Article by Tim Stanley
There will be those who insist that Europe now has to make a choice between modernity and faith. The choice is false. It is perfectly possible to inhabit both worlds at once and even if they were so strongly opposed, to compel anyone to choose between them is dictatorial. And, if forced to take a stand, greater numbers will side with the sublime than would have done if left alone. How would the choice be presented or enforced, anyway? The anti-Islamic demonstrations in Germany indicate that there is a growing constituency for saying “something must be done” about Islam in Europe. Yet the responding question has to be, “what?” The people of France have come out into the streets to state their support for free speech: good. The security forces will doubtless beef up their work: good. But a dramatic shift to authoritarianism would, again, be a contrary response to an assault upon freedom – as well as a contradiction of Western values that, like the war in Algeria, would only perpetuate the struggle. Let us please proceed with dialogue between communities. The world has never needed more conflict.
More civility is a very Western thing to aim for. We don’t talk often enough about those two inheritances that genuinely make the West the best place to live in the world. The first is the Enlightenment principles of rational inquiry and dissent. The second is the Christian principle of turning the other cheek. Both traditions inform the other, both have given rise to a culture that elevates the individual.
In a sense, we’ve won the war of ideas already simply because we’re happy to have it without resorting to bullets or discrimination. That moral high ground must not be lost.