Two years ago, I wrote No God Zone, an e-book predicting that strident secularism would push religion out of public life in the West. I had under-estimated the dangers to people of faith ”“ the enemies come from two sides, not one. Secularists once sought only a separation between Church and State; today they want to purge all signs of religion from all public space: the staff at Charlie Hebdo said they did not want to hear the bells of Notre Dame mourning their colleagues’ murders. Salman Rushdie weighed in, saying religion, as a “maedieval form of unreason”, is the enemy. Meanwhile, extremists have no truck with the moderates in their own religion ”“ and only vicious hatred for outsiders.
Squashed between these Scylla and Charybdis, the devout cannot survive ”“ unless the state steps in, determined to keep alive our precious religious heritage.
If we in the West want to save the little shop with the sweet-scented challa loaves, the faith school with its uniformed pupils, the pealing of church bells, and yes, the veil, we must act now. We must protect outward signs of religious observance. At present, in Europe, this means posting police and soldiers outside Jewish schools and pursuing the perpetrators of anti-Semitic attacks. Already, many synagogues are surrounded by local volunteers trained by the Community Security Trust who protect the faithful marking the Sabbath.