Feminists are betraying their Muslim sisters – by Janice Turner


Cameron’s right: women who can’t speak English are kept voiceless in the family and society – and the left turns a blind eye

A friend talks sadly about communicating with her mother who speaks only Urdu, a language the daughter didn’t learn. For basic “mum stuff” — what’s for dinner, family news etc — they get by. But discussing matters of depth and nuance is impossible. Her mother has lived for decades in Britain but can’t follow a radio debate, struggles in shops and could never work. Imagine a whole life isolated even from your kids.

David Cameron’s announcement that the government will target language classes at 190,000 British Muslim women who speak poor or no English was dismissed as racist across the left. What about Costa-living Brits who don’t speak Spanish, eh? (And true, they should damn well learn.) But there is a difference. They have economic muscle, freedom, choice. A Pakistani bride brought to Britain, kept at home caring for her husband’s parents, unable to understand the world or earn her own money, call the police or brief a lawyer, does not.

But never mind. “In the Muslim homes I have visited it was clear the women were extremely busy cooking and caring for many family members,” wrote feminist Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian, deriding the PM for noting that 60 per cent of Muslim women are economically inactive. He was guilty of a colonialist “white man saving brown women trope”.

Yes, better return to the white men (and women) letting brown women go to hell trope. The left specialises in that. Asian feminists entreated the Blair government to make forced marriage illegal. Too divisive, they were told, it would breed community mistrust. And so hundreds of girls disappeared from schools each summer, parents unpunished, until the coalition in 2014 made it a crime. Speak to campaigners against FGM and you won’t find a Tory among them, but they salute the coalition for bringing in compulsory reporting by teachers and medics.

Or read recent Ofsted reports, commissioned by Nicky Morgan, damning private faith schools — orthodox Jewish and evangelical Christian as well as Muslim — exposing their barren, religious curriculum, social isolation and dire standards. Labour had sent in the inferior Bridge Inspectorate which did not balk at girls being taught that husbands were entitled to beat them. It was Islamic culture — who were we to judge? — and these were, after all, only brown girls.

Under Labour a network of Sharia courts, where imams deny religious divorces to women in violent marriages, daughters are granted less inheritance than sons and a charming solution to female infertility is that a man should get a second wife, grew unchecked. Only now has the Home Office grown the balls to instigate a review. In Iran, Bangladesh, India and Pakistan secular campaigners are murdered for questioning Islam, for demanding women’s rights to education, to dress as they please and enter the public sphere. The enlightenment, anti-clerical battle, upon which all our freedoms are founded, is being replayed. Yet this time people who purport to be progressive sit at the theocrats’ side.

Labour is hamstrung by its need for Muslim votes: fearing conservative male community leaders who deliver victory, it holds gender-segregated hustings. But the left is also afflicted by a crass, reductive liberal guilt: Islam is practised mainly by brown people thus those who fight its encroachment into the public sphere must by default be racist. So when Maryam Namazie, the Iranian human rights activist, spoke at Goldsmith College atheist society and her talk was disrupted by Islamic Society men who shouted, banged doors and turned off her PowerPoint projector, the university’s feminist and LGBT groups issued their support — for her assailants. Namazie’s challenge to Islamism and blasphemy laws made Muslims feel “unsafe”.

Naturally David Cameron’s stated support for schools that ban the full-face veil was damned as white men telling brown women what to wear. When really such rules safeguard the choice of all girls. If the bar of “modest” Muslim attire is raised, others will feel pressured to follow. The veil is not just another garment, a neutral choice: it is a deliberate erasure of the public female self. What feminist can ever endorse that?

True, the PM’s demand that Muslim wives learn English sounds harsh, targeted and a juicy bone for his party’s right. His record of slashing English teaching is laughable: he needs to funnel proper resources to prove he is sincere. But it is also designed to address a particular injustice. Pakistani village brides are chosen over spirited British Muslim girls with their western ways, education and knowledge of their rights. Unable to speak English, foreign girls are under a man’s control.

Campaigner Saira Khan said she had never met a Muslim woman who didn’t want to learn English: it’s the imams and menfolk who stop them. A friend who taught Pakistani women at home longed to take her students to a café or shop to practise, but husbands always said no. Threatening to deport wives after two years for not learning English is ugly — and probably unenforceable — but it is a warning blast at controlling men.

