Can we have our Voltaire back please? - spiked
The most striking thing about the trial in Luton, England, of seven radical Muslim men accused of ‘being abusive’ during a military homecoming parade is that one of the men’s lawyers quoted Voltaire.
It is revealing that an Islamist who by definition feels agitated by the modern traditions and liberties of Western society should feel able and willing to call Voltaire to his defence. This demonstrates how confused and fluid the legacy of the Enlightenment has become. Abandoned by mainstream society, and only cited opportunistically and unconvincingly by the contemporary liberal left, the values of the Enlightenment can now be co-opted by some of the most backward religious elements in modern society. Indeed, the Islamists in Luton can be seen as taunting the rulers and thinkers of Western society, holding up Voltaire as a way of upbraiding us over our failure to adhere to the principles and attitude of the Enlightenment.