From the Observer: The reaction to the Pickles letter underlines what I consistently argued for in government – that it was important for us to engage with a broad range of groups and individuals who purported to speak for the British Muslim community, while accepting that, inevitably, some didn’t do it very well. We needed to bring more people into the fold rather than increasingly adopt positions which pushed groups and individuals out to the fringe. We will all fight extremism better if we all feel like we are in the same team, where communities feel listened to, where answers are found collectively and where engagement with communities is broad and deep. To use an oft-quoted phrase, “we are all in this together”.
...In January 2011, I warned that anti-Muslim sentiment had “passed the dinner-table test” and become socially acceptable. Since then we’ve seen rising levels of anti-Muslim hate crime and increasingly vitriolic Islamophobic language. Yet not a single major government speech has reflected the concerns, worries and, yes, fear within the British Muslim community. So it’s no surprise there is a trust deficit, a questioning of motive to a letter sent with the best of intentions. For too many, the hand of friendship felt like an admonitory finger that was once again pointing at Britain’s Muslims.