An interview with self-proclaimed terrorism expert Steve Emerson on Fox News went viral last night, with his claim that Birmingham was entirely a Muslim city prompting the hashtag #foxnewsfacts, where Twitter users made a series of hilarious and outlandish claims about the UK's second city and its relationship with Islam.
Most reports initially only carried a 30-second clip of his interview with Fox News host Jeanine Pirro, but the full five-minute version is when the story stops being amusing and starts being disturbing again.
In the video, Emerson, a media pundit who founded the Investigative Project on Terrorism and has been called to provide expert witness testimony to Congress on terror-related issues, reiterates an earlier claim that "Europe is finished", with governments apparently having no sovereignty over Muslim areas in their own country - even likening the situation to Palestinian calls for a separate state within Israel.
"Because if you extrapolate the number of Muslims, and I'm not saying that all Muslims are terrorists, far from it," he said.
"But the problem is that the leadership of the Muslim communities in Europe deliberately don't want to integrate and so they establish these zones that refuse to integrate and use them as leverage against the host country as political and military leverage. So will these counties take it back? I don't see it happening at this point."
Emerson actually made this claim a week ago on another Fox News show, to Sean Hannity, in which he described a visit to Brussels and a request to visit the city's "Islamic zone".
You can watch that video below:
Emerson's claims about religious police patrolling London and an entirely Muslim city in the UK, namely Birmingham, prompted Pirro, a former judge, to note:
You know what it sounds like to me, Steve? It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country.
The truth of the matter is that according to census data almost 1.1million people live in Birmingham, and 850,000 of those are non-Muslims, and the sad aspect of the story is that Emerson appears to have sourced his claims from a 2009 scaremongering article from the Birmingham Mail.
Emerson has now apologised for his "terrible error" about Birmingham, which he said was a "beautiful city".
"I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful," he said.
"There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham."
My comments on FoxNews about Birmingham were totally inaccurate. Birmingham, please accept my apology; I was wrong. Steve Emerson— InvestigativeProject (@TheIPT) January 12, 2015
To reiterate, Emerson has given evidence to at least one congressional committee, and reportedly been called as an expert witness on terrorism-related issues by at least six others.
Polling shows that people consistently over-estimate the number of Muslim residents in England and Wales, and voices like Emerson's only add to this misinformation.
It's fun and healthy to poke fun at Fox News, and the #foxnewsfacts hashtag was a great way to do this.
But with normal Muslims being blamed for the France terror attacks, overall the whole thing is more alarming than amusing.
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