If I'm honest it make me very cross to hear a place I love described as a no go zone under Shariah Law, whether that is from the mouth of "Tommy Robinson", former EDL leader, in the media or even by friends. So this article encouraged me greatly.
I do have to declare an interest in that I and my colleague and friend Rehana contributed. We shared our perspective on Luton. But so too did Stephen Lennon, aka "Tommy Robinson". On several occasions the journalist Griff would say, "When I was driving around with "Tommy" he said ...." Too many times in the past his story has been told unchallenged. We had to work to present another perspective, another narrative. Stephens stories usually have a good deal of truth in them, so I would not call him a liar, but they are drawn together with what I hold to be a distorted view of Islam into a narrative that is sometimes fair, sometimes way off. [I shall be posting a review of his book before too long I hope.]
Witte, Chief of the Washington Post's London Bureau, does a good job describing some of the tensions, and seems to agree with views expressed to him by religious leaders in the town that this is less a war of religions and more of two extremes.
The war of religions theme stands out:
"... as a storm of polarization and animus rages across the continent, Luton is likely to become a test case for which vision of Europe wins out: a cohesive multiculturalism that embraces people of different faiths, however messily, or a civilizational clash that leaves no room for Muslim and non-Muslim coexistence."
The clash of civilisations thesis, first published by Samuel Huntingdon in 1993, has become a dominant paradigm in the USA's foreign policy, among neoconservatives, and on the Christian Right, and while less dominant here in the UK has considerable traction among the far right. Lennon clearly embraces that view, and along with colleagues Ann Marie Waters and Paul Weston who will join him in launching PEGIDA In the UK in Birmingham tomorrow, and Britain First, who visited Luton recently (see my post below), and they seem happy to play their part in stirring it.
I'll conclude with the quote from me:
“We’ve got two options,” said Peter Adams, who leads interfaith efforts at St. Mary’s, the 12th-century church in Luton’s town center. “Kill each other and divide. Or get to know each other and learn to become friends.”
We need this story to go far and wide, especially in the USA. Our British story here seems to be important to justify USA policy, or those seeking to play part in creating it like Donald Trump.