Being voiceless — in society and within your family — is a desperate, lonely fate: you are infantilised, politically impotent and ignored. The suicide rate of British Asian women is twice that of white women. Not speaking English channels you into sharia, not secular British law, and makes you vulnerable to violence. How can you tell if your children are being radicalised, let alone intervene? Routing out economic inactivity is not a Tory trick to make us all wage slaves — an income is a key index of women’s freedom. If Muslim women want to retreat to the home, to speak only of “mum stuff”, let them. But, as it is for the rest of us, it should be their choice.


Nice One Dave!

Article by Cameron, liberated from behind the Times paywall for anyone who’s interested. Rather excellent stuff if it actually has any follow through. Been reading a bit of Hirsi Ali by any chance Dave??

We won’t let women be second-class citizens

David Cameron


Forcing all migrants to learn English and ending gender segregation will show we’re serious about creating One Nation

Where in the world do you think the following things are happening? School governors’ meetings where male governors sit in the meeting room and the women have to sit out of sight in the corridor. Young women only allowed to leave their house in the company of a male relative. Religious councils that openly discriminate against women and prevent them from leaving abusive marriages.

The answer, I’m sorry to say, is Britain. Last week, I chaired a meeting of a group of brilliant Muslim women role models. And while I heard great examples of so many women who are flourishing in our country, some painted an alarming picture of forced gender segregation, discrimination and social isolation from mainstream British life.

Of course, this does not describe the life of every British Muslim woman. Nor are these problems unique to Muslim communities. And it cannot be said often enough that the fear of Islamophobic hate crime — for instance, the disgraceful pulling of women’s headscarves in the street — is widespread and incredibly threatening, as well as being completely disempowering for women. But these problems are being consistently brought to our attention by Muslim women, and we have a duty to them to speak out — and to act. That must begin by understanding the root causes. Some are, of course, cultural. But the standing rebuke to our society is that we have allowed this to continue. All too often, because of what I would call “passive tolerance”, people subscribe to the flawed idea of separate development. Ed Husain put it brilliantly last week when he said that our political correctness stops us from identifying this separatist mentality — terming it “the racism of low expectations”. It helps explain why, for instance, some so-called progressive politicians see fit to host gender-segregated political meetings.

It is time to change our approach. We will never truly build One Nation unless we are more assertive about our liberal values, clearer about the expectations we place on those who come to live here and build our country together, and more creative and generous in the work we do to break down barriers. And this is a challenge that government cannot meet on its own. I do want every part of government to play its part — health visitors, jobcentres, nurseries, schools — but we all have a shared responsibility to tackle prejudice and bigotry, and help integration.

Why does this matter so much? Because we don’t just need a strong economy to thrive, we have to build a strong society. Segregation drives us apart, not together. And tolerating the development of parallel communities can also mean failing to get to grips with appalling practices such as FGM and forced marriage.

There is also an important connection to extremism. I am not saying separate development or conservative religious practices directly cause extremism. That would be insulting to many who are devout and peace-loving. But they can help a young person’s slide towards radicalisation. Think about the young boy growing up in Bradford. His parents came from a village in Pakistan. His mum can’t speak English and rarely leaves the home, so he finds it hard to communicate with her, and she doesn’t understand what is happening in his life. At the same time, as a teenager he is struggling to identify with western culture. Separate development and accepting practices that go against our values only emphasise differences and can help prompt the search of something to belong to. When that happens, the extremist narrative gives him something — however ridiculous — to believe in.

So what can we do about this? First, we need some clear thinking. This is Britain. In this country, women and girls are free to choose how they live, how they dress and who they love. It’s our values that make this country what it is, and it’s only by standing up for them assertively that they will endure. In Britain, men are not frightened of women’s success; it is celebrated proudly. So we must take on the minority of men who perpetuate these backward attitudes and exert such damaging control over their wives, sisters and daughters. And we must never again allow passive tolerance to prevent us from telling the hard truths.

We also need a clear and positive policy agenda. So we will review the role of religious councils, including Sharia councils. We’re teaching British values in our schools because I want every young boy and girl growing up here to feel proud of our country and properly connected to it. And we’ll end the forced gender segregation, as we issue clear guidance to local authorities to stamp out this practice.

