Many Islams exist in the world — this death cult is one of them

Andrew Norfolk

published in Sunday Times 28/5/17

To say jihadist murders have nothing to do with their religion ignores a less comfortable truth

At first glance, it might seem difficult to imagine two groups of Muslims with so little in common.

Build a prison. In one wing, incarcerate those who serially abuse young girls in the back streets of English towns. In another, lock up the jihadist ideologues who plot mass slaughter in the name of God.

They all claim to be Muslim but while the adulterous, alcohol-swilling lowlifes of Rotherham and Rochdale betray multiple Islamic precepts on a daily basis, their fellow inmates view themselves as soldiers of the faith in its purest form.

Most Muslims would not rush to pay a prison visit. They routinely condemn both groups as despicable criminals whose conduct has nothing to do with Islam.

For Britons whose desire is for all who live on this island to somehow find a way to muddle along together, this is a reassuring thought, so comforting that it has almost become a commonplace. In recent years, no press conference after a sex-grooming trial has been complete without a police officer’s pronouncement that the perpetrators’ ethnicity and religion was utterly irrelevant to their crimes.

 

Islamist terror strikes are likewise met by politicians and community leaders with statements condemning the attack while stressing the falsity of perpetrators’ claim to have acted in the name of Allah. Monday’s Manchester atrocity was no exception.

Salman Abedi’s bomb brought carnage to a concert whose audience was predominantly young teenage girls. That anyone might view innocent children as legitimate targets intensified the need to distance the act from the teaching of one of the world’s great religions.

In the prison, different attitudes prevail. If they have nothing else in common, Pakistani child-sex groomers and Isis terrorists share at least one attribute. For them, no 13-year-old non-Muslim girl is innocent. Nor is she a child.

One group fails every test of what it means to be a good Muslim; the other finds such certainty in its literalist vision of the righteous path that it condemns most fellow Muslims as apostates. They unite in their contempt for white girls. One eyes an easy outlet for cheap lust. To jihadists, as a symbol of western decadence and immorality there could be no more suitable target than a venue packed with British girls worshipping a scantily clad young American singer.

 

Targeting children for sex or death is doubtless abhorrent