Saturday 10 December 2016

West must offer idealistic young Muslims a real alternative to Isil's 'higher cause'

Published 15/08/2016 | 02:30

Last year, at least 100 young women from Britain were known to have volunteered and gone to the Middle East. There have been reports of much greater numbers – in their hundreds of thousands from many countries (Stock picture)
Last year, at least 100 young women from Britain were known to have volunteered and gone to the Middle East. There have been reports of much greater numbers – in their hundreds of thousands from many countries (Stock picture)

One of the most enduring and iconic female novels of the twentieth century is essentially about an impressionable schoolgirl who, infused by the ardour of her teacher, runs away to join Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39. And, indeed, the poor girl dies for her foolish and immature idealism.

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Muriel Spark's story 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie' describes a teacher who mesmerises her pupils with tales about beauty in art and the poetry of the Italian Fascist poet Gabriel D'Annunzio (Jean Brodie being unforgettably epitomised by Maggie Smith in the movie): all the teenage girls are under her spell, but in the film it's Mary MacGregor who takes all the fanciful fol-de-rol literally and sacrifices her life.

It is a persuasive picture, and captures both the power of a strong personality in the classroom, and the headstrong attractions young people can feel for a cause.

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