We must also make more progress on English language. It is at the heart of solving this. Consider this: new figures show that some 190,000 British Muslim women — or 22 per cent — speak little or no English despite many having lived here for decades. 40,000 of these women speak no English at all. So it’s no surprise that 60 per cent of women of a Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage are economically inactive.

This has to be tackled head on. We’ve already introduced a language test for new migrants, but I believe it’s time to be much more demanding. Yes, we have responsibilities to migrants, but they have responsibilities too. At the moment, someone can move here with very basic English and there’s no requirement to improve it over time. We will change that. We will now say: if you don’t improve your fluency, that could affect your ability to stay in the UK. This will help make it clear to those men who stop their partners from integrating that there are consequences.

We’ll also fund a dramatic improvement in the way we provide English language services for women. With a new £20 million programme, we’ll make sure every woman from isolated communities with no English at all has access to classes, whether through community groups or further education colleges.

Britain has a claim to be the most successful multi-faith, multi-racial democracy on the planet. We got here because we fought and won those long struggles for liberty, equality and mutual tolerance. But the job of building a more cohesive country is never complete. With English language and women’s empowerment as our next frontier, I believe we can bring Britain together and build the stronger society that is within reach.

Migrants, Misogyny and Cultural Development


I have stolen an excellent piece by David Aaronovitch in the Times today. It covers themes that I have been wanting to comment on for a while. It discusses the ongoing immigrant issue which has been brought into searing relief by the New Years Eve sex attacks in Cologne and revelations of the explosion in sexual attacks over the last few years across Sweden and Germany, mainly by North African and Arab men.

What I like about the article is its emphasis, not on the common factor of the perpetrators muslim identity, but on the significance of the general level of cultural evolution that dominates this part of the world.

…It is not so much a problem particular to world faiths as a characteristic of lagging misogynistic cultures.

This has been the theme of many of my posts so far on this Blog. The ‘lagging’ culture is the general level of the Traditional worldview (see diagram here).

It is generally been noted by cultural anthropologists that virtually all Traditional societies are patriarchal (in contrast to a high proportion of pre-traditional societies that are matriarchal). There are a number of complex structural reasons for this. A simple example from a techno-economic viewpoint: If we loosely associate Pre-Traditional societies with horticultural food production, then men and women can both be equal in the public sphere as both are equally strong enough to use a hoe. With the move to agrarian food production (loosely associated with traditional societies) the plough appears which takes a higher level of strength to manouver which is dangerous for pregnant women to attempt. Hence men take over the public sphere and this leads to a patriarchal system (that’s a pretty brutal simplification but you get the point!). This ‘natural’ or ‘functional’ patriarchy has historically inevitably slid into various forms of oppressive patriarchy with degrees of misogyny, and gender discrimination associated. It has only been the development of societies with the Modern Worldview that a re-balancing and dismantling of these traditional dynamics could be attempted (work that is still ongoing in the modern west after hundreds of years of heroic campaigning from the various women’s movements!).

(Again, there are structural psychodynamic reasons why this slide into misogyny is all but inevitable in the traditional society. Ken Wilber traces these issues in great detail in ‘Up from Eden’)

So the problem isn’t Islam = misogyny per se, but rather the level of cultural development (traditional) that the Islamic world is generally at. ie: Traditional Islam = misogyny (just as in the past Traditional Christianity = misogyny). Now, granted, traditional Islamic doctrine (especially the hard line Salafist and Deobandi interpretations sweeping the muslim world) is particularly virulent in its misogyny and, more to the point, have built into their worldview deep immunities to developing into a modern, gender equalised, form (Ayaan Hirsi Ali traces these dynamics masterfully). I would argue that these dynamics are not present in the other major faiths which therefore makes Islam uniquely recalcitrant in joining the modern world (I will expand on this at a later date).

Here is Aaronovitch’s excellent article:

Migrants must learn to live by our values

David Aaronovitch

David Aaronovitch


Liberal denial of the misogynistic cultures that many migrants come from will only make their assimilation harder

‘At least they’ll be allowed to keep their wedding rings!” This is how I imagine the Danish detective in the next series of The Bridge justifying to his Swedish counterpart his role in seizing valuables from newly arrived migrants. Possibly he will defend yesterday’s move by the Danish parliament to confiscate items of significant worth (wedding and engagement rings generously exempted) on the basis that such baubles can be sold to defray the costs of looking after refugees. Or possibly he’ll agree that any money raised in this way would be negligible, but that the deterrent effect on people thinking of coming to Denmark would massively outweigh it.

