Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi.

European ‘No-Go Zones’ Under Sharia Law?

Rumors of “no-go zones” throughout Europe have frightened many a far-right activist, at least judging by the amount of false stories that they seem to exhaustively share about such areas without any evidence to back up claims that they even exist.

There is no evidence that they exist, because “no-go zones” are nothing more than a myth spun up and perpetuated by individuals who are presumably too nervous about going to these purported zones to see for themselves.

Stories about these “no-go” areas were floating around on the fringes for years before they were brought into the mainstream by an American Fox News pundit named Steven Emerson, who made the claim on Fox News on January 11, 2015, just after an attack on the offices of French satirical publication Charlie Hebdo in which twelve people were murdered.

Emerson said:

(The no-go zones) are sort of amorphous, they’re not contiguous, but they’re sort of safe havens. They’re places where the governments like France, Britain, Sweden and Germany don’t exercise any sovereignty. So you basically have zones where Sharia courts are set up, where Muslim density is very intense, where police don’t go in, and it’s basically a separate country, a country within a country.

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. In parts of London, there are actually Muslim religious police that actually beat and wound seriously anyone who doesn’t dress according to Muslim religious attire.

British Prime Minister David Cameron quickly disputed Emerson’s claims and said Emerson is “clearly an idiot” in a 2015 interview:

When I heard this, frankly, I choked on my porridge and I thought it must be April Fools’ Day. This guy’s clearly a complete idiot. He started with an apology, that’s not a bad start, but what he should do is actually look at Birmingham and see what a fantastic example it is of brining people together of different faiths and different backgrounds and actually building a world class, brilliant city with a great and strong economy.

“No-go zones” and sharia courts do not exist in France, either. The map of no-go zones referenced by Emerson seems to indicate he had no idea what he was reading; it appears under the heading, “Atlas of Sensitive Urban Zones” on a government website. Gérard Araud, the French ambassador to the United States, explained on Twitter that these zones are considered high-crime areas and have been targeted by the government for urban renewal efforts:

There are dangerous neighborhoods in France, like in the U.S., because of crime, not Islam. There is no ‘Sharia court’ in France. It is so ridiculous that I am ashamed to be obliged to react.

For his part, Emerson issued an apology on his website and explained that he had used unreliable sources in making his comments about Birmingham:

I have clearly made a terrible error for which I am deeply sorry. My comments about Birmingham were totally in error. And I am issuing this apology and correction for having made this comment about the beautiful city of Birmingham. I do not intend to justify or mitigate my mistake by stating that I had relied on other sources because I should have been much more careful. There was no excuse for making this mistake and I owe an apology to every resident of Birmingham. I am not going to make any excuses. I made an inexcusable error. And I am obligated to openly acknowledge that mistake. I wish to apologize for all residents of that great city of Birmingham.

Professor Jan Michiel Otto of the Netherlands’ Leiden University Law School explained via the Huffington Post that sharia law typically falls into three categories: classical systems, secular systems and mixed systems:

In countries with classical Shariah systems, Shariah has official status or a high degree of influence on the legal system, and covers family law, criminal law, and in some places, personal beliefs, including penalties for apostasy, blasphemy, and not praying. These countries include Egypt, Mauritania, Sudan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, the Maldives, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and certain regions in Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, and the United Arab Emirates.

Mixed systems are the most common in Muslim-majority countries. Generally speaking, Shariah covers family law, while secular courts will cover everything else. Countries include: Algeria, Comoros, Djibouti, Gambia, Libya, Morocco, Somalia, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Gaza Strip, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Malaysia, Oman, and Syria.

Otto adds that Islamic family law courts are available to Muslim minorities in some countries, including the United Kingdom. However, there is no indication that Muslims which to take over Britain’s legal system with their own laws that they intend to force non-Muslims to live under; that, like many other rumors about Muslims spread in the UK, is simply a myth.