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Friday, 26 May 2017

Would a little bit of secularism help in an anti-terrorist strategy?

I know that there have been secularisers and secularists who have been very wicked - Gaddafi, Saddam, Assad to name but three who are relevant. Nonetheless, I think that here in the UK, our best hope against terror is to discourage all organised religion, not encourage it. That has to be across the board discouragement and it must begin with the disestablishment of the Church of England and the secularisation of Parliamentary procedure, still burdened by prayers and unelected bishops.

When Tony Walsh read his poem at the Manchester assembly he did so against a backdrop of mostly male politicians and  religious figures, the usual suspects for gatherings like this. Few figures on the platform by whom a younger, more mixed audience could feel represented. When Walsh got to "Emmeline Pankhurst" in his poem, a huge cheer went up. There's a lesson there.

The men on the platform represent organisations which for most of their existence have devoted themselves to keeping women in their place. Some of them still do. The cultures they protect remain in important respects misogynistic.

The young man who blew himself up in Manchester chose a concert where a female singer would perform to a mostly young female audience. These are people who young men in search of violence characterise as "slags". The misogyny but also the  sexual envy and jealousy is transparent and my guess is that it is common. There are lots of young men brought up in religious cultures - not only Muslim ones - who just don't know how to relate to women.

Britain was moving in a broadly secular direction, despite the efforts of politicians who, whatever party they belong to,  are generally very keen on Doing God. The politicians are pushing back against secularisation - people like Mrs May, the Vicar of Bray, and Tim Farron and Sadiq Khan. We need to oblige the politicians to back down, to move in the opposite direction, to desegregate the schools, to end the daily acts of worship, to find other community leaders than the religious officials, to put God back in his box. And to offer crash courses to young men in how to relate to other people and, especially, to women. That's not off the wall: in Germany, such crash courses are actually offered to young male refugees and asylum seekers.

It should be official policy to discourage young people from religion. Governments publicise the drawbacks of alcohol, tobacco and other equally popular drugs. They should do the same for religion.

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