Monday, January 05, 2009

When "Anti-racists" are themselves racist

I have been reading about "Daughters of Shame" which is to be published on Thursday by Jasvinder Sanghera, founder of an advice centre for women who are in danger of being forced into marriage against their will.

I think it is extremely important to qualify what I am about to write by saying that the great majority of the asians who I have met, and, I believe, the great majority of asian families in Britain respect their womenfolk and would not dream of forcing them into marriage or of threatening them with so-called "honour killings" if they disobey.

But for the minority who do think they have the right to treat their women in such a shameful way, it is about time we treated such behaviour with the same zero tolerance which we would expect if this was happening to white women. And if anyone would deny asian women the protection which the law would give to any other woman in this country it is them, not the people who want the law to protect women, who are the racists.

One of the most infuriating aspect of the report on Jasvinder Sangh in yesterday's Sunday Times, which you can read here, is the allegation that when she tried to get schools in Bradford to display a government poster about the work of the Forced Marriage unit, every single one refused, citing "cultural sensitivities." The article puts this in the context that the Forced Marriages unit helps some 400 girls every year, some as young as 11, who have been bundled off to other countries to be married, amd that 300 teenage girls have disappeared from school rolls in Bradford over the past few years.

If this report is accurate, this is just not good enough. Most Islamic scholars would tell you that forced marriage and so called "Honour killings" have nothing to do with the teaching of Islam. The same applies to the other major religions of the world (this is not specifically or exclusively a muslim problem).

Cultural sensitivities are important, but protecting women involved from violence is even more important.

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