untaxed car was once clamped by a frightened-looking official at 8am, but within hours the owner of the vehicle had organised the clamps to be sawn off, and he sped away.Another instance of separation from the Western world is revealed in the following: my husbandfrequently chatted to a neighbour who could be described as one of the more questioning Muslims,and who has often provided an insight into the locals' mindset. Even this man, however, believeswhat the whole community thinks: the 9/11 planes were organised by Jews. Everybody knows therewere no Jewish people in the World Trade Centre that day, as they had been tipped off. Oh, and theMumbai terrorists had been kidnapped and brainwashed by Indian people. The tendency towardsdenial is strong. When my husband mentioned the "dirty white dogs" graffiti to a local Muslim, theresponse was, "One of your people did it." I have to say that the police's response was no better when the local Methodists complained about the same thing. They chose not to believe it hadhappened, since we had removed all sign of it with the buckets of anti-graffiti chemicals we hadstocked since we arrived. They asked, somewhat pathetically: "Are you sure it was racist?"To a London reader, born and bred with multiculturalism, I know that my stories may come acrossas outlandish and exaggerated, and that I must surely be a BNP voter — I have observed people'sexpressions as they have listened to my tales of life in Brum. When I recently told a friend how alarge Taliban flag fluttered gaily on a house near St Andrew's football stadium for some months, her cry of "Can't you tell the police?" made me reflect how far many of our inner cities have beenabandoned by our key workers: our doctors and nurses drive in from afar, the police, as mentioned before, have shut down their stations and never venture in unless in extremis — they and ambulancecrews have been known to be attacked — even the local Imam lives in a leafier area.Only the priest remains, if you can get one — the thriving but clerically-vacant church down theroad has had no applicant in two years. In their absence, we get stabbings that never make the news,dog- and cock-fighting rings, cars torched as pranks and cars used for peddling heroin. (One of themore amusing moments of our time came when a local lad provided one reason people often gaveus stares when we drove past such deals: "Two white people wearing seatbelts — you've got to becops.") In their absence, we simply have the witness of those who are unlikely to be heard, who,through a variety of unfortunate circumstances, have not been able to move out: the elderly, theinfirm, the illiterate, the chronically poor. Indeed, some of the Muslim residents deeply regret theflight of the non-Muslim population. It is they who now have to live in a crime-ridden ghetto.On holiday in Germany recently, we watched a TV documentary about how schools were copingwith Essen's growing Muslim community, and how the community itself felt. When it was over, weturned to each other, and said simultaneously (a drawback of having been married for a while),"This could not have been made in Britain." At the moment, also in Germany, the whole country isdebating Thilo Sarrazin's controversial book
Deutschland schafft sich ab
("Germany abolishesitself"), in which the author — a former member of the board of the Bundesbank and the GermanSocial Democrats — examines research about immigrant communities and then makes specificrecommendations about the integration of the Muslim community. I have only seen scant referenceto this in the British press, which usually dismisses it, wrongly and lazily in my view, as good oldGerman racism. This has nothing whatsoever to do with race. The Muslim community inBirmingham, for instance, is made up of people from many continents and races, includingAfghans, Yemenis, Pakistanis, Indians and Somalis.There is no doubt in my mind that we need to have the same openness in discussing what ishappening to many cities in Britain. If current demographic trends continue over the next fewdecades, the West Midlands, as well as other parts of the country, will become a predominantlyMuslim area. Much more needs to be done to integrate the communities among whom I lived, andwe need to be much less negligent of our own values too. Frankly, if we happened to walk downBroad Street on a Friday night, where mobs of identically undressed and mostly aestheticallyunpleasing gals and lads were on the piss and pull, it was almost a relief to drive back to our ghettoenclave.