Obliged to stay silent for the group

November 25, 1994

Your editorial of November 11 makes a welcome call for the defence of tolerance in universities: yet, as it suggests, this will not be an easy argument to sustain. On the one hand, defence of tolerance entails secularism, something not always predominant in British higher education, against the claims of religious authority: recognition of freedom of belief needs to be balanced by a denial of the claims of any religion to dictate on social, or intellectual, matters.

On the other hand, the defence of secularism, and indeed of any general principles of tolerance, has been made more difficult by modish confusions about the validity of any such principles, and by indulgence towards particularisms rendered as community, identity and tradition.

The greatest threat posed by the champions of particularism is to those supposedly "within" the groups concerned, not least women. Those who dissent, or offer a different interpretation of "identity" to that which is espoused by the more powerful, are silenced in the name of their alleged obligations to such a grouping. Some hard arguments lie ahead.

FRED HALLIDAY London School of Economics.

Please login or register to read this article

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments