Monday, 9 June 2014

Untune That String, And, Hark, What Discord Follows

On the Trojan Horse issue of Islamic radicalisation in schools, there has apparently been lots of apologising going on: Education Secretary Michael Gove has apologised to David Cameron, so has Home Secretary Theresa May - and they've probably apologised to each other too - having the wherewithal not to fake harmony by having a pint together in front of all the cameras (as Nick Clegg and Vince Cable did).

Conservative MPs’ spat aside, issues surrounding Islamic extremism in schools should be well within the government’s capability – but there are hidden difficulties that don’t make it into the papers, due to a taboo. Here’s why. Let’s mention something that the majority of us know to be true, but that most people keep as a private, unexpressed thought. The underlying truth to the situation is that most people aren't credulous enough to be taken in by the manifestly fictitous teachings of Islam found in the Qur’an.

Unless you’re one of the following – a) A child in a Muslim home, b) Someone who has been brought up in a country in which Islam has predominance, or c) Miriam Francois-Cerrah, the likelihood is, you understand that the Qur’an, and its consequent religious movement known as Islam, is a man-made falsehood, and that all good qualities Muslims have are had in spite of the Qur’an and Islam, not because of it. .

In the UK, we are currently having a problem with Islamic radicalisation in schools, which hasn’t been helped by our Education Secretary's desire to open up the curriculum to the point of it being beyond reasonable scrutiny. In an ideal world in which everyone felt free to speak honestly, the solution would be simple - come down hard on the situation and ban Islamic influence in schools. Aside from a few exceptions, religious belief should be a predominantly private affair - it should not influence politics, policy, nor the formal education of children, save for impartial religious education studies, of course – which is the very place to learn about Islam and all the other religions.

But we don’t live in that world, because in the case of Islam, the government is not free to act as it wishes – and I don’t just mean because of the lost votes – I mean because to be a politician means you have to avoid a public fear of Islam. Consider some alternatives - if there were schools being driven by an ethos of young earth creationism or scientology or astrology or alchemy, the government would be quick to discontinue their influence. Islam has no real qualitative distinction over young earth creationism or scientology or astrology or alchemy - it is equally man-made, it is just more ubiquitous and more strident, and brings with it a social threat of violence that the others do not.

When it comes to the falsity of the teachings, there is little to choose between them all. But because Islam is more ubiquitous, strident and sanguinary, no politician dares to tackle it with anything like the force with which it should be tackled.

Now comes the ‘to be fair’ part. To be fair to politicians, they are somewhat handcuffed and gagged here. The reason they aren’t more candid is perfectly understandable. In an ideal world we'd bring about the termination of all Islamic influence in schools, and come down much harder on places in which Islamic radicalisation is going on. But doing so would not be very wise, because coming down hard on extremism has spillover effects - it creates a tension and a bifurcation - and when that happens people who wouldn't otherwise have reached their tipping point find themselves forcing to choose, which will only increase the number of extremists in the world, create social tension, and make ordinary citizens more vulnerable to terrorism. Or to use a famous Shakespeare line:

Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows!
Each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy

If doing nothing is one extreme, and the EDL are the opposite extreme, politicians know that they have to strike a very delicate balance between the two, lest they untune the string and wreak more discord on the British public.

* Photos courtesy of