errors on air regarding the Muslim population in Europe, particularly with regard to England and France. Now this applies especially to discussions of so-called no-go zones, areas where non-Muslims allegedly aren’t allowed in, and police supposedly won’t go. To be clear, there is no formal designation of these zones in either country and no credible information to support the assertion that there are specific areas in these countries that exclude individuals solely on the basis of their religion. There are certainly areas of high crime in Europe, as there are in the United States and other countries, where police and visitors enter with caution. We deeply regret the errors, and apologise to any and all who may have taken offence, including the people of France and England.

The impression I got when I saw the clip of Steven Emerson claiming that whole cities in the UK, including Birmingham, had become no-go areas for non-Muslims was that he meant non-Muslims were simply scared to enter, rather than that they are officially designated Muslim areas closed to non-Muslims. Birmingham is Britain’s (not just England’s) second city and has a population of over a million, more than half of which is White British (very few of them converts to Islam; as of 2011, the Muslim proportion of Birmingham’s population was 21.8%). So for Fox News to ‘clarify’ by claiming that they know of no evidence that there are formal Muslim-only areas in Europe really does not dispel the impression that Emerson and others have given.

The idea of Muslim no-go areas has been a common theme of Islamophobic scaremongers for years, and very often they play on the ignorance of a foreign audience. Areas where there are large concentrations of Muslims, where (for example) Muslims feel comfortable to wear traditional dress rather than western dress, and women often wear the niqaab, are presented as “no-go areas” where non-Muslims cannot go without fear. In fact, the area in London most commonly cited (the central part of Tower Hamlets) is crossed by several major commuter rail lines and two main roads out of central London, and also borders the Docklands and contains Banglatown, an important centre of the Indian restaurant industry, which often caters to non-Muslims and serves alcohol. Similarly, when John Reid was heckled by al-Muhajiroun during a speech in east London (in which he told Muslim parents to watch for signs of radicalisation in their children), the media was full of talk of how there should be “no no-go areas”, but in fact what was meant was “how dare you threaten us in our own neighbourhood” (see earlier entry).

Steven Emerson is not a junior reporter; he has been around a very long time and has spent much of that time stirring up hostility to Muslims. He is still most famous for trying to pin the Oklahoma City bombing on Muslims, when in fact it was the work of white right-wing extremists. His career should have been over with that ‘mistake’; that any network would still hire him reflects malice (journalists have been dropped from major networks and newspapers for much less). The claim itself can only have been a deliberate attempt to tell Americans that Europe is being taken over by Muslims and to shore up American support for Israel; if he had just heard that claim, he could have checked the truth of it by looking at the State Department travel advice, the Lonely Planet travel guide, or any other reputable source of information. David Cameron called him a “total idiot”, but really he relies on his audience being stupid, ignorant and too prejudiced to care about the truth of his claims.

Image source: Wikipedia; originally sourced from the Bongo Vongo account on Flickr. Published under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 licence.

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