Britain’s key failing is that it was tough where it should have been liberal, and liberal where it should have been tough. It extended detention without trial and stop-and-search: sweeping measures that affected everyone and left Muslims, most of whom are completely blameless, feeling under attack. At the same time, it was ridiculously tolerant and indulgent towards a small minority of Muslim radicals.
The vast majority of ordinary British Muslims are not extremists, as every poll shows. But extremists do control, or heavily influence, many of the most important institutions of Muslim Britain: key mosques, large Muslim charities, influential TV stations, university Islamic societies and schools. Until recently, this was done with at best the acquiescence, at worst the support, of the British state. It was acting partly in the naive (and surely now disproved) belief that it could anoint “good” radicals and use them against the “bad” ones, and partly through the loss of moral perspective that seems to overtake some liberals whenever race is involved.
In the most bizarre example, Ed Balls, when education secretary in the last government, actively defended the payment of public money – which continues to this day – to schools run by supporters of the racist, separatist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, whose key aim, the creation of an Islamic state, has now been achieved in Iraq and Syria.