The idea of a university as a free space rather than a safe space is vanishing


By Nick Cohen of The Spectator

I’ve always admired the liberal Muslims in the Quilliam Foundation. It is hard to take accusations of betrayal from your own community. Harder still to keep fighting when the thought feeling keeps nagging away that out there, somewhere, there are Islamists who might do you real harm.

But Quilliam keeps fighting. To mark the launch by students of theRight2Debate campaign, which seeks to make universities live up to their principles and respect the right to speak and dispute, they have collected accounts from atheists and secularists of the wretched state of higher education.

I should pause to explain that last sentence to the confused.

You might have assumed that universities would be the last institutions in the country to censor. University is meant to be the place that blows away the cobwebs between your ears. Students are freed for the first time in their lives from the pressure to conform imposed by family and neighbourhood. They are yet to go into the workplace, where managerial hierarchies impose their own codes of silence. Lecturers and professors say they believe in academic freedom. The 1986 Education Act specifically obliges universities themselves to uphold freedom of speech under the law.

Yet all of the above counts for nought. I don’t know how you could measure intellectual deprivation. If you could, there’s a fair chance that universities would be among the most servile and conformist institutions in Britain.

The confused may also wonder about the targets of censorship. Atheists? Humanists? Surely the left believes in secularism and despises the superstitions that have held humanity back? Not so, and not for a long time. The speakers most likely to be prevented from enlightening students are speakers who uphold Enlightenment. They are targeted for the offence they cause, or ordered to stay silent. In the name of diversity, everyone must hold the same opinions, and remarkably reactionary opinions at that.

As Quilliam’s Haydar Zaki put it after he visited Exeter university with the cultured and liberal Muslim theologian Sheikh Usama Hassan:

Human rights speakers are branded as racists and vile, whilst speakers who advocate for FGM practices and theocratic rule are applauded as intellectual heroes.

In other words, and not for the first time in history, the far left is allied with the far right, and drags the soggy centre along whimpering behind it.

It is grimly fascinating watching often angry and occasionally baffled students come to terms with the obscurantism around them.

Read the whole story here at The Spectator


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