Did the Star City entertainment complex in Birmingham wilfully discriminate against non-Muslims? For several hours, the social media channels of the company were flooded with abuse and accusations of direct discrimination. The story soon made national news.
Leon Jennings, 22, told the Mirror, that he and his friends were unable to visit Vue Cinema due to being white and non-Muslim, a serious allegation that requires an investigation. Upon arrival in the car park, staff informed the group that the venue for the evening was only suitable for ‘couples and families.’
Undeterred, they attempted to enter the cinema complex but a member of security denied them entry. The reason? It was allegedly only for families and couples celebrating Eid.
Mark Wilson, Centre Manager at Star City, strenuously denied the allegations:
“Over the past few days Star City has been extremely busy and the volume of traffic has been very high, causing significant traffic congestion and delays in getting some visitors access into the Centre. During the busiest times some visitors have been turned away and there has been some disappointment for some, for which we apologise. However, there is simply no truth in the recent allegations – the nature of which have no place at Star City.”
That message is consistent with a warning posted on Vue Cinema’s website about “additional security and traffic controls” at the Star City location during Eid. The short message went on to detail a “strict admission policy” and family-friendly environment.
Nor does the statement from Vue Cinemas corroborate claims of religious discrimination (it merely acknowledges that people could not access the venue):
“We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused to our guests who tried to gain access to our Birmingham Star City cinema.”
“As a company we welcome customers from all religious and cultural backgrounds. We are investigating this directly with the Star City management team as a matter of urgency.”
The final paragraph in the Mirror piece acknowledges that Star City were “unaware” of individuals being turned away from the venue on religious grounds.
As of writing, West Midlands Police confirmed to some local journalists that the allegations “appear to be unfounded” as they have not received any complaints of racial or religious profiling (but this may change with time).
In spite of this, both the English Defence League (EDL) and Britain First jumped upon the story as evidence of another Muslim-led conspiracy.
Some supporters called for Star City to be “burnt down,” others called for a boycott of Muslim-owned businesses and some simply settled for outright bigotry:
“Disgusting! It’s A Taste Of What This Country Will Be Like In A Few Years. Us English Will Be A Minority In Our Own Country! Makes Me Sick!”
“Sick and tired of reading about Muslims!! When is this country going to get rid!!”
In an exercise of confirmation bias, many decided to vent their frustrations online with a variety of offensive and negative reviews of Star City:
“Saw a review on this. Absolutely disgusted! Let’s just blow it up? See how they like it.. Fucking pricks. “
“Disgusting!!!! Horrible racist people, Islam will be the death of Great Britain.”
“Muslims out!!!!!! Now!!!!!”
“would be negative star but that’s not an option… seriously banning all non muslims… it’s ENGLAND NOT PAKISTAN if they want a muslim only shopping centre then they can go fuck off to their own country or the country where their ancestors came from.. makes me sick to be an outcast in MY OWN COUNTRY”
A Facebook group titled ‘Boycott star city – racist shithole,’ which has over 2,000 ‘likes,’ encourages users to leave negative reviews.
Rather than jumping to emotive and abusive conclusions, we must await any internal investigation, before we decide if these allegations are indeed true.