Are French universities too far to the left and too close to Islam?
France's Higher Education Minister Frédérique Vidal is being criticised for a study she commissioned on 'Islamo-gauchisme'. It is to examine whether leftist and pro-Islam views are limiting the spectrum of research topics. The country's press is at odds over whether the universities actually have an ideology problem, and if so, how to tackle it.
Carte blanche for an illiberal witch-hunt
The higher education minister's initiative sends an ominous signal, warns L'Opinion:
“It is not just paradoxical, but above all dangerous: by permitting this kind of interference that encroaches on the freedom of expression, the French government is allowing any and all illiberal regimes in Europe and elsewhere to justify all witch-hunts they undertake against scholars, journalists or activists. In addition, it succumbs to the same lazy black-and-white thinking that some supporters of cancel culture invoke. Encouraging as much academic freedom as possible would have been healthier for French universities. So let France vie with the major US universities in research on gender, colonialism and patriarchal societies! Competition will separate ideas from ideologies.”
A battle against civilisation
Le Figaro observes a
“much broader ideological war conducted tirelessly under the guise of 'academic standards'. This is called 'wokism' in the US; here in France it leads to a fixation on racism, gender and identity that extends all the way from research laboratories to the radio station studios. ... What threatens academic freedom and soon even the freedom of expression overall is not poor Frédérique Vidal, but rather these disciples of a doctrine who are doggedly struggling against a civilisation which they consider guilty in itself. Islamo-Leftism is just one aspect of this highly developed foolishness. And that is where the great danger lies: the decline of intelligence, obliteration of culture that results in 'souls without longing', in the words of Allan Bloom.”
Worrying descent into activism
More than 100 academics criticise in Le Monde that while scrutinising universities is justified, the focus of the study is too narrow:
“There certainly is a problem in the university cosmos, but it is less one of 'Islamo-Gauchisme' and more generally one of teaching and research descending into activism. The emergence of a glut of courses, articles, seminars and colloquia that are nothing but activism cloaked in pseudoscience drawing on muddled theories ('state racism') and conspicuous neologisms ('Whiteness') is disturbing. ... Academia must urgently be brought back to its mission: to produce and teach solidly supported and reviewed knowledge, and not political convictions, even if they are driven by the best of intentions.”