Leading academic warns against turning universities into another ‘battlefield in the war against terrorism’
publication date: 16 October 2006
Professor Frank Furedi, the leading social and cultural commentator, has warned that UK education has become ‘subservient to a paternalistic political agenda’ and that this has resulted in an intellectual climate of ‘officially sanctioned philistinism’.
Controversially, Furedi sees the growth of extremist agitators and organisations on campus, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, as a reaction against such political conformism and intellectual dumbing-down.
Furedi states ‘Islamic radicals... appear to have something to say and at public meetings often command authority. Those who associate with organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir are often hightly motivated, articulate and intelligent young people’. Furedi fears that the threatened campus clampdown on such groups is a disaster in the making and baulks against turning universities into another ‘battlefield in the war against terrorism’.
Accusing university authorities and government offficials considering a ban of ‘moral cowardice’ in pushing the ‘repression button’, Furedi urges political and intellectual leaders to challenge radical Islamic groups with ‘coherent counter-arguments’ and abandon paternalistic censorship in favour of open and democratic debate.
Furedi, described by Terry Eagleton as a ‘courageous... radical democrat’, made his comments as the second edition of his ground-breaking work, Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone: confronting 21st century philistinism (Continuum) is published and ahead of his appearance at the Battle of Ideas 2006 festival at the end of the month. In an afterword to the second edition of the book that caused a critical furore on first publication, condemning the political and cultural elite as producing one of the most banal and dumbed-downed generations ever, Furedi answers critics and looks with urgency at intellectual and political life in the UK in 2006.
Notes to editors
- The second edition of Where Have All the Intellectuals Gone? Confronting 21st century philistinism was published by Continuum on 9 October 2006.
- The Battle of Ideas 2006 takes place on 28 – 29 October 2006 at the Royal College of Art, Kensington Gore, London, SW7 2EU. Professor Furedi is speaking at two keynote debates on 29 October 2006: ‘The Battle for the Future’ (11.00 – 12.30) and ‘Clash of Civilisations or Cultural Crisis’ (14.00 – 15.30). For further information or for press passes contact Shirley Dent on 020 7269 9229/ 07841 583 058 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Frank Furedi is a professor of sociology at the University of Kent and can be contacted at email@example.com