By Denis MacEoin, Gatestone Institute—
The city of Birmingham in the West Midlands, the heart of England, the place where the Industrial Revolution began, the second city of the UK and the eighth-largest in Europe, today is Britain’s most dangerous city. With a large and growing Muslim population, five of its electoral wards have the highest levels of radicalization and terrorism in the country.
In February, French journalist Rachida Samouri published an article in the Parisian daily Le Figaro, in which she recounted her experiences during a visit there. In “Birmingham à l’heure islamiste” (“Birmingham in the Time of Islam”) she describes her unease with the growing dislocation between normative British values and those of the several Islamic enclaves. She mentions the Small Heath quarter, where nearly 95% of the population is Muslim, where little girls wear veils; most of the men wear beards, and women wear jilbabs and niqabs to cover their bodies and faces. Market stalls close for the hours of prayer; the shops display Islamic clothes and the bookshops are all religious. Women she interviewed condemned France as a dictatorship based on secularism (laïcité), which they said they regarded as “a pretext for attacking Muslims”. They also said that they approved of the UK because it allowed them to wear a full veil.
Another young woman, Yasmina, explained that, although she may go out to a club at night, during the day she is forced to wear a veil and an abaya . She then goes on to speak of the extremists:
“In England, they are free to speak. They speak only of prohibitions, they impose on one their rigid vision of Islam but, on the other hand, they listen to no-one, most of all those who disagree with them.”
Speaking of the state schools, Samouri describes “an Islamization of education unthinkable in our secular republic”. Later, she interviews Ali, an 18-year-old of French origin, whose father has become radicalized. Ali talks about his experience of Islamic education:
“There are plenty of private Muslim schools and madrasas in this city. They pretend that they all preach tolerance, love and peace, but that isn’t true. Behind their walls, they force-feed us with repetitive verses of the Qur’an, about hate and intolerance.”
Samouri cites Ali on the iron discipline imposed on him, the brutality used, the punishment for refusing to learn the Qur’an by heart without understanding a word of it, or for admitting he has a girlfriend.
Elsewhere, Samouri notes young Muslim preachers for whom “Shari’a law remains the only safety for the soul and the only code of law to which we must refer”. She interviews members of a Shari’a “court” before speaking with Gina Khan, an ex-Muslim who belongs to the anti-Shari’a organization One Law for All. According to Samouri, Khan — a secular feminist — considers the tribunals “a pretext for keeping women under pressure and a means for the religious fundamentalists to extend their influence within the community”.
Another teenager of French origin explains how his father prefers Birmingham to France because “one can wear the veil without any problem and one can find schools where boys and girls do not mix”. “Birmingham,” says Mobin, “is a little like a Muslim country. We are among ourselves, we do not mix. It’s hard”.
Samouri herself finds this contrast between secular France and Muslim England disturbing. She sums it up thus:
“A state within a state, or rather a rampant Islamization of one part of society — something which France has succeeded in holding off for now, even if its secularist model is starting to be put to the test”.
Another French commentator, republishing Samouri’s article, writes, “Birmingham is worse than Molenbeek” — the Brussels borough that The Guardian described as “becoming known as Europe’s jihadi central.”
The comparison with Molenbeek may be somewhat exaggerated. What is perplexing is that French writers should focus on a British city when, in truth, the situation in France — despite its secularism — is in some ways far worse than in the UK. Recent authors have commented on France’s growing love for Islam and its increasing weakness in the face of Islamist criminality. This weakness has been framed by a politically-correct desire to stress a multiculturalist policy at the expense of taking Muslim extremists and fundamentalist organizations at face value and with zero tolerance for their anti-Western rhetoric and actions. The result? Jihadist attacks in France have been among the worst in history. It is calculated that the country has some some 751 no-go zones (“zones urbaines sensibles”), places where extreme violence breaks out from time to time and where the police, firefighters, and other public agents dare not enter for fear of provoking further violence.