Saracens and Crusaders will be the new Cold War. These people- on both sides- want to live in a morally simple world. They love the comfort of having a Big Enemy to oppose.
I have tried to understand the conflict in the Middle East. Frankly it makes my head hurt. I could save myself the head-hurtiness by nominating either Sharon or Arafat as the Big Bad.
I watch the footage from Beslan. Anger. Grief. What sort of people shoot children in the back? Maybe the same sort of people who drop bombs on children from a great height. In short, any sort of people if the conditioning is right. I must resist the manipulation....
I have Muslim friends and neighbours. Yesterday Fiza (who is 11) was helping me water the garden. And the woman from two doors down came and borrowed the electric hedge-trimmer.
I think of my Muslim neighbours as Victorians. Hanging out with them is a bit like hanging out with one's great-great-grandparents. They're very straight and a little bit stuffy. I have to watch my language and keep off the subject of religion and, worst of all, bite my tongue when it comes to women's rights. It bothers me that Fiza isn't allowed to play out on her own any more.
Am I patronizing them? Sure I am. I think my liberalism is better than their ethical rigidity. Of course I do; it's mine and I fought for it.
And how do they see me? Do they pity my infidelity, my lack of religion? I hope so. It would be horrid if the patronage only flowed one way.
And... Well, that's it really. Here's the TV beaming jihadis into the living room and here's me living on a street where about half the people are of Pakistani origin. There are tensions and I'd like them to be fruitful tensions.
Work in Progress......