SAJID Javid’s appointment as Home Secretary last month produced a flurry of new accusations about Islamophobia in the Labour Party. Controversy centred on Peterborough-based activist Tariq Mahmood and his use of the expression “coconut”, a slur allegedly aimed at BME people who support “white” political causes. These hateful words, commentators glibly reminded us, have no place in political debate.

Certainly, Mahmood could have expressed himself more carefully. Certainly, people from a Muslim background should feel free to express support for any cause they wish, even if that includes the party of Norman Tebbitt and Enoch Powell. Certainly, just as we should defend an African American’s right to join the Republican Party, Javid should be allowed to express his right-wing views without having to apologise for his religious origins or skin colour.

But does this incident tell us anything interesting about Islamophobia in the Labour Party? Not really. Firstly, Tariq Mahmood is at least as Muslim as Javid, and, secondly, he isn’t even a Labour member. But more importantly, Islamophobia isn’t really about the ignorant use of language, hurtful though these cases can be. Even the most awful examples don’t necessarily represent a major trend among Labour members. Labour should do better, and none of this should be tolerated, but a few incidents don’t necessarily indicate a systemic problem.

Nonetheless, Labour has been Islamophobic in truly systematic fashion. It has an Islamophobic record that beats just about any European party to have governed in recent history.

This didn’t always manifest in off-colour jokes or bigoted comments. But it did instrumentalise the state, policing and public prejudice to create a culture of fear, oppression and division in a minority community. It did ruin the lives of fundamentally innocent young people. It did legitimise genuinely racist parties. It did do this for cynical motives, to disable criticism of Western foreign policy and to paint opposition to war as backward and irrational.

And the above, for me, gives a better indication of the real essence of Islamophobia.

There’s a misleading tendency to imagine Islamophobia as being the product of ignorant, uneducated voters and populist politicians. I understand that narrative, but it doesn’t conform to the historical record. The people who established the current ideology were highly educated, elitist and cosmopolitan. They were government officials with links to the corporate world. Their politics varied from Tony Blair’s centre-leftism to George Bush’s moderate conservatism.

Contemporary Islamophobia didn’t start with Nigel Farage, far less Jeremy Corbyn. It came from what Tariq Ali calls the “extreme centre” of Western politics.

Islamophobia, it’s true, has enabled support for the hard right, and those parties have gleefully exploited it. Over time, it has also helped further erode the centre-left. But its intellectual roots are globalist and liberal, and if you’re interested in the root causes of our current crisis, you should start with these “moderate” ideologies.

Under Labour, measures like stop-and-search policing and “anti-terror” surveillance created a systemic culture of fear in Muslim communities. Studies showed time and again that these policies, along with Western aggression in the Muslim world, worked to reinforce the most violent forms of Islamist ideology. But this didn’t change Labour’s policy. Instead, driven by their own ideological paranoia, they doubled down on measurably counterproductive procedures.

One obvious part of this was racialised policing, but Labour’s policy went deeper. It sought to bring the whole professional apparatus into the policing strategy. Teachers, health professionals, social workers, university lecturers and a host of others were encouraged to spy on the political attitudes of young people in their care.

Labour said this was about combatting all extremism and wasn’t specifically targeted at Muslims. But here’s the difference. As a white person, I knew I could freely complain about Western foreign policy without anyone suspecting that I was being exposed to “extremism”. After all, virtually every sane person has complained about the motives behind British foreign policy, whether it’s Brexit or Iraq. But as a young Muslim, you couldn’t express these views without looking over your shoulder.

The British state could, and would, arrest them on the most spurious of “links to terrorism”. Often, in defiance of the whole history of civil liberties, this was based on little more than a person’s likelihood to commit future crimes.

The Prevent strategy was meant to incorporate the Muslim community into this strategy. And, to an extent, it did. But the British authorities were always reluctant to work with any Muslim group that linked extremist attitudes to UK foreign policy. Which isn’t really “engagement”, because divorcing Islamist attitudes from Western foreign policy is like trying to explain America’s school shootings without referring to its gun laws and NRA culture.

So-called “extremism” has social causes. Indeed, I’ll go further: it had rational causes. It’s rational to be appalled at the invasion of other countries to loot their resources. It’s rational to conclude that Western states are both hypocritical and racist in their treatment of the Muslim world. And when the British media reports the government’s lies as facts, it’s easy to fall under the spell of movements that tell half of the truth.

The Labour Party has a lot of apologising to do. True, they didn’t intend to create Donald Trump or Ukip: they didn’t want barriers, they wanted a world free for corporations. But they are culpable for Islamophobia. Their leaders played a central role in manufacturing its core themes. Their policies fostered violent ideologies on both sides. Their doctrines left us in this mess.

But this is being forgotten. Journalists and politicians are discussing Islamophobia as if it’s about the personal ignorance of Twitter trolls. Certainly it encompasses that, but it’s so much more. It’s one of the defining ideologies of our time, and its roots go deep into the hidden recesses of the state. We’ve normalised a state of emergency that was declared decades ago, even though we know the War on Terror’s motives were utterly bogus. And that’s the real, dangerous essence of Islamophobia.