Why is this happening?
So why is this happening?
We’ve got to start by understanding where this bigotry comes from.
We must learn the lessons of history.
Now I strongly believe that the British story of integration is a positive story.
You need to delve deep into the Dark Ages to find a time when the state was under the exclusive control of one tribe or ethnicity.
Instead, for centuries, our state has represented a set of common laws governing a diverse set of tribes, faiths and ethnicities.
The same can be said about the USA.
America prides herself on being a haven of immigrants, where you can be proudly Irish or Italian or Christian or Muslim – and still American.
As it says on the Great Seal of the United States: e pluribus unum.
This idea of unity from diversity runs through our own history.
It has helped to forge the values of pluralism, tolerance and diversity which define our society.
This gives us our moral authority to criticise, challenge and condemn those nations which far too often do not grant their religious minorities dignity, respect and equality.
But the British battle against bigotry will always be an ongoing battle.
And sadly, at no point does it totally disappear.
So Disraeli did become the first Jewish Prime Minister – but the cartoonists still drew him as an East-End bag-man.
Oswald Mosley’s Fascists never became a mainstream party – but the newspapers at the time were still littered with Anti-Semitism.
And now a Muslim woman is a member of a British Cabinet – but a British citizen today can still be attacked for merely wearing a headscarf as part of her religious observance.
Why is bigotry so resilient?
A big part of the problem is the intellectual challenge of reconciling religious and national identities.
If you look back at our history, you see that we have had particular trouble when it comes to this issue.
Again and again, we found it hard to believe that non-Protestants could be loyal to our country.
The debates on Catholic Emancipation in the 1820s are a fantastic case study.
Yes, a big part of the argument against letting Catholics into Parliament was old-fashioned anti-Catholic bigotry.
Up and down the country, the mob cried: “No Papacy”.
But the interesting thing was the intellectual argument which lies behind the rioting.
Deep down, it all boiled down to this:
Whether a Catholic, whose ultimate allegiance was thought to be to the Papacy, could still be a loyal servant of the British Monarchy.
The problem with Catholicism, as the Protestant establishment saw it, was that it transcended British sovereignty...
...ultimate loyalty wasn’t to the King of Britain but to the Papacy...
...which meant being Catholic and British were two irreconcilable identities.
It was only after Catholic Emancipation passed through Parliament...
...and after we began to break with the medieval European tradition of absolute religious conformity...
....that these problems began to disappear.
But fast forward two centuries, and there is still a sense of suspicion towards those subjects whose ultimate loyalty is presumed to lie with a supranational religion...
....or to an extra-terrestrial divinity.
Just think about anti-Muslim bigotry.
One of the most frequent arguments made against Islam in Britain is the idea that all British Muslims want to overturn British sovereignty and obey a transnational, Islamic authority.
Let me repeat again: extremists are a minority of a minority.
But from this flows a steady drip of suspicion and sense of sedition...
...all feeding the rise of a wider Islamophobia.