There is a fascinating, if a little inconsistent, observation where he talks about how his Faith Foundation works to break down barriers between people of different faiths at school age:
We have a programme which uses new technology to join up people of different faiths so that from a young age children can learn about each other's culture and faith based on truth, not on deeply misguided perceptions.Well, while not sharing his faith, I fully concur with my Right Honourable friend, and wish him well with what seems a very sensible venture. But, in that case, why push segregated faith schools when he is painfully aware of the prevalent danger that kids of different faiths might not connect? Very odd. Do something on the one hand and then do something that works directly against it on the other.
As per my previous post here, the promotion of the faith schools concept, not to mention Michael Gove's misguidedly allowing non-faith teachers to be excluded entirely, seems to confound common sense and raises the strong possibility that we will reap the whirlwind in 10-20 years' time of more homogeneous schools - not really a good thing for starters - and of more, not less, divided communities.
Further, in the case of Islamic schools, despite protestations to the contrary from various quarters, recruitment by extremist Islamist organisations within schools is already a real threat, as evidenced by the measures taken back in 2008 (the Quilliam Foundation is doing some interesting research in this area, although the government is threatening to cut its funding).
My broader fear is that we are ceding the whole policy area of what Trevor Phillips at Policy Network calls "Immigration, Integration and Islam" slowly but surely to the Tories, as we struggle to find a narrative.
Finally, I found an excellent observation by, of all people, a Tory - Danny Finkelstein. While I don't agree with a lot - or probably much - of what he says, he had this very nice line in a Times (£) piece back in April which connects that broader issue back to the faith school:
Immigration is won or lost in the playground.
He's right. That is where integration succeeds or fails for a generation. And there we make things more difficult at our peril.