When the Daily Mail published a piece claiming that several areas in the UK had become “no-go areas for white people”, it came as a surprise to many – not least the people who actually lived in Bradford, one of these so-called no-go zones.
The northern English city was home to the Industrial Revolution that transformed the North and then the world. It’s the UK’s “curry capital” and a sugary paradise of dessert bars and Asian sweet shops. It’s also mine and Bad Boy Chiller Crew’s hometown, where 63.9 percent of the district's population identify as white British – though Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain, the book upon which the Mail article is based, tells a different story.
According to author Ed Husain, a former Islamist radical turned political advisor, Bradford has mosques “on almost every corner”, and some Muslim children are “not permitted to draw or dance”. One director of a local theatre company told him that Bradford will become “an apartheid city” in 30 years.
VICE spoke to some young people in Bradford about the article and if they recognise their city in the “no-go area” depicted by the Mail and Husain.
Leah Stansfield, 23, student: ‘It is a city full of love’
As a white woman, I don’t feel threatened living in Bradford: It is a city full of love, community and spirit. My Facebook feed was flooded with people posting how outraged they were with that article, and rightly so.
In my opinion, that article was discriminatory and racist towards the peaceful Muslim community – my neighbours – in Bradford. Both my next-door neighbours are Pakistani Muslim, they are so kind to me and have invited me into their family and always offer to cook me dinner.
I am converting to Islam due to my love for the religion, and when the Mail publishes articles that suggest that Bradford is full of Muslims and doesn’t have enough white people – where does that put me?
I really hope people don't read too much into that malicious article, which was founded on utter lies designed to do nothing but divide. Instead, I would much rather people experience Bradford for themselves because if you are anything like me, you can’t help but fall in love with Bradford.
Mohamed, 20, retail worker: ‘I don’t think anyone from the Mail has actually been to Bradford’
The Mail was fanatical about portraying Bradford as a monolithic block when in reality, they were saying whatever they could to get the most clicks. It is upsetting because I don't think anyone from the Mail has actually been to Bradford; if so, they would have never published such an insulting and untrue article. Sometimes damage like this is irreparable.
Contrary to what the Mail may have people believe, Bradford is welcoming to everyone, regardless of your sexuality, religion, gender or ethnicity - well, everyone except for anyone who works at the Daily Mail.
Hayden Barnes, 19, university student: ‘Bradford has offered me a future’
My family has lived in Bradford for generations. Bradford has offered me a future that many would consider hard to come by. It has given me some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and more than that Bradford is awash with perhaps the nicest people I’ve ever met. The cultural legacy found in Bradford, too, is remarkable: from the Media Museum to its heritage in film, this city is far from the destitute backwater that some people see it as.
The Daily Mail article was shocking, in the truest sense. The hatred, race-baiting and bigotry portrayed by some in the media is frankly unacceptable. I found the article profoundly disturbing, especially considering that Bradford is a genuinely welcoming place. The Daily Mail has never been a force for good, but this article struck me literally at home.
To those who stick to the view of Bradford as a sheer pit, I have only this to say: Who should you blame? Know your enemy because it is not, as the Daily Mail would have you believe, the Muslim community.
Numair Nadeem, 20, apprentice: ‘This is complete garbage’
The Daily Mail has people believe that Muslim “children are not permitted to draw or dance” – just like much they publish, this is complete garbage.
I admit that I never did dancing as a child, but I adored art. As a child, I used to attend loads of art classes after school and would draw pictures of cars for hours on end.
I love Bradford so much, mainly because everything is in Bradford. Bradford has the best food in the world. Bradford is more than a home to me: It is a place where I work, a place I want to get married, a place I want to have children, and a place where I want to grow old.
I would happily invite any reporter from the Daily Mail to come over to Bradford and to see Bradford for truly what it is: the best city in the world.