Darcus Howe predicts the rise of an Islamic party

There will be more suicide bombers, and I won't be surprised if an Islamic political party emerges

Leeds had yielded three of the suicide bombers. You can imagine the rush of the world's press to the location. Beeston, a poor suburb with a large concentration of Muslim residents, rose from its torpor to a chaotic buzz of journalists who sought to dissect its past and its present, and to speculate on its future.

Citizens had to be evacuated, some to the halls of residence at Leeds Metropolitan University, as forensics combed several homes. Tabloids waved chequebooks to attract information that would shed some light on the lives of the suicide bombers. Councillors were dragged into this maelstrom to shield and protect constituents from the onslaught. Small public relations firms were overstretched as they sought to represent local clients, advising them on what to say and how to say it. It was hot and hectic.

Five months later, on 8 December, the PR folk gathered at a conference in the city, organised by the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, to revisit the period and to learn from the experiences following the summer's moment of death and destruction. I was invited to speak, as a regular columnist for the New Statesman and the author of the Channel 4 documentary White Tribe, which explored the issue of "Britishness". I was chosen, they told me, because I had on these pages predicted the onset of riots in Oldham, conflicts between Pakistani and Caribbean youth in Birmingham, and the presence in our country of would-be suicide bombers.

I accepted the speaking engagement more to share an experience visited upon us by four of Allah's men than to expound on the historical antecedents of the perpetrators. I was at ease in Leeds, having camped there and in nearby Bradford in the past to assist and support the anti-racist campaigns of the Asian Youth Movement, formed in 1976. In Bradford in 1981, 12 young Asians were charged with making and possessing bombs - not suicide bombs, but petrol bombs, to be used in anticipation of an attack by what was then the National Front. They were acquitted, having argued that they were acting in self-defence.

The conference raised two slogans: "Rebuilding hope" and "Don't panic". It began dramatically. Robert Webb, a public relations officer at Cardiff City Council, told in excruciating detail the experience of his family following the death of his sister Laura in that mad bombing spree. He illustrated his talk with a picture of her grave, strewn with daisies, and a photograph of Laura at her sparkling best. He explained how he had scoured hospitals to discover her fate, and how his experience in public relations had helped him through this tortuous process. I shed a tear, moved by Laura's remarkable resemblance to my own daughter Taipha.

I looked forward to the following presentations by two young Muslims, whose contributions I thought would be central to understanding the feelings of people in their communities.

First on stage was Tuhel Miah, a further education teacher at the local Joseph Priestley College. He arrived from Bangladesh as a child and has been living in Beeston for 20 years. He spends much of his time being a busybody in several community organisations. He is fiercely ambitious. I could tell. He claimed that he had little knowledge of the bombers, and could tell us nothing of the social type. I asked myself: if he can't, then who in Allah's name can?

Miah boxed clever; the lights were on him, and he ducked and dived from the issues at hand. He was scared of the BNP. He could not understand why these young men who were not street urchins did it. They all had bright futures. Then, to avoid questions from the audience, he asked himself the questions he felt those in the audience would field. And he answered them before he sauntered off the stage. He offered no condolences to Robert Webb; for him it was all in a day's work.

After Miah came Adeem Younis, the founder of SingleMuslim, an online dating agency for Muslims in Britain. He joked his way through his presentation. I sensed that being a Muslim today in the UK gave him celebrity status. He, too, ignored Webb's loss.

I spoke next and explained that as far away as Trinidad and Tobago the toxic mix of politics and religion has destroyed lives and set off a chain of violence. I said that, in the 44 years I have lived in England, I have never known anyone to introduce themselves to me via their religion. It is an odd practice in a society that is deeply irreligious, having kept religion firmly in its place after decades of social struggle. I warned that, should they continue to fly this religious banner in our faces, it is going to be a fight to the finish.

May I speculate? There will be more suicide bombers, and I won't be surprised if an Islamic political party emerges. Money will be the least of its problems, and in its infancy such a party will win a handful of council seats. I am certain of this because Tuhel Miah and Adeem Younis have nowhere else to go. Disaster looms.

Darcus Howe is an outspoken writer, broadcaster and social commentator. His TV work includes ‘White Tribe’ in which he put Anglo-Saxon Britain under the spotlight. He also fronted a series called Devil’s Advocate.