Birmingham & Black Country

Second-city living: The real Birmingham

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A terrorism commentator in the US claimed Birmingham is a "Muslim-only city" where non-Muslims "don't go". Steven Emerson's sweeping statement on Fox News prompted bemusement - and amusement. So what is real life like in Birmingham?

BBC News spoke to a cross section of residents about living in the second city.

Penny Hughes, 27, lives in Kings Heath, works in Pizza Hut

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I moved away about four or five years ago as I was starting to hate it, I wanted something different. Pretty much as soon as I moved away I found I really missed it and wanted to come back.

I moved to Leamington Spa for work which was completely different but I wanted to come back, so I did two or three years later.

Everything you need is here - it's a vibrant place, it's popular with students at the universities, they must be attracted to coming here. I just love Birmingham, I don't know how anyone can hate it.

It's really multicultural, there are lots of places for people to find work, it's really easy to get around, there's nowhere you can't get to in 20 minutes.

I suppose we do attract criticism for the typical Brummie accent, but that's OK. I can handle that.

Mohammad Zafran, 35, lives in Small Heath, youth community worker

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I've lived in Birmingham all my life. My family settled here about 40 years ago from Kashmir.

Growing up as a young man we all got along. My friends had different ethnic backgrounds and we celebrated Eid, Christmas and Dewali.

I've spent four years working with young people, ever since my brother-in-law was stabbed to death.

I don't want other families to go through what we went through.

Before he died I was a generally quiet man but now I am active in the community and have even won awards for making a difference.

I let young people know there is another way to live, not just being in a gang.

The city means a lot to me, there is a lot of love and unity through the different backgrounds - Romanian, Muslim, Jamaican.

We all fit together like a family. To me, Birmingham means home.

Zarina Latif, 44, lives in Kings Heath, manages Linens and Things

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I am originally from London but I moved up here in 1998 as I couldn't afford to live in London any more.

I came here mainly because my family is here but the reason we bought this particular shop is because there is a nice mix of people here, people from all different backgrounds and all ethnic backgrounds. I like that.

It's not as crowded as London, people have a lot more time for each other. I like that people come in for a chat. It's something you don't get in London.

I really can't think of any negatives. I wouldn't exchange it to go back to London.

Mohammed Atther, 24, lives in Bordesley Green, city centre shop employee

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I'm a Muslim. Hence the reason I get racially discriminated against every now and then, purely because of what some moron has done way back when. Not all Muslims are terrorists.

All in all I'd say multicultural Birmingham is actually a decent place.

I've been here my whole life and I can't really complain.

There are always festivals going on and it's always a mixed festival as well. You'll get other people going.

It gets people together and it gets people knowing about other people's religion and everything.

I would recommend Birmingham as a place to live.

John Coles, 55, lives in Yardley

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Everybody lives together. I don't see any no-go zones or any sort of animosity to one another.

I've never experienced anything untoward. Obviously there are racists but there are lots of people who aren't.

I've lived in Birmingham all my life and it's a good place to live.

I think a lot of Asian communities are pretty close to themselves, but that's obvious because of the Muslim religion. That's not to say they're against Christian people and I think the best thing to do is to try to mix with people.

They are very close but they're also very friendly people.

Wilma Robinson, 48, from Kingstanding, student

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We are all people. We are all one at the end of the day. There's all sorts of different nationalities and we all get on really well.

When I grew up it wasn't like that. In the 1960s it wasn't as multicultural as it is now. It has changed a lot. There weren't that many different races here.

Racist incidents were not frequent back then, but just silly little things would happen, as people who did not understand black people would say stupid things.

But you just got on with it because it was a way of life.

It is a free country and whatever you decide to follow is up to you. They're Muslims. I'm Christian. Your belief is your belief.

Shabir Vanat, 61, from Kings Heath, works in Mirrors and Lighting

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I come from Uganda and left almost 40 years ago to come to Birmingham.

As far as I'm concerned Birmingham is a very cosmopolitan city. There have been ups and downs but that's like any other city.

When I think of the best things about it harmony is the main thing.

People come to this city from all over to have our famous Baltis. It's well known for that, it must be saying something about the city.

I am a Muslim and I've been in this shop for 29 years. I've never had one single problem.

If you go about your business then people will not bother you. I really like it here.

Toni McDonald, 42, lives in Edgbaston, radio presenter

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I lived in Birmingham for the first 23 years of my life before moving elsewhere, but returned and bought a home on the outskirts of the city 15 years ago.

One of my favourite things about Birmingham is its diversity - I grew up with a mix of black, white and Asian friends and it sounds like a cliché, but one of my best friends is actually Muslim.

Like many other big cities, it has had its problems. But, for the most part, I think that people pride themselves on pulling together.

Three words to sum the place up: busy, diverse, honest.

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