Anyone who thinks about the history of Arabic literature in the Umayyad and Abbasid periods, from the seventh until, say, the eleventh century, must be struck by the enormous number of first-rank writers and thinkers who were either born in Basra or who lived and studied there.

From Plato’s Republic onwards, the idea of a politics built on an imagined city has allowed generations of thinkers to engage with the vision of a radical rupture, a break from how the world is now, and how they think we may get to that other place.

The Vatican Bank is housed in a medieval tower that once served as a dungeon. Its lower floors have no windows. To gain admittance you have to leave Italy and go through the gate of the Porta Sant’Anna, be checked by two Swiss Guards, and pass through a two-door security kiosk inset in a plate glass window.

What do you think of when you think of Bradford? Bradford is a city where a number of small, but hugely impactful, events have led to the creation of an urban myth embedded in the British and international consciousness. Carefully crafted by the media, every new story emerging from Bradford adds to this legend.

Despite the seductive appeal of its vision, Islamist politics is anti-politics, a search for a changeless world and a sinless humanity, a utopian longing that renders the pursuit of all politics and all dialogue with history superfluous.