Unfortunately despite warnings and advice a number of Muslims behaved like complete twats when turning violently on the Police which was outrageous and pathetic. However, what was not reported and I'm not sure if viewers picked up the protection Police afforded the Nazis who came to cause trouble, shared the jokes and enjoyed the musical chants of "Muslim bombers off our streets", while sporting Police uniforms with the Union Jack and support our troops badges.
With regard to lessons learnt I think the overriding one has to be the need for improved Muslim political, media, inter faith and technology engagement. My sense at the demo was despite Non Muslims being present in the form of anti Nazis the Harrow Muslims were nevertheless isolated and heavily reliant on Muslim support from the rest of the city. Despite traditionally good community Inter Faith relations other faiths did not seem overly keen to go on the record criticising the march.
With regard to media engagement how refreshing it was to see a Muslim community leader strike a few fluent sentences together in English and provide some reassurance that there were no plans to introduce Sharia. What a change from the usual comedians served up who would struggle to get the microphone past their beards. In addition, one admires the role of the Harrow Times who presumably because of a good relationship with the old Harrow Mosque going back 35 years stood side by side with Harrow Muslims rather than the real outsiders the Nazis.
Politically, the need to work closely with politicians of all persuasions locally and nationally was in my opinion due to the limited and tentative political gesture of support highlighting how we still do not have our political act in order. Historically one would see politicians in large numbers on the streets be it Grunwick, Greenham Common, Wapping etc but not Harrow. That, along with Trade Union invisibility is a significant political and organisational failure.
The role of New Media technology be it in the form of blogs like this, Twitter, Facebook and the other myriad nature of social networking sites is something Mosques need to urgently address. Waiting for a Friday qutba is not enough, when the community are literally under attack they need to be informed about how to strategically respond, what levers to pull and of course how not to respond when it come to some of the younger hotheads. In this 24 hours news culture image and instant reaction are the name of the game which is why its important for all mosques to have a communications strategy.
The unity and empowerment of the Harrow Muslim community was evident. Young and old, Shia and Sunni, African, Arab and Muslims originally from the Sub continent side by side rather than the usual sectarian nonsense we see in some Mosques.
As Tony Benn says this current preoccupation with Muslims will pass and move to every Chinese takeaway restaurant who will be seen as the next threat. When it does it's imperative that Muslims emerge stronger and more confident partners in society by immediately learning and implementing the lessons of Harrow.