Lawrence Kraus took part in a debate at University College London that he won hands down. He won it before he had said a word. The proposition to be debated was: “Islam or Atheism: Which makes more sense?” The debate, organised by the Islamic Education and Research Academy, despite assurances that the audience would not be sex segregated, was indeed sex segregated nevertheless, and by being so made clear that Islam makes no sense, and is an ideology that self-respecting women, as well as men, should avoid. Kraus himself threatened to walk out, and last minute adjustments were made, but the issue was not really resolved, and (in my view) it would have been better had he not appeared at all. That would have been a much more powerful message than any he could have delivered in words, and he could with some justice have claimed that he had won by default, the behaviour of the Muslim organisers having made his point as eloquently as it could be made in any case.
The problem, apparently, goes much deeper, for this is not the only sex segregated event that has been hosted at University College London. As Richard Dawkins made clear in a Tweet, it is an offence that University College London, the first university in England that did not have religious tests for admission, and the first university to accept women students, should allow its facilities to be used in such a way as to flout its most sacred traditions of freedom of thought and the principle of the equality of women and men. This should not have happened, and it certainly should not happen again.
To my mind, however, this poses deeper questions. Not only does it show clearly that Islam makes no sense — but no sense at all — for it simply cannot encompass the idea that humanity is composed of women and men in roughly equal numbers, and thinks it appropriate to segregate men from women in response to a supposed revelation from a god; but it shows that Islam is a danger to democratic polities and a subversive element within democracy. When the best educated Muslims consider it their duty, in the name of Islam, to contradict a fundamental premise of European culture, that men and women are equal participants in society, in governance, work, opinion setting, education, teaching, leadership, and consider it their duty to introduce sex segregation into one of the leading secular institutions of higher learning in Britain is not only an offence, it is a clear indication of the danger that Islam is to the values upon which British freedoms are based. And this applies pari passu to democracy and freedom throughout the West, as well as in nascent democracies that could be stifled at birth, if the reign of Islamic theocracy is given room to spread its illiberal ideas unhindered by the severest criticism — something that, because of terrorist threats, is already in doubt.