Deeyah: She did not collapse under the pressure of violence
Imagine if white racists in Norway or Britain had targeted Deepika Thathaal, the former pop singer who has recently made her first feminist documentary, Banaz: An Honour Killing, which was shown on ITV1 at the end of October. As a brilliant and beautiful 17-year-old she had mixed the influences of the Asian music her immigrant parents knew with the sounds of Massive Attack and Portishead to become one of Norway's first Asian stars.
Her opponents dialled her parents' home and bellowed out poisonous threats. They burst into her classroom and screamed that she was "a slut, a whore, a prostitute". They attacked her on the street and stormed the stage during a concert in Oslo. She moved to London and relaunched herself as Deeyah, "the Muslim Madonna". With a touching naivety, she thought that Britain would be a safer country to work in than Norway. (She had visited as a child and been impressed to see Asian women outdoors in Western dresses without men attacking them.)
One thought disturbed her reverie: "Why do I have this market all to myself? Why am I the only Muslim woman on the scene?"
She soon found out. She was forced to hire bodyguards. She was spat at in the street and warned that she would be cut into pieces. Deeyah could not take it. She and her liberal parents were living in fear. She announced that she was giving up on her dream of being a star, and fleeing the horrors of Europe in 2007 to find sanctuary in America.
I am not being fanciful if I imagine that had her tormentors been Norwegian neo-Nazis or the BNP, Deeyah would have become an anti-racist hero: a Muslim Stephen Lawrence. Artists would make her struggle against prejudice their struggle. Politicians would invite her to Westminster and the European Parliament. The BBC would see to it that she was never off air. Liberal society would embrace her and define itself by its response to prejudice and violence.