Unswerving commitment to cultural sensitivity has paralysed our response to grooming gangs.
It wasn’t meant to be like this. During the 1990’s successive governments, institutions and media outlets pushed the multicultural agenda. Steel drums, saris and samosas had long been a stable feature of life in Hounslow where I grew up, and now the rest of the country would see the benefits too. For the internationalist, globalised, affluent middle classes, particularly in London, the benefits were self evident. Anybody who raised a concern or suggested we stop to examine the impact passed having a few more restaurants, was smacked down as a racist loon. I should know, I was (and still am) in favour of open door immigration, and I was one of the ones using the word racist as a default response to those who questioned immigration.
We spent two decades emphasising what makes us different and separate, when we should have been being giving at least half a nod to celebrating what brings us together. This is what happened during the last waves of immigration, with the West Indians in the 50’s and 60’s and Indians in the 70’s. Cultures retained their rich and distinctive identity, but were integrated into a larger established society by focusing on what we had in common.
But the arrival of Pakistani and Somali immigrants coincided with this policy being dropped in favour of an ‘anything goes’ approach. Newcomers were allowed to establish miniature copies of their homelands, with no attempt to integrate to the outside world or neighbouring communities. This self imposed apartheid has become so established, that a child born in one of these areas today can spend their entire lives in Britain and never hear a word of English.
This would not matter so much, but for what Nazir Afzal, Chief Prosecutor for North West England, called “imported cultural baggage”. Afzal described a culture, generally from poorer, rural Pakistan which “view women as lesser beings”. This misogynist mindset was highlighted in a case held in January, where the defendant, 18 year old Adil Raashid, was found guilty of raping a 13 year old girl. In his defence, Raashid claimed that he simply didn’t know that sex with girls under 16 was even illegal. Worse still, he claimed he’d been taught that “women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground.”
The most chilling aspect of the case was that Raashid had been brought up in Birmingham in 21st century Britain.
Add to this grooming gangs, honour killings, and female genital mutilation, and we see a generation of young women being abandoned by a society and political elite paralysed by fear of cultural insensitivity.
“women are no more worthy than a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground”
That young women are suffering disproportionately should mean that feminists leading the fight against these medieval attitudes and practices. But the silence is deafening. Where are the protest marches? Where is the naming and shaming of those who espouse such views? Instead, like the rest of us, they squirm and prevaricate and convince themselves that these are isolated incidents. Best not look too hard, as we might not like what we see. The protection Sisterhood affords, it seems, only extends to white Western women.
This is not meant as a rallying cry against Islam or brown people. Look hard enough and you’ll find cruelty and chauvinism in near enough any culture and most religions. People from the Horn of Africa and Pakistan don’t have a special gene that makes them predisposed towards evil. And I maintain that multiculturalism is a good thing. Immigration does indeed bring huge economic and cultural benefits. But pretending there’s no ill side effects is at best idiocy, and at worst dangerous.
Attitudes and practices that we find abhorrent are alive and well in this country, but are not being challenged. A generation of young women are in danger of being sacrificed on the altar of cultural sensitivity. And the high priests are the very people meant to be protecting them.