It was a packed London underground train, so social interaction was already set at a glacial minimum – the standard non-communication of a late-morning English commuter crowd. In through the sliding door strolled a caricature from Hollywood central-casting of a potentially threatening Muslim male – a tall, big youth, with a thick beard, black boots, camouflage trousers and a vest with big swirling Arabic calligraphy tattooed all over his rippling biceps. There was a noticeable intake of breath and a scattering of nervous glances between neighbours, as if to mime ‘bomber alert’, and various glances which seemed to be sussing out the chance of subtly moving into a different carriage at the next stop without looking too offensive.

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