In June 2001, I was elected to Parliament for Wycombe - and found myself representing more Muslims than any other Conservative MP. Three months later 9/11 happened. In May 2005, I was re-elected. Two months later came 7/7. During the summer of 2006, four of my constituents were held over the liquid explosives plot - which was allegedly aimed at blowing up planes. Two of them currently face trial. One has already been convicted of conspiracy to murder.
In short, the last eight years have drawn me with compulsive force to a great issue of our times: relations between Muslims and non-Muslims and the struggle taking place within Islam itself. The near-war between India and Pakistan in 2001, invasion and elections in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Lebanon crisis of 2006 and Israel's action in Gaza a few months ago have come and gone. I want to make three points about where we are now.
But first, some background. My Muslim constituents come almost entirely from Kashmir and Pakistan. So do perhaps two in five of all Muslims in Britain. Their main Islamic tradition is Barelwi - a sufi movement within Sunni Islam. My constituents work, live, pray, gather to march in honour of their Prophet's birthday, the mawlid - a custom viewed with horror as kufr, a "covering of the truth", by some other Muslims - and meet to honour sufi saints such as Pir Shah Ghazi and to listen to the Saiful Malook, the great mystical poem of Mian Mohammed Baksh, "the Rumi of Kashmir".