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Would Fox News Presenters Be Less Stupid If They Watched More Soccer?

As a Briton who’s just recently moved to the U.S., I was only vaguely aware of the parody channel Fox News.

Sure, I’d caught the odd skit here or there on YouTube, like the one about the President’s “Terrorist Fist Jab” or Spongebob Squarepants’ global warming agenda, but I’d never sat down and actually watched it for any length of time.

Now that I live over here, I get to enjoy Fox more often, and this weekend I managed to catch a hilarious piece of satire on religious integration in Europe, played out between a regular Fox News performer called Judge Jeanine and a guest comedian by the name of Steve Emerson. Here’s some of the withering outbursts from Steve that had me ROFL, as the kids say: 

“Governments like France, Britain, Sweden, Germany, they don’t exercise any sovereignty… you basically have zones where Sharia courts are set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where the police don’t go in, and where it’s basically a separate country”

“Europe is finished because if you extrapolate the number of Muslims… the problem is the leadership of Muslims in Europe deliberately don’t want to integrate, and so they establish these zones.. and use them as leverage against the host countries.”

“In Britain...there are actual cities like Birmingham where it’s totally Muslim and non-Muslims simply don’t go in”

What cutting-edge political satire! I thought. Sure, it’s a bit of a Colbert Report rip-off, but it’s still very, very funny. 

It was only shortly thereafter – as UK Prime Minister David Cameron was publicly labelling Emerson “an idiot” and the hashtag #foxnewsfacts went viral – that I learned Fox News is a GENUINE NEWS CHANNEL.

My stiff upper lip hit the floor.

Steve Emerson, who it turns out isn’t actually a comedian but a “Terrorism Expert” (his words) who’s given evidence to Congress, has had to issue a full and frank apology for his comments, citing bad sources for his error. If only Steve had spent a little more time watching football instead of spouting scare-mongering nonsense, he might have realized how ludicrous his claims were. 

Say, for example, he’d caught a few minutes of Aston Villa’s 2-1 loss to Tottenham at Villa Park – a stadium which is very much in the city of Birmingham. If he had, he’d have seen 19 non-Muslims happily playing football within the Birmingham “no-go zone”, none of whom – at least to my untrained eye – were in fear of their lives. He would have witnessed the entire stadium - players, supporters, Muslims and non-Muslims alike - observe a minute's silence in remembrance of Britain's fallen soldiers and, if he’d stayed until the end, he would have seen a fine goal from the Belgian Muslim Nacer Chadli, heading in a corner delivered by his teammate and non-Muslim Erik Lamela, before celebrating in front of several thousand travelling supporters from North London, many of whom – I dare say – were non-Muslim. So not exactly totally Muslim, Steve, nor a “no-go zone,” eh?

Spurs Villa Premier League November 2014

If Steve had spent some additional time watching Ligue 1, Serie A, La Liga or the Champions League over the last 20 years, he might have come across a chap called Zinedine Zidane. Through his sporting prowess and willingness to both travel and integrate with teammates, Zidane – who describes himself as a “non-practicing Muslim” - happily lived and worked in, and was revered by three of the most Catholic countries in Europe: Italy, Spain and France. Indeed, the latter of that triumvirate – his country of birth – awarded him the Legion d’honneur, the highest accolade given by the French state. I’d say that’s pretty integrated, wouldn’t you, Steve?

Zinedine Zidane

Finally, if Steve had watched the 2014 World Cup quarter final between France and Germany, he would have seen two sets of 11 players passionately representing their countries, singing their national anthems and fighting tooth and nail alongside their compatriots. Those two sets of 11 included three French Muslims (Paul Pogba, Mahmadou Sakho and Karim Benzema) and two German Muslims (Sami Khedira and Mezut Ozil).

To put that in perspective, according to the 2010 Pew Report, the percentage of Muslims in France and Germany is estimated at 7.5% and 5% respectively; their starting XIs at the Maracana on Friday July 4th were respectively 27% and 18% Muslim. Does anything scream integration louder or clearer than that? How likely is it that Muslims – practicing or otherwise – have managed to be three-to-four times over-represented in the latter stages of the globe’s biggest sporting tournament if they’re cutting themselves off from society and establishing "no-go zones" within their – quote – “host countries”? C’mon Steve!

france germany world cup 2014

There are some evil, twisted individuals in the world, of varying religious inclinations both within Europe and every other continent on the planet. There are problem areas in many European cities – just as there are in American cities – where minorities feel disenfranchised from the economic and political mainstream. But those issues shouldn’t lead to mis-informed, sweeping bouts of hyperbole. Perhaps if the guests and presenters on Fox News spent a little more time watching international football, their coverage of international relations would be just a little more, shall we say, nuanced.

We can but hope.

You can follow Robert Gordon on Twitter.

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