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Rise of the new fundamentalism – in deepest Oxford


Astonishingly Margaret Atwood, that great saint of feminism, is facing a social media backlash after calling for due process (i.e. normal justice) for a former university professor accused of sexual misconduct. In the wake of this she recently asked where a society can go if its legal system is bypassed. What will take its place, who will the new power brokers be? ‘In times of extremes, extremists win,’ she said. ‘Their ideology becomes a religion, anyone who doesn’t puppet their views is seen as an apostate, a heretic or a traitor, and moderates in the middle are annihilated.’

The two most extreme ideologies of the present day are radical Islam and feminism, now at its loudest in the #MeToo movement. Both are based on moralism rather than morality and see women as defenceless victims needing to be covered up and constantly chaperoned.

Islam and other victim groups now jostle to fill the gap left as our legal system and politicians are increasingly despised and seen as irrelevant. Islam, which represses women and outlaws homosexuality, seems somehow to be cohering into the misshapen lump which is rapidly forming a new culture on the Left, and demanding increasing space.

An Oxford student told me that as a ‘fresher’ he’d had to go through ‘race and diversity training’ imposed by the students’ union. At a recent Oxford Union (a separate entity) open day I met the vice president of ‘Welfare & Equal Opportunities,’ who just happens to be Muslim.

Law student Farheen Ahmed told me the training scheme was now part of staff training and that Oxford ‘wants to do more and more of that kind of thing’. She thought I wouldn’t be allowed to attend any of the sessions as new students ‘sometimes blurt out very bad things’, and need to be in a safe space until they are brought to ‘understand things in a different way’.

This need to ‘understand’ British culture in a very different way seems to now be widely accepted. Later I attended a schools debating contest where teenagers were wrestling with the motion ‘This House believes that countries have a sovereign right to close their borders.’ The most persuasive speakers were two Muslim girls. They wanted open borders as a moral imperative and supported the benefits of migration by citing ‘advances made by Muslim medicine’ and the glories of ‘Islamic civilisation’. No one on the other side asked when those advances had come to such an unequivocal end, a long time before the discovery of radium or penicillin.

I wondered what kind of history these teenagers were imbibing at their very respectable English schools. I looked online at recent GCSE courses and found ‘Medieval superstition and Muslim knowledge’.
Medieval in this context means the West, apparently hopelessly stuck with daft ideas, whilst in the East they had discovered Science.

The course summary said: ‘Although many medieval doctors continued to believe in the theory of the four humours, they also said disease was caused by demons, sin, bad smells, astrology, stagnant water, Jews etc. They believed that life was controlled by God and his saints. The Pope’s doctor blamed the Black Death on a conjunction of Saturn and Mars.

‘Things were different only in the Muslim Middle East where, from 786-809, the books of Hippocrates were translated into Arabic. At first, Muslim doctors conserved the ideas of the Greeks and Romans. Later, they began to challenge errors and develop new ideas. However, because the Christian Church was at war with Islam, Muslim ideas spread only slowly to western Europe. The exception was a book by Ibn Sina, the Canon of Medicine.’

In the ancient Oxford debating chamber, I was seeing and hearing a whole new culture where the ablest speakers wore niqabs and our major historical advances were Islamic.

An adult debate followed. Claire Fox, best known for Radio 4’s The Moral Maze, and economics journalist Madeline Grant backed the motion ‘This House believes #MeToo is a backward step for women.’ It was opposed by Henry Vann from the Society of Musicians and Liz Frazer (not the one from the Carry On films – this was all about not carrying on), an Oxford professor of politics and author of Feminism and Realism.

Fox had the best lines, referring to ‘Pestminster’ and ‘hashtag justice’. The proposition was tossed about, on one side men being cautioned for wolf whistling and winking, Hollywood cameramen told not to look at actresses for more than 25 seconds, HR ‘mentors’ patrolling office parties looking out for illicit touching. On the other side #MeToo was seen as ‘empowering’ women against exploitation.

Then it all got a bit woolly; no one could say what effect the new ‘call out culture’ might have on men accused of inappropriate behaviour. It insists on blurring the distinction between a hand on the knee and rape. As in Islam, any approaches to women by men (not their husbands, husbands being synonymous with consent) are increasingly regarded as evil. #MeToo justice intrinsically relies on the testimony of one person against another with none of the hard evidence once required by a modern Western court.

Madeline Grant tried an interesting swipe at the other side by asking that question which the Left just cannot answer: why the feminist sisterhood ignores the rape and sexual abuse of young white girls by Muslim men. ‘The silence has been deafening,’ she declared. ‘There’s been an ignoring of some women’s voices in our inner cities,’ Liz Frazer replied vaguely. Not many people call Oxford or Telford ‘inner cities’ and who exactly was she talking about? I asked her but she couldn’t or wouldn’t say.

She finally answered by saying: ‘People will always say that if we focus on one issue, we are ignoring the rest. Sexual grooming was bad [still no mention of the men doing it]. It’s really an issue of exploitation among groups; if we were looking at charity workers in Haiti it would be something entirely different.’

Well, it might not be, because in Rotherham, Oxford, Telford and Haiti some of the abuse has been based on racism. Anti-racism is the new religion of the Left yet if it involves Islam, even within the ‘safe space’ of the Oxford Union, that cannot be mentioned. To criticise Islam is to blaspheme and put yourself outside #MeToo and other Left-wing moralistic groups.

Claire Fox pointed out that #MeToo was being used to close down debate and represents a future of victimhood rather than equality. As it gains in influence women will become increasingly afraid, and in that climate, safety will trump liberty. A 2016 poll suggested that 70 per cent of British women have tried to guard against ‘harassment’ by avoiding parks or public transport, missing school or work or taking a chaperone. There has been talk about ‘women-only carriages’ on trains. ‘Modesty wear’ is entering high fashion. Earlier this year more than 40 designers took part in ‘London Modest Fashion Week.’

The impulse is now to separate men and women as if they are automatically dangerous to each other. Several times during the debate these puritanical moves were compared to Victorian times. It wasn’t said but quite obviously they resemble Islam. On BBC Radio 4 recently, Amberin Zaman, Turkey correspondent at the Economist, spoke about how her life has changed with the increased Islamisation of her once secular country. Women who’d always worn Western dress and moved about freely are now covering their heads and going about with chaperones.

‘It happened in the blink of an eye,’ she said.

Professor Elizabeth Frazer’s side won the debate, by 61 to 47.

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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