Cops and newspapers alike have targeted areas of Birmingham in the wake of the Westminster terror attack last Wednesday. Attacker Khalid Masood had been living in Birmingham.
Armed police raided several houses and flats in Birmingham, east London, Manchester, Brighton, and Carmarthenshire in Wales.
Meanwhile much of the press speculated about “Britain’s terror hotspots”, and asked why Birmingham was “such a breeding ground for British-born terror”.
Police have arrested 12 people as Socialist Worker went to press, although most were released without charge. Two men from Birmingham were still in police custody and a woman from Manchester was on bail.
As raids in Birmingham continued, “respectable” news sources such as the Daily Telegraph newspaper and Independent website focused on “the city’s extremist links”.
The Daily Mail newspaper even described Birmingham as the “Jihadi capital of Britain”.
The Telegraph described “mounting concern over what has been seen as increasing isolation between Muslims and other communities”.
“This has provided a fertile ground for hate preachers and those seeking to radicalise the young and disenchanted,” it said.
But Muslims in Birmingham have hit back at attempts to paint them as part of a segregated community.
Razwan Faraz was a deputy head teacher at one of the schools targeted by the false “Trojan Horse” claims in 2014.
He told Socialist Worker, “I’ve lived in Birmingham my entire life except for the last three years. Birmingham is a very diverse community. It’s nothing like what the press are saying about it.
“At schools and clubs my children have met Sikhs, Jews, Christians, atheists. People here have got a lot more things that they share than things that divide them.”
And at a vigil in Birmingham on Saturday, Birmingham campaigner Salma Yaqoob said, “Birmingham has been portrayed as the jihadi capital of Britain. Today it’s all about getting it across that it is not the case.”
Most of the smears were based on a report published by the neo-conservative Henry Jackson Society earlier this month.
The Henry Jackson Society is deeply Islamophobic. Its website currently links to an opinion piece by its associate director Douglas Murray blaming Islam and immigration for terrorist attacks.
The report alleges that Birmingham is home to the second-highest number of convictions for terror-related offences between 1998 and 2015.
That’s 39 people over 17 years from a city with a Muslim population of 234,411.
The same report says that those convicted were more likely to have lived in areas with a Muslim population of 20 percent or more.
At the report’s launch event in parliament earlier this month, its author Hannah Stuart said this showed there could be “problems in isolated communities”.
Such claims are really about painting Muslims as a suspect community, where “extremists” hide among a majority of “moderates”.
This helps to justify government programmes such as Prevent, which are about spying on and monitoring Muslims.