Are you, gentle Telegraph reader, scared witless by the seemingly unstoppable advance of Islam? Writing in this week's Spectator, Charles Moore, the editor of this newspaper, said: "People in the West fear Islam more than they like to admit... I am frightened by a creed which, in its current form, does not appear to have a doctrine of the separation of Church and state..."
Certainly, the wild level of publicity given in both the broadcast and print media last week to that fringiest of fringe groups, al-Muhajiroun, in the run-up to their preposterously titled "The Magnificent 19" conferences must have sent blood-pressure levels rising nationally among those who are unaware of this group's true standing in Britain.
An al-Muhajiroun spokesman, calling himself "Abu Omar" - this supposedly fearless defender of the faith was strangely reluctant to reveal his true identity - was, astoundingly, invited on to Radio 4's flagship Today programme at the start of last week. He proceeded to denounce all Muslims who opposed the 9/11 attacks as "apostates". Yet every leading Islamic authority and country around the world, including the venerable al-Azhar university in Egypt, had condemned the indiscriminate slaughter of the innocents that day.
The Muslim Council of Britain repeatedly urged journalists not to exaggerate the minuscule support that al-Muhajiroun has in this country by giving undue coverage to such an obvious publicity stunt. In the event, no actual conferences were held except for a press conference, which was very well attended indeed - by journalists. There is a symbiotic relationship between the media and al-Muhajiroun - one side needs constant sensationalism; the other, to mask the scarcity of its followers, needs publicity.
The irony is that it is ordinary British Muslims who are left wounded - often literally - by this sort of provocative drivel, while the far Right gains added ammunition for its menacing agenda. It cannot be a coincidence that the last two anniversary events organised by al-Muhajiroun have attracted more BNP activists than British Muslims.
Islam is undoubtedly a growing faith in the West. Britain's UK's 2001 census confirmed that, with more than 1.6 million UK Muslims, Islam is now this country's second largest faith. British Muslims number more than British Hindus, Sikhs and Jews added together.
The vast majority of Muslims have been quite willing to integrate into British society, while retaining a strong belief in Islam. Yet our government needs to make good on its pledge of greater inclusiveness if this process is to be accelerated. It is not a question of being British or Muslim. We are both - just as Mohammed was an Arab and a Muslim. And, as this week's Economist notes, "It is arguably in the West that some of the most contented Muslims live, and where much of the most creative Islamic thinking now takes place."
The doctrine of church-state separation is a more debatable issue. While Europe saw clear scientific and technological progress made once the restrictions of the state's link with the Church had been lifted, for Muslims the experience was exactly the reverse. Prior to the coming of Prophet* Mohammed in the seventh century, the Arabs had counted for little in history. Islam unified their ranks and set them on course for establishing what was then the world's leading civilisation.
Last week in Salford, the British Association of Science Festival heard Emilie Savage-Smith of Oxford University report that specialist medical research, free public health treatment and retirement homes for the aged were available in Baghdad and other parts of the Islamic world in the year 950, while Britons were still mired in the Dark Ages. Hospitals were open to all, Muslim and non-Muslim.
In addition, the recent history of secular movements in the Muslim world has not been a particularly auspicious one. From ex-colonial Algeria to the budding statesmen of the PLO, secular nationalist groups have almost become a byword for corruption and incompetence. Some in the Palestinian leadership and their families are known to have made small fortunes from the construction of the same Jewish settlements in the West Bank that they denounce as illegal.
It is only in this light that the rise of the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas, in Palestine can be explained. Hamas also possesses an efficient social welfare network, while its leadership lives in the same dilapidated homes as ordinary Palestinians. America's unstinting diplomatic, financial and military support for Israel has only seen corresponding Muslim support for Palestinian resistance groups also increase.
Whereas in many Western eyes, the EU's decision last week to proscribe the political wing of Hamas will be seen as just retribution for the recent atrocity in Jerusalem when 22 Israelis died when a Hamas suicide bomber blew up a bus, much of the Muslim world sees the EU taking sides with the occupier, with Israel once again escaping any serious censure for its own systematic policy of illegal occupation, repression and assassination. While the Palestinian groups had declared and abided by a unilateral truce for more than 45 days, the Israelis had nevertheless continued on a daily basis their campaign of "targeted killings" and home demolitions. Are Palestinian lives regarded by the EU as of less worth than Israeli ones?
Similarly, the continuing US detention of hundreds of Muslims, including nine Britons, at Guantanamo Bay is causing mounting concern, especially as the US authorities, in defiance of world opinion, seem to be in no particular hurry to bring them to trial. Last Thursday, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "Our interest is not in trying them and letting them out. Our interest is in - during this global war on terror - keeping them off the streets, and so that's what's taking place." So the burden of proof has in the case of these Muslim detainees been reversed. Our own government's muted response to this unjust treatment of its citizens by its main ally has not gone unnoticed by British Muslims. A delegation from the Muslim Council of Britain recently met the Attorney-General, Lord Goldsmith, to convey precisely this worry.
In the long run, it is surely that lack of balance in some of our policies which represents a greater challenge to relations between Islam and the West than the sorry antics of al-Muhajiroun.
The author is Secretary of the Media Committee of the Muslim Council of Britain
* 'Prophet' in original article was edited out