You are here:   Features > Not Tweets And Anger But Redoubled Vigilance civilisation cannot be brought down just by jihadists, even if their numbers are growing and they do not care whether they live or die. But our report on France by Michel Gurfinkiel is highly suggestive for Britain too. The French find themselves living in a semi-permanent state of siege. We British may find ourselves in the same plight if we now make the wrong decisions about education and integration. Segregation in schools is rapidly getting worse in our cities. In Birmingham schools, for example, the proportion of white British children fell from 39 to 32 per cent in just five years from 2011-2016. Ethnic and religious segregation usually go together. In his new book Terror in France: The Rise of Jihad in the West (Princeton), Gilles Kepel concludes with the insight that the “single place” where Muslims and non-Muslims can “move beyond atavism and communalism” is the lycée, the French high school. Ironically, three of the victims on Westminster Bridge were pupils at the Lycée Saint-Joseph in Concarneau, Brittany.

Ever since the 1980s, Kepel has been warning about the incubation of jihadism in the banlieues around cities among the second and now third generation of French Muslims. The horrors of Paris and Nice originated in the failure to use the classroom as a place where the jihadist narrative — which denies that Arab armies were ejected after the Battle of Poitiers in 732 and claims that France rightfully belongs to Islam — can be confronted with the facts. Anti-colonialism can morph into Islamism.

Here in Britain, we must not allow the separation of mosque and state to become blurred by the replacement of the secular law by Sharia. Mrs May, echoing her predecessors, told Parliament that Islamism is a “warped perversion” of Islam. Yet across much of the Muslim world, including many communities in the West, there is broad support for “Islamism” — political Islam — if not for violent jihad. It is vital that the battle of ideas is taken seriously in our universities, think tanks and media, so that distortions of history and current affairs are refuted immediately. We need academics to defend our civilisation.

For that to happen, we must reverse the drift towards turning higher education into a monoculture where dissent is discouraged or even suppressed. This problem, which afflicts the whole Western world, was illustrated by last month’s disturbing incident at Middlebury College, Vermont, in which Charles Murray, a highly distinguished visiting conservative speaker, was attacked by a masked mob who injured the female professor hosting the event. Even in the worst days of McCarthyism, dissenting voices continued to be heard in American universities. Curiously, this incident (a big story in the United States) was barely reported in Britain. Perhaps we are now so used to verbal and even physical intimidation on campus that it barely registers with our demoralised media. If we fail to restore the primary purpose of our universities as institutions of learning, not playgrounds for propaganda, we shall be unable to engage in the clash of ideas. Now we can clearly see that the survival of Western civilisation is at stake. The bloodbath on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament is the price that we pay for failing to instill the values of that civilisation into all those who claim the right to call themselves British citizens. 

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