SPARKHILL is, in many ways, typical of inner-city, 21st-century Britain in the age of austerity. The swimming pool is closed, money-transfer bureaux jostle with pawn shops in Stratford Road and the fast-food cartons tumbling in the gutters suggest street cleaning has been hit by cuts.
But scratch the surface in this corner of Birmingham and you find somewhere quite different from the rest of modern Britain. Life here is lived by the rules and allegiances of the rural Kashmiri community where most local families have their origins.
Dig a little deeper and you will also find a deep well of Islamist extremism and a widespread acceptance of jihad.
In 2000, a year before September 11, an al-Qa’ida bomb factory and a stockpile of HMTD explosive was discovered here. Moinul Abedin, the would-be bomber, was jailed for 20 years.
Eight years later, five men were jailed for a plot to kidnap and behead a British soldier home on leave from Afghanistan. Yesterday three ringleaders of a suicide bomb plot were convicted.
Scores of young men from these streets have travelled abroad for jihad and hundreds of thousands of pounds have been raised to finance Mujaheddin groups. The Maktabah bookshop was not just a gathering place for local radicals but a place known internationally for publishing and distributing jihadi propaganda