The city of Birmingham in the West Midlands, England, is the second most populated city in the UK and the eighth-largest in Europe, but also houses Britain's most dangerous export.
The former centre of the Industrial Revolution, boasts a large and growing Muslim population. Five of Birmingham’s electoral wards have the highest levels of radicalisation and terrorism in the country, and it has sadly become an export commodity.
Prominent militants who have come through the city’s underground networks include Abdelhamid Abaaoud, organiser of the 2015 Paris attacks, and Mohamed Abrini, a Belgian national who helped plot the 2016 Brussels attacks.
David Videcette, a former senior counterterrorism official, said that Birmingham had an even better established extremist network than London. “It’s a business for them,” he said. “When we say terrorism, people tend to think it’s about religion. It’s not. This is always about money.”
This year, in February, French journalist Rachida Samouri visited the city and reported on her findings in the French daily Le Figaro.
In Birmingham à l’heure islamiste [Birmingham in the grip of Islam] Samouri notes the proliferation of complete Islamic enclaves. “Birmingham is worse than Molenbeek,” one French commentator remarked in response to Samouri’s report. The Guardian has described Molenbeek in Belgium, “as Europe’s jihadi central”.
Muslim women in the English city Samouri interviewed condemned France as a “dictatorship” based on religious freedom, which they said they regarded as “a pretext for attacking Muslims”. They also said that the UK was their preferred country, because it allowed them to wear a full veil.
In a 1000-page report, “Islamist Terrorism: Analysis of Offences and Attacks in the UK (1998-2015),” written by the Hannah Stuart for Britain’s Henry Jackson Society, Birmingham is repeatedly named as Britain’s leading source of terrorism and these terrorists plague the rest of the continent, not only the UK.
In Small Heath quarter, where nearly 95 percent of the population is Muslim, bearded men and women wearing full Islamic costumes are abundant, market stalls close for prayer daily and the shops display Islamic attire and religious books only.
A 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 “is a little like a Muslim country. We are among ourselves, we do not mix”.
The Birmingham Mail newspaper once lamented that the city had the won the distinction of “Terror Central”. Nazir Afzal, the former chief crown prosecutor for northwest England, told the New York Times: “The extremist schools of thought seem to have become more embedded in Birmingham than in other parts of the country.”
But despite the French example of more integration into secular French society, jihadist attacks in France have been among the worst in history. It is calculated that the country has some some 751 no-go zones, called “zones urbaines sensibles”, places where extreme violence occur while law enforcement, firefighters, and other public agents dare not enter for fear of provoking even more violence.
The Norwegian historian and expert on Muslim enclaves, Fjordman explained how the British ignore Muslim-only areas at the peril of other countries:
“If you say that there are some areas where even the police are afraid to go, where the country’s normal, secular laws barely apply, then it is indisputable that such areas now exist in several Western European countries. France is one of the hardest hit: it has a large population of Arab and African immigrants, including millions of Muslims. There are no such zones in the UK, certainly not at that level. There are Muslim enclaves in several cities where a non-Muslim may not be welcome; places that resemble Pakistan or Bangladesh more than England. But none of these is a no-go zone in the French, German or Swedish sense — places where the police, ambulances, and fire brigades are attacked if they enter, and where the only way in (to fight a fire, for example) is under armed escort.”
Omar Bakri Muhammed, who co-founded the British Islamist organization al-Muhajiroun, admitted in a 2013 television interview that he and co-founder Anjem Choudary sent western jihadists to fight to several other countries.
Birmingham as a whole, with 234 000 Muslims across its 40 council wards, had 39 convicted terrorists. The greatest single number of convicted terrorists, 117, nevertheless comes from an “integrated” London.
“The Casey Review: A review into opportunity and integration” identified Pakistani and Bangladeshi immigrants and their children as the most resistant to integration within British society. In such communities many of their women speak no English and say they prefer Islamic sharia law to British laws.
In 2014, Muslim radicals conspired to introduce fundamentalist Salafi doctrines and practices into a range of Birmingham schools, Casey noted [pp. 114 ff] where “a number of schools in Birmingham had been taken over to ensure they were run on strict Islamic principles…”
Casey quotes former British counterterrorism chief, Peter Clarke, in his July 2014 report saying: “There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham. This has been achieved in a number of schools by gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove head teachers they do not feel sufficiently compliant.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, in a letter to the Secretary of State for Education, declared as late as July 8, 2016, that the situation “remains fragile”. Birmingham has the largest number of women who are non-proficient in English as well as the largest number of mosques,161, in the UK.
More than one survey has shown that the younger generations of Muslims are even more fundamentalist than their parents and grandparents, who emigrated directly from Muslim countries. The younger generations were born in Britain but fundamentalist preachers visit British Muslim enclaves freely, lecturing in mosques, Islamic centres and youth organisations.
Khalid Masood, a convert to Islam who killed four and injured many more during his attack outside the Houses of Parliament in March this year, had been living in Birmingham before he set out to wage jihad in Britain’s capital.
At the turn of the century, in 2000, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was asked by the Los Angeles Times how the country was going to feed, house and employ the expected doubling of its Muslim population by 2050. She replied: “We’ll send them to America. Globalisation will take that problem away, as you free up all factors of production, also labour. There’ll be free movement, country to country. Globalisation in its purest form should not have any boundaries, so small countries with big populations should be able to send population to countries with big boundaries and small populations.”