Another cleanup completed yesterday at Ripon Street ✅ pic.twitter.com/ZjiySb7YGL
— Tiger Patel (@CllrTigerPatel) May 24, 2021
7/7, the wounding of Stephen Timms, the Manchester Arena mass slaughter, the attacks at London Bridge, the murder of Lee Rigby, the Westminster bridge assault.
The terrorist violence came often enough to make its mark: not just on their victims, but on people more widely. Which, after all, is the main aim of terrorists in the first place.
There were attacks by non-Muslims, of course – like that on worshippers near Finsbury Park mosque. Or by outright neo-nazis: the murderer of Jo Cox was one. And by devout members of other religions.
But those last are concentrated abroad: Hindu terrorism in India, Jewish terrorism in the West Bank, Christian terrorism in America (though race is the usual driver there, not religion).
No, all those terror attacks cited earlier were claimed in the name of Islam and committed by Islamists. They happened in Britain just as they are happening worldwide. They are part of the struggle for the future of the religion.
Which points to another aspect of the violence: it is not only inflicted by Muslims on non-Muslims, but by Muslims on other Muslims. Consider the targetting of Sufi shrines in India for bombings, suicide attacks and shootings.
All this is less noticed in Britain, but is noted all the same – especially when western foreign policy and the worldwide Islamist movement become fatally entangled (as in the Iraq war, from which ISIS emerged).
Why would anyone think that anything other than what happened here would happen? There were two attention-grabbing reactions to the violence. Both made the same errror: namely, confusing Islam, a great religion, with Islamism, a political creed.
The first take came from a spectrum which ran from casual racists to outright neo-nazism through anti-Islam bigotry: ironically, those with a prejudice against the religion were sometimes to be found interpreting the Koran and hadiths in the same way as Al Qaeda.
The second ranged from non-violent Islamists who yearn for a worldwide Caliphate to those who do not, but nonetheless view Muslims less as British citizens than religious believers, and present themselves as speaking for them.
Most people fall into neither category. They are not experts or scholars in any religion, let alone one they don’t practice, and whose sacred language they don’t speak. Why should they be? The results were inevitable.
Polling answers are shaped by the questions, but there’s little reason to doubt the survey which found that a third of Britons believe that Islam is a threat to the British way of life.
It also suggested what recent general elections have confirmed: that Conservative support is concentrated among older, provincial, white, non-university educated voters and Labour support among younger, urban, ethnic minority and university-educated people.
Which explains why the proportion of main party voters who hold that view varied so sharply: 49 per cent of Tory voters and 22 per cent of Labour ones said Islam is such a threat.
Another poll carried out eighteen months later found Conservative members almost exactly where Conservative voters are – in other words, no further “to the right”, as the Guardian would put it.
It is astonishing that almost none of the commentary that we have seen on the Singh Report takes this background into account. Much of it is being written in a vaccuum – as though 9/11, and everything that has happened since, never happened. Are memories really so short?
On the Party and Muslims, we make three brief points. First, its big election win means that it is now representing many more Muslim voters. Good. One can pick that up in the changing balance of Tory backbench Commons questions over Israel and Palestine.
But during the long Cameron era it didn’t, and so made a mess of its Wesminster candidate selection and front bench promotion, especially in the Lords.
It should now make the most of Saqib Bhatti, who is fairly new to the Commons, and of Sajid Javid, who is not – along with Nus Ghani, Rehman Chisti, Imran Hussain and Nadhim Zahawi, who has been driving the Covid vaccine programme.
Second, the bigger corporate structures now have active diversity management (of protected characteristics, not individual thought) and detailed complaints procedures.
No wonder: they don’t want to be sued to high heaven. Anyone who knows anything about CCHQ knows that it simply isn’t geared up in the same way.
And so it is that Singh found the CCHQ complaints team to be “diligent and committed” but “under-resourced and inadequately trained, with a weak data collection system and poor communications between the Complaints Team, complainants and respondents”.
Finally, the report itself is so robust that even Sayeeda Warsi has been unable to dismiss it as a whitewash. It’s important to be clear about what it did and didn’t say.
Singh concluded that “anti-Muslim sentiment remains a problem within the Party”, but also that the inquiry “found no evidence of a Party which systematically discriminated against any particular group”.
Amanda Milling yesterday accepted the report’s recommendations. But the Party’s future with Muslim voters will depend less on codes, rules, systems and training (Singh adroitly swerves the diversity training trap) than, in the best sense of the word, modernisation.
Take as an example one of the instances at the heart of the row – Boris Johnson’s column on the burqa. What made waves wasn’t his view of it: after all, he was against a ban.
Rather, it was that it made those who wear it look “like letter boxes” and “like a bank robber”. You can argue – as Munira Mirza, now Head of Downing Street’s Policy Unit, did on this site – that the attack on him was an exercise in double standards.
“Did gay rights campaigners tread on eggshells about Christian beliefs when they argued for legalising gay marriage?” she wrote. “No, they disagreed powerfully, sometimes offensively, in a bid to persuade the public of their views.”
If you live in a largely white part of the country, with few Muslims, you are likely to have wondered what the fuss was all about in the first place – particularly if you’re older. If you live in or near a city, or are younger, your perspective may well have been different.
The Conservative Party should be looking to the future. Which, unsurprisingly, turns out to mean that it must develop a position which is hostile to Islamism but friendly to Islam, in the same way that it is to other faiths.
This means hard work, to put it mildly. We pointed out earlier that most people aren’t scholars or experts in any religion at all. But if Tories are serious about their One Nation tradition, let alone winning votes, that just isn’t good enough, at least for them.
Activists should get to grips with the issues, quickly. That doesn’t just mean considering religious requirements, such as quick burials in Islam. Nor will success turn on policies that are pro-family, support high education standards and stress lower taxes.
Rather, Conservatives’ future with Muslims will depend on hard work on the ground, often in urban areas that have been dominated by Labour.
We know next to nothing about Tiger Patel, a new Conservative councillor in Blackburn – other than that he seems to be a long way from the Singh Report, in terms of distance, preoccupation, background, almost anything you like.
But his work in energetically clearing up rubbish in his ward (see above) is a surer guide to social progress than even the best reports and their recommendations.