Caution: author about to express political opinion! (Flee for the hills, if you don't approve of that sort of un-authorly behaviour.)
Dr Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary (new touchy-feely cabinet ministerial post) has just called for the closure of Islamic schools that promote isolationism or extremism.
She said the government had to "stamp out" Muslim schools which were trying to change British society to fit Islamic values.
"They should be shut down," she said. "Different institutions are open to abuse and where we find abuse we have got to stamp it out and prevent that happening."
Yes, indeed, she's quite right.
And while she's on the subject, perhaps she'd like to enhance her credibility by doing something about the overwhelmingly Christian fundamentalist faith schools that have been springing up like toadstools under the Blair government (42% of the City Academies trumpeted by Kelly and Blair are avowedly Christian Fundamentalist institutions which in some cases teach creationist nonsense in biology classes) and that two thirds of the UK's population are opposed to?
Certainly one might have fewer grounds for accusing Ruth Kelly of partiality if she applied her criticism of extremism across the board. But given her own religious affiliation (and Tony Blair's notorious piety) that's not terribly likely ...
Authorial opinion: There's a big difference between the new fundamentalist brainwashing academies and the old-school going-through-the-motions religious curriculum that was standard (and slept through) in all English schools back when I was subjected to it. The atmosphere of an avowedly religious institution is inimical to the development of cross-cultural tolerance; teaching kids in an environment in which One True Faith is exalted and all deviation is sneered at as Error is a sure-fire way to inculcate intolerance and hostility.
We need to get religion out of education in the UK and adopt the French model of strict separation right now, before we find ourselves drowning in brainwashed extremists of whichever stripe. The only way to do it is to do it even-handedly — simply banning Islamic schools at this point would inflame the extremist sentiments Ruth Kelly is so keen to stamp out — so a complete ban on all religion in schools is at this point the route of least resistance.
And let's face it, every cloud has a silver lining: the extra teaching time freed up by ditching dogma could be usefully used to improve the dismal standards of mathematics and grammar in school leavers.