When a forthright message comes from a non-political, trusted, respected opinion-former, people rightly sit up and take notice.
Someone from outside the immediate political sphere, but with the knowledge and foresight that perhaps can shackle those who have been elected, really can wake people up.
I say this – first – because politicians from all sides are presumed, often rightly, to have an agenda that suits their purpose.
As a member and deputy leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP), for example, I do appreciate and accept that there are those who occasionally will disagree with me, or downright think that whatever I’m saying is purely down to party politics.
It’s not, though. I haven’t put my heart and soul into UKIP without meaning or belief. I absolutely believe in what I say, and do. And I absolutely believe in a better Britain.
And a better Britain can only come about when the entire country – all of us, to borrow a phrase from a certain Chancellor of the Exchequer, in it “together” – thinks largely as one.
So I found the words of Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and also the Equality and Human Rights Commission, in the Sunday Times yesterday, particularly illuminating.
This Wednesday, Phillips will be presenting a TV show on Channel 4 called ‘What British Muslims Really Think’. The programme has been made on the back of a survey, the biggest ever, of British Muslims’ views.
I reckon it’s going to be a “must watch” show. And here’s why.
Phillips wrote this weekend: “I thought this latest exercise would be intriguing. In fact, it has turned out to be astonishing.
“The data collected by the respected research firm ICM shows what the polling experts call ‘a chasm’ opening between Muslims and non-Muslims on such fundamentals as marriage, relations between men and women, schooling, freedom of expression and even the validity of violence in defence of religion.
“And the chasm isn’t going to disappear any time soon; indeed, the gaps between Muslim and non-Muslim youngsters are nearly as large as those between their elders.”
Some of the figures quoted by Phillips are startling.
Just for instance, because this is by no means the most stand-out of results, 39 per cent of those polled agreed that “wives should always obey their husbands”.
Imagine that conversation going on down at The Dog and Duck?
Maybe the odd non-Muslim bloke here or there would agree but it is entirely unlikely he would express that at home or elsewhere. Because in this country, women are equals and rightfully so.
Another 31 per cent – so almost a third of the British Muslims polled – think it is “acceptable for a British Muslim to keep more than one wife”.
Again, try playing that one that down at The Dog and Duck. Or indeed at home, when the phrase “short shrift” would be followed by the sound of a slammed door.
Phillips writes also: “It’s not as though we couldn’t have seen this coming. But we’ve repeatedly failed to spot the warning signs.
“Twenty years ago, when, as chair of the Runnymede Trust, I published the report titled Islamophobia: A Challenge for Us All, we thought that the real risk of the arrival of new communities was discrimination against Muslims.
“Our 1996 survey of recent incidents showed that there was plenty of it around. But we got almost everything else wrong.
“We estimated that the Muslim population of the UK would be approaching 2m by 2020. We underestimated by nearly a million.
“We predicted that the most lethal threat to Muslims would come from racial attacks and social exclusion. We completely failed to foresee the urban conflicts of 2001 that ravaged our northern cities.
“And of course we didn’t dream of 9/11 and the atrocities in Madrid, Paris, Istanbul, Brussels and London.”
And we didn’t, did we? Because we were too busy trying to make other people happy instead of ensuring that we were, first.
But the figure that really and shockingly sprang off the page to me was the 23 per cent support for the introduction of Sharia law into British law.
Sharia “law” – and those quote marks are deliberate – is anything but.
“Law” – real law – is a set of agreements fought and argued about on a common set of principles. Not a doctrine enforced on people who disagree.
Sharia “law” is a barbaric, medieval practice. No one has agreed upon it apart from some indoctrinated, non-elected mullahs with their own agenda.
Phillips’ excellent piece doesn’t quite finish on this, but it’s worth quoting, too: “For a long time, I too thought that Europe’s Muslims would become like previous waves of migrants, gradually abandoning their ancestral ways, wearing their religious and cultural baggage lightly, and gradually blending into Britain’s diverse identity landscape. I should have known better.
“Just months after I had taken over as head of the Commission for Racial Equality in 2003, I visited the town of Oldham, where some one in five of the population are British Muslims.
“Two years earlier the town had been torn apart by some of the worst race riots Britain had seen in my lifetime. An official government report had spoken of white and Asian communities living “parallel lives”.
“It couldn’t really be as bad as that, I thought. In fact, it was worse. Speaking to a hall of more than 200 students, one thing was immediately obvious: groups of white and Asian students sat in the same hall — but the groups didn’t mix. It was like looking at a living chess board.
“And to drive it home, one of the white students made no bones about what was going on.
“He told me, without rancour or aggression: “When we’re here it’s fine, we get on. But when we leave here on Friday, we won’t see them [Asians] until Monday.” No one dissented.”
There is no getting away from it, no matter how the BBC or the Guardian try to pretend otherwise.
There absolutely is a cultural divide in this country thanks to parts of the Muslim community, but no one wants, or seems able, to talk about it. So my question is quite simple: Why not?