A few months ago I was in a pub on a quiet night and overheard a young couple having an argument about politics. They were both, I'm guessing, young white London liberals and although I couldn't hear everything they were saying, the gist was this: he was arguing that Islamic violence was a particular problem and she was telling him that all religions were equally violent and that no faith could be singled out. At the end of the night he gave in and conceded that she was right and it was prejudiced of him to say otherwise because no faiths are more violent than any others etc etc. I really wanted to interrupt them and shout at him 'no, you idiot, you were right, don't give in just for an easy life! This is how civilisation falls into mental decline.'

Obviously I didn't. But the argument he should have made can be summed up in just one word – secularism, that is, the proper separation between religious and political institutions, so that one cannot control the other. Islam does not have a tradition of secularism, and this is at the heart of the problem.

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