Ultimately, we can only uproot this ideology with education

February 19, 2015 11:59

There were two sorts of victim in Copenhagen, exactly as in Paris: one was free speech under the law, the other the Jews.

In the case of Paris, the attack on Charlie Hebdo followed many earlier attacks on French Jews and then, before Christmas, on shoppers in various parts of the Republic.

It makes perfect sense that the Jews of Europe, including those in Britain, should now feel frightened. The governments of Europe are clearly less able than they ought to be to disrupt Islamist attacks on them, whether they are perpetrated by well-trained paramilitary-style groups, like the Kouachi brothers and Coulibaly in Paris, or individual Islamists who stab and maim using kitchen knives or trucks.

The delivery of security is the most basic duty of democratic government. Attacks like those in Copenhagen, Paris or Woolwich in 2013 are, in the words of the Danish prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, "an unacceptable attack on our open, free and democratic society".

The Islamist campaign of terrorism in Europe is first and foremost a deliberate attack on our liberal democracy. It is not a sequenced re-run of Kristallnacht, the impugning of Dreyfus or the pogroms of 19th-century Russia.

According to police reports, El-Hussein was radicalised in prison. To him, the idea of "lawful free speech" and "Jews" were one and the same, and he plainly had thought about what he might do to attack them.

The question that must now be asked is what needs to be done to prevent even more Islamist killers stalking the cities of Europe. Whether they are "lone wolves" or trained terrorists, they have been brainwashed by the same ideology of violent hatred and revolution, and brainwashed by the propaganda and killings of Islamic State. As long as this ideology exists, it poses a serious threat to all of us.

The first step towards disrupting Islamism at home lies in the field of education.

Whether at secondary school or in further and higher education, the mindset of Islamism must be rolled back. It is fundamentally anti-Islamic and is a greater threat to Muslims than anyone else. It is a job for those who are trained to nurture minds.

How utterly depressing, therefore, to read the letter sent to the Times on 28 January by 24 UK vice chancellors opposing the government's reasonable measures in the latest draft of its counter-terrorism legislation which required them to monitor, prevent and report Islamist activity on campus.

The letter was bolstered by misguided and confusing support from a former director general of MI5, Lady Manningham-Buller, now head of Imperial College; and a former director of public prosecutions, Lord MacDonald, now head of an Oxford College. What can they be thinking of?

One of the signatories was Bill Rammell. Formerly he was the higher education minister in Blair's government who, in 2008, insisted universities help stamp out extremist thinking. Now he is a vice chancellor himself and has clearly changed his tune. Either he was wrong then, and right now, or vice versa. He can't have it both ways and retain public credibility.

Claiming that what government wants from our universities is nothing short of an attack on academic freedom, they inadvertently have given heart to those whose only interest in academia is that it is a convenient place to peddle extremist ideology and prey on young impressionable minds.

In refusing to outlaw extremism and tell the authorities of extremists coming on to our campuses, these VCs are showing that they do not understand the true nature of academic freedom and freedom of speech under the law. It does not include the freedom to be an Islamist extremist or a Jew-hater.

At the heart of this matter is the requirement for higher education to "play a major role in shaping a democratic, civilised and inclusive society", as Lord Dearing put it in 1997. Islamists are not democratic, not inclusive and certainly not civilised. Enlightened liberals should be the first to try to stop the brainwashing and turn the young back to liberal ways. What else are they there for?

February 19, 2015 11:59

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