Tariq Jahan - whose remarkable words after his son's death helped to calm rising tensions in Birmingham - has been rightly lauded. Truly he is an incredible man, and it is some small solace that out of these terrible events another, more positive, side of British Muslims is being given the media coverage it deserves.
In fact, Tariq is actually not that exceptional. Anyone who has spent time in Muslim communities - and I have a lot - will know that people like Tariq are to be found everywhere. Tolerance, duty, forbearance, community spirit, loyalty to the country - all the things we commandeer as British values in those interminable debates - are the marks of the overwhelming majority of the British Muslim population. According to a 2010 Gallup Coexist Index, 77% of British Muslims identify with the UK, as opposed to 50% of the general public. A separate survey undertaken six months ago by my Demos colleague Max Wind-Cowie found that over 4 in 5 British Muslims say they are 'proud to be a British citizen'; and two-thirds are 'proud of British culture'. British Muslims were more positive about Britain's future than secularists or Anglicans.
I have spent considerable time across Europe with young Muslims from France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, and elsewhere. It is noticeable how often they declare the UK to be the best place to be a Muslim. I've often noticed that for every hot headed young British Muslim finding his or her identity in radical Islamist groups, there are many more young, politically active, civic minded Muslims: something we desperately need in our apathetic times. I do believe we have the most vibrant young Muslim community in Europe, and that time will bear me out on this.
The events of the last couple of weeks show that every community - I know it's a horrid word - has its problems. Some Muslim communities do have some awful, extremist elements within it. I've argued elsewhere that even "non-violent" extremism needs to be tackled, and that too many young British Muslims for comfort have been intoxicated with a corrosive, vitriolic anti-Westernism and conspiracism. Moreover, despite the furore surrounding the shootings in Norway, al-Qaeda and related groups remain the greatest terrorist threat to our national security. But at least a few more know what many of us knew all along: that the likes of Anjem Choudhury are turds in a punch-bowl of Tariq Jahans. It is tragic that it took such suffering to provide such clarity.
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