You sometimes get the feeling you’re reading an old book, not today’s paper. The descriptions are all wonky, the tropes ancient – when, for example, a country or a people is described as having certain traits (the noble, quiet Japanese culture, for example), or when a politician comes out to say that their country will go to war for honour (see: Michael Howard, Brexit, Gibraltar – oh man). But you get the feeling you’re reading some kind of pre-Renaissance text when you come across how people talk about Muslims, these days, particularly when it comes to the city of Birmingham.
I grew up in Birmingham. I know what it’s like. It’s fun, ugly, boring and beautiful all at once. It’s people are friendly and intolerant, open and welcoming, a little bit mean, a little bit generous. It’s a city like many others across Europe – somehow a bit depressing, but also incredibly fun. Post-industrial, the second city, London’s little brother – people from all over the world, getting on, not getting on, just chilling, working hard. What can I say? It’s a city. You know what cities are like.
So when I read that the city of Birmingham is a city of Muslims, by which the writer obviously means it’s a city of terrorists or something similar, I feel personally offended – obviously offended by the insinuation that generally Muslims=terrorists, but also, offended by the lack of research, the lack of enquiry. You might as well be reading Marco Polo crossing into a Land of the Mohammedan, an early venture in to the strange tribal rites of the Mussalman.
Obviously, some of my fellow Brummies feel the same way – check out this article from Al Jazeera. The city’s Muslim population feels castigated – it feels threatened. And it is – after the attack on Westminster last week, several of the city’s residents were arrested – and released – without charge. Never mind, as soon as the arrest is made, it’s once again a case of all Muslims being bad, etc. The thing is, people from Muslim communities are well aware of the tensions and pressures which exist in their community, and in broader society, which may lead to certain people to potentiate beliefs into something more violent. However, this is a fact always overlooked – instead, the media repeats the dumb equation ad infinitum – all Muslims are terrorists. It’s absurd, ridiculous, unsubtle, archaic and belongs to the old world.
Instead, let’s amplify voices from communities which are increasingly marginalised. Voices like Abdullah’s, from Birmingham:
„They [the media] make out that it’s the community here that’s responsible for this whole problem, but we’ve got nothing to do with it.
„It was one person who did it but we all get the blame.
„We live side by side with our neighbours, we have no problem here.“