(The Washington Post)

In the aftermath of extremist attacks in Paris, Fox News invited Steve Emerson, an American journalist and terrorism analyst, to discuss the rise of Islamist extremism in Europe.

Speaking to host Jeanine Pirro, Emerson began detailing how parts of Britain have been completely taken over by Muslims. "In Britain, it's not just no-go zones; there are actual cities like Birmingham that are totally Muslim where non-Muslims just simply don't go in," he said, before detailing how "Muslim religious police" in London beat people who don't wear "religious Muslim attire."

Pirro was shocked. "You know what it sounds like to me, Steve? It sounds like a caliphate within a particular country," the former judge responded.

It does sound a bit like that -- but that's because Emerson's statements were totally, utterly inaccurate (he has since acknowledged this and apologized). As The Post's Karla Adam has written, the British twittersphere erupted in mockery, with a hashtag #FoxNewsFacts used to mock Emerson's statements.

Even British Prime Minister David Cameron got in on the action, calling Emerson a "complete idiot" because of his comments.

In light of the imbroglio, WorldViews has produced an explainer for Fox News and Emerson to help them understand the mysterious locale of Birmingham and the exotic natives there (known colloquially as "Brummies"). To do this, we'll use the "nine question" style invented and made famous by WorldViews alumnus and Vox overlord Max Fisher for explaining complicated foreign situations.

What is Birmingham?

Birmingham is a city in the middle of England, first settled around 600 A.D. A former industrial hub, the city is now the second-largest in Britain after London, with a population of more than 1 million. Some consider it Britain's "second city" after the capital, though Manchester in the North also lays claim to this. People from Birmingham are usually referred to as "Brummies" and have a distinctive accent.

What is Birmingham best known for?

Selfridges Department Store, 2003, Birmingham. CREDIT: Courtesy Phaidon Press Selfridges Department Store, 2003, Birmingham. CREDIT: Courtesy Phaidon Press

Some of Birmingham's most famous cultural exports are the heavy metal band Black Sabbath (and famous Brummie singer Ozzy Osborne), HBO satirist John Oliver and Premier League soccer team Aston Villa. The city has a number of higher education institutions, including the University of Birmingham (ranked 148th in the world last year) and is a major hub for retail and tourism. Food-wise, the city is famous for it's "Balti Triangle," where diners can get Pakistani-influenced food.

Is Birmingham actually "totally Muslim"?

No. The city does have a sizable Muslim minority, but nowhere near a majority. According to the 2011 Census, 46 percent of Birmingham residents identified themselves as Christians and 22 percent identified themselves as Muslim.

Are non-Muslims actually afraid to go to Birmingham?

No. For one thing, lots of non-Muslims live there. These people are not afraid to go where they live. It seems likely that in most people's assessment of whether to go to Birmingham, it appears the number of Muslims in the city makes little impact. Some anecdotal evidence: My own (non-Muslim) cousin recently moved to Birmingham because he got a job there. I have been to Birmingham several times myself.

Why would you describe Birmingham as "totally Muslim" if it is not?


Are there tensions surrounding Birmingham's Muslim minority?

As in many big cities in Europe, there are elements of Islamist extremism in Birmingham: The city was recently involved in controversy over an alleged plot to insert the teaching of Salafist values into several public schools in the city. A number of people from the city have been arrested for their part in alleged extremist plots. There are also more general  problems of integration and assimilation.

However, the city is certainly not the hotbed of religious tension that Emerson suggests. (The northern city of Bradford is far better known for tensions with Islamic communities within Britain.) In the aftermath of the 2011 British riots, for example, it was a Birmingham Muslim, Tariq Jahan, who became the face of tolerance and forgiveness for the nation. Jahan, whose son and two friends were killed during the riots, called for calm.

Why would people be angry about Birmingham being described as "totally Muslim"?

The residents of Birmingham, like most other people in Britain, tend to speak English. As such, Emerson's comments spread widely and quickly among people from Birmingham and other parts of the United Kingdom. Many people found the mischaracterization of Birmingham as absurd. Simon Ricketts, a British journalist with a large Twitter following, poked fun at Emerson's statements.

While much of the response was humorous, there was often real anger behind it. Emerson's portrayal of Birmingham was not only inaccurate, but it seemed to say that a Muslim majority in a Western city was inherently a bad thing.

How was Emerson qualified to talk about Birmingham?

While Emerson's exact source for his information on Birmingham is unknown (he said he had "relied on other source" but that he "should have been much more careful"), he is a self-described expert on terrorism. He has published seven books on terrorism and frequently appears on cable news. He founded the Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT), a nonprofit research group that focused on radical Islamist terrorist groups, in 1995.

However, Emerson has been accused of Islamophobia in the past. On Twitter, journalist Ali Gharib said the Birmingham error was not unusual for the analyst.

(Read more of Gharib's impassioned rant against Emerson here)

So, what about London?

No, there are no "Muslim religious police" in London. Emerson appears to be referring to an East London street gang in London that attacked innocent people while chanting slogans referencing Islam a few years back.