She was sitting there quietly in the middle of the classroom — a Swedish Muslim all dressed in black with a white powdered face. I was lecturing on John Stuart Mill at Sweden’s University West. What did I say? I said that while religion may not be true, it still gives people a sense of belonging and trust, and liberal society cannot give you that. The liberal soup is thin, and most of us want something richer, some kind of political main-course goulash. When people say that liberal society is empty, they actually mean this: I cannot give my life any purpose, so can someone kindly do it for me? Please hand me some grandiose message to live by because I cannot figure out anything on my own. Emptiness? Well, that could be another word for limitless opportunities.
Two days later, the Muslim student sent me an email. She accused me of not being “neutral”. She wrote that I had called religious people “pathetic”. I had not. She accused me of defaming Islam, herself as a woman and as an individual student.
As for Islam, I had never mentioned it, and as for her, I had never seen her before. Possibly in her vanity, she seemed to think the lecture was about her; in fact, it was about John Stuart Mill. She said (and this shook me a bit) that she would keep me “under surveillance”; she signed off with: “The student dressed in her pride”. Too bad she could not find something else about which to be proud. She was proud of her submission, not of her achievements. If you cannot give your life meaning, perhaps somebody will chip in and do it for you.
Other than that, her email was full of post-modern nonsense such as science as a “belief” just like religion. In fact, science is doubt based on knowledge, while religion is certainty based on faith. We had given her the tools of postmodernism, and here she was trashing the fabric of Western society. Would she, I wondered, also “deconstruct” the Koran?
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