I have not had time to post on all the myriad of things going on in the world. I am writing this on the train back from London before heading off to lecture and preach at the Friedrich Schiller University in Jena tomorrow (after a 3.30am wake up).

But, these are the questions I would ask anyway:

1. Why do newspaper editors want everyone else in the world to be regulated, scrutinised and accountable to outside agencies, but scream when it is proposed that they should be regulated, scrutinised and accountable? When did regulation become a synonym for censorship? How do you spell 'special pleading'?

2. What do members of the English Defence League think they achieved by coming to Bradford last Saturday and shouting to themsleves for an hour before going home again? Genuine question. Nobody was listening. It just seemed like a waste of time and money – to say nothing of the cost to Bradford and the police.

3. Are Manchester United fans not just the teeniest little bit embarrassed about bleating like babies after a couple of games where they didn't win? After laughing at everyone else for twenty five years?

4. Where was all this new Madeleine McCann stuff hiding before the UK police got going on it?

5. We already owned the Royal Mail; so, why were we asked to buy it?

6. Who decides whether Edward Snowden did the world a favour or played into the hands of the bad guys?

7. When is the Pakistani government going to start protecting all its citizens, particularly Christians who are being targeted with violence?

8. Which Americans are proud of their political system when it inhibits the working of government?

9. How do we get the balance between protection (intelligence agencies) and oppression (intelligence agencies)? And who decides what is appropriate secret service?

10. Are we nearly there yet?

 

The English Defence League – minus most of its recently-resigned leadership – is coming to Bradford on Saturday.

In one sense it is really nice that lost of people from outside the city want to come and visit. They need to know, however, that the weather forecast is shockingly awful and it will be cold.

In response to a request by the local newspaperwpid-Photo-16-Sep-2013-1332.jpg for a few words about this visit, I offered the following:

The first question we need to ask of the English Defence League is: what sort of ‘England’ do you think you are defending? Is the answer something like: racist, violent, anti-social and destructive?

Where the EDL goes, they disturb ordinary people’s lives, and leave behind a huge financial cost to the police and local authorities. Many ordinary citizens speak of feeling violated.

It is interesting that the leaders of the EDL have just announced their departure on the grounds that the organization has become too extreme and has fallen into the hands of the far right. Well, past experience would suggest that none of this should have come as a blinding revelation. But, Tommy Robinson has now distinguished between “Islamist ideology” and “Muslims”: he wants to be against the former, but not the latter.

For Bradford this is significant. Bradford is mature enough in its community and intercultural relations to be able to face hard questions and to have honest conversations about the challenges as well as the opportunities afforded by our cultural interactions (or lack of them). These challenges are clear, but are best addressed by people who live in Bradford and have a purchase on what happens here. We are big enough to avoid illusions and work towards better integration.

Bradford is rich in diversity – and more colourful than any other city in England. We need to hold firm to our common heritage as we shape what it will mean to be ‘English’ for our grandchildren. The EDL has no place here because it has nothing to bring to the conversation.

Really, this just picks up on something I wrote when Channel Four broadcast its two-part programme entitled ‘Make Bradford British’. Since when was ‘Englishness’ or ‘Britishness’ something we merely inherited rather than something we are creating? In the earlier post (referred to above) I observed:

Focus on the naff title is fair – especially as this first programme, if anything, is clear that Bradford is British. The question is: what does it mean to be British? It seems that when we try to identify identity we look to the past. But, ‘Britishness’ is not some sort of product we inherit and then try to keep in a cultural box; rather, it is evolving as time moves on. We are creating Britain as we go. In this sense, perhaps, the title of the series unwittingly opens up a more productive debate – or provides a better-shaped lens through which to look at local culture: how do we take our responsibility in shaping at every level the Britain we are becoming?

I have no idea what fantasy of ‘England’ the EDL thinks it is defending. And I am not holding my breath that they’ll be able to articulate any coherent vision for the England we might create together.

Whatever. If they make it through the wind and the rain, they’ll find a confident city, facing challenges with eyes open, and they can at least marvel at the wonderful Victorian architecture.

 

Mention the word 'race' at the moment and all eyes turn to the Olympics in London. But, it is another form of race that preoccupies my mind today.

Yesterday the parents of Shafilea Ahmed were jailed for life for murdering their own daughter who had – by her westernised independence – offended their cultural and community sensibilities. The case has been well publicised and I don't need to go into detail here.

However, there is a very good and clear response to some of the issues raised by Sara Khan in the Guardian this morning. She might also have questioned whether the inhibition of social and health services to protect and advocate for vulnerable arises not from misguided racism, but rather from cultural ignorance and fear of 'getting it wrong'.

Yes, this is sensitive stuff. Muslim leaders in Bradford have no truck with religious or 'cultural' excuses for criminal or violent behaviour. No question – and I know because we speak openly, frankly and without inhibition about these and other matters. And it is not simply about race.

Today the English Defence League is due to demonstrate in West Yorkshire – Keighley, to be precise – and at the same time demonstrate its crassly simplistic (and selectively perverse) focus on missing the point. It is right that people should protest about the horror that is sex-grooming of vulnerable young girls. It is barely believable that men can do this in the first place and it demands condemnation and punishment. But – and this is the brutal point – it is not primarily a racial issue.

Sex-grooming of vulnerable girls is a male issue, not a race issue. It is an Asian male problem and it is a Muslim male issue… because it is a generic male issue. When white Anglo-Saxon men commit these crimes we don't write off 'white' 'non-Muslim' 'non-Asian' cultures as being inherently corrupt or dangerous. If this is an Asian problem, it is only so because it is a male problem. Of course, there will be factors peculiar to Asian culture and the Asian community – just as there will be factors unique to the phenomenon in other cultural communities – and these need to be addressed. But, to target Asians is misguided, to say the least.

In a conversation recently my Muslim interlocutors acknowledged straight up the fact that “this is our problem”; but, we followed this up with the recognition that it is also OUR problem. If the problem of such appalling criminality is to be properly addressed, we need to recognise the 'maleness' of the phenomenon and not simply target religious or cultural scapegoats whilst quietly ignoring the facts or the cultural ubiquity of the behaviour.

The best way to handle the EDL is simply to ignore them and not honour their case with attention.