That appears to be the Danish calculation. But of course the Danish government does not anticipate that refugees will stop coming to Europe. How could they? This month alone 257 have arrived in Italy in boats (six have died trying) and 19,000 in Greece (50 of whom drowned). It just anticipates them not coming to Denmark in the same way we don’t anticipate them coming to Britain. They’ll go somewhere else.

For the most part that somewhere else has been Germany and Sweden. Even before the new date which will live in infamy, New Year’s Eve 2015/16 in Cologne, Mrs Merkel and the Swedes were accused of irresponsibility by allowing 1.2 million refugees and migrants into their countries. Something like this was bound to happen. They should have done as the Danes do.

We should thank heavens that they didn’t. The West failed to take prompt action over the civil war in Syria and so — inevitably — Syria came here instead. But only after first depositing two million people in Turkey, 1.6 million in Lebanon and 650,000 in Jordan. That situation was uncontainable and it wasn’t contained.

Most refugees were not pulled towards Europe by promises of jobs and luxuries; they were pushed here by war and hopelessness. They were either going to arrive in unplanned chaos and remain encamped on whatever was the last border to close in front of them — a field in Croatia, a wood in Hungary — or someone could plan to take them. All this the Swedish detective in The Bridge could tell her colleague.

But then, what about Cologne? What about the news coming out of Sweden this week that sexual assaults on teenage girls at not one but two pop festivals, apparently by Afghan asylum seekers, were in effect covered up by the police? Not so much covered up, maybe, said a retired senior Swedish police officer. But, he agreed, ethnic status was relevant here and a vital piece of information had been withheld. “We sometimes don’t like,” he admitted, “to go into the dark places.”

This is why liberalism can be dangerously double-edged, and I should know. Liberalism spends much of its life terrified of conceding any ground to what it sees as prejudice. I understand that, not least when I hear about the German vigilantes beating up hapless Guineans in the wake of the Cologne attacks. But had any group of young white males conducted a mass sexual assault on young women in a western city, the outrage would have been immediate and thunderous. What, we would have been asked, is it about our society that permits such a thing to happen? That allows young men to believe that they can and should act in this way?

It isn’t true that, say, Syrian asylum seekers in Germany are more likely to commit crime than anyone else. As far as I can judge from the available statistics, while young north Africans are 20 times as likely to steal a car or a mobile phone as the indigenous German population, Syrians are half as likely to.

But when it comes to sexual crimes it is apparent, as it is in this country, that some backgrounds lend themselves to certain types of sexual assault more than others. It is not absurd to worry about young men — often poor, often bored, often deprived of family life and family restraints — whose perception of women was formed in the relative backwardness of severely patriarchal societies.

If, for example, you have been taught since boyhood that a “modest” woman covers herself up and is in no way extrovert and is in most ways subordinate, then what do you make of women who do not conform to that image? If your faith or your culture are constructed partly around an idea of female inferiority, then how do you respond to discovering women who are certain that they are as good as you?

This is not about Islam per se. Certainly many versions of Islam entail a status for women that amounts to a doctrine of inferiority. But the same is true of, say, Orthodox Judaism. And readers will recall the appalling recent instances of gang rape in India. It is not so much a problem peculiar to world faiths as a characteristic of lagging, misogynistic cultures. Failing to make clear to men from such backgrounds that things are different here would be as bad as tarring them all with the same brush. That means mandatory courses in citizenship and western values.

Here many of my fellow liberals revert to a sniffy relativism. As in “what’s so wonderful about us that we think we have anything to teach them? It’s arrogance.” Well, in the case of Sweden, the Swedes have much to teach the world about gender equality. It’s one of the reasons why Julian Assange is hanging out in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. We need to be clearer about this. Cultures that teach the inferiority of women, even under the hypocritical guise of “protecting” or “valuing” them, are lesser cultures. In those respects, if they’re in our countries, they need to assimilate.

But read this too. It was written by young Syrian refugees in Germany and handed out on the streets this week. “We thank all the people in Germany, both women and men, for all of the help they have so far offered us. We want to show ourselves worthy of your help. Your values are our values.”

Liberal denial and right-wing prejudice have this in common — it is, if you like, the bridge between them — they are worse than injustices, they are mistakes.