Steven Emerson's gaffe about the British city of Birmingham, stating in a live television interview that "[I]n 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", has gotten global coverage. (For the record, in Birmingham, the United Kingdom's second-largest city by population, Muslims make up 14.3% of the city's population.)
Informed Consent's Juan Cole notes correctly that Emerson has consistently gotten things wrong, assigning responsibility for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing to Muslims. One question still has to be asked: How could someone with his reputation get global media coverage? I'll suggest the trending Twitter hashtag #foxnewsfacts wasn't picked arbitrarily
Meanwhile, this would seem to fit with the pattern I mentioned last week of people badly misjudging the size of populations, overestimating them. Joe. My. God. has noted that the same sort of thing goes on with non-heterosexuals, too. The suggestions of the commenter here, that minorities tend to concentrate in cities and that cities are often taken to accurately represent their countries, do point in a plausible direction.
I think one of the primary reasons is the that Immigrants concentrate in the cities.
In my neck of the woods, the rural areas and the suburbs are almost completely white European in decent. But if you go to the local city (which is a small American city that you have never heard of) it is a regular United Nations full of Muslims, Hindus, Orthodox Christians (as exotic to the locals as the other faiths).
The end result is that were people live is more homogeneous then the country at large but where they go to socialize and shop is far more diverse then the country at large. And I think that people get their preconception of what the country as a whole is like not from where they live but from where they shop.
How often have conservatives and nationalists castigated cities, especially large ones, as unrepresentative of their community--too multiethnic, too "cosmoplitan", too secular, et cetera?