When I was growing up in London in the 60s, 70s and 80s, my perception of Muslims was that we were really boring people — we just prayed a lot, didn’t drink, didn’t go to parties (well, we didn’t get invited to the really good parties), and we weren’t supposed to have sex until we got married (which didn’t matter too much, because our food was really good). We made the Amish look like swingers.
In those days, there was no real issue of “Islam and the West.” The “problem” at that time was the God-less Communists. I was very happy to see the Muslim world, especially Pakistan (my now-horribly-embarrassing-country-of-origin), working closely with America to drive the God-less Communists out of Afghanistan. America supplied those wonderful Stinger missiles, and it was always a thrill to see on television the brave Mujahedeen taking shots at Russian helicopter gunships.
I was on the same side as James Bond and the Six Million Dollar Man (which seems really cheap now), and very happy with that. In fact, reading the original James Bond novels by Ian Fleming, I discovered that I matched his physical description almost perfectly (it’s true – just check it). James Bond was the ultimate establishment figure, and if I was just like him (apart from the vodka, cigarettes and women), then I belonged. From an early age — despite being a boring Muslim from embarrassing Pakistan — I had decided that I was going to belong, rather than wallow in self-segregation and resentment like many from my ‘home’ country. And British society — slowly, reluctantly at first, but ultimately with a new-found sense of optimism, social justice and inclusion — eventually accepted me as belonging. The casual, normal racism of the 60s had become unacceptable by the 90s. Racism has been driven into the recesses of society. Few now would have the audacity to openly reveal their racism. (There is a major exception to this. It did not seem to occur to the social engineers that brown people could also be racist.)
Then a couple of unexpected things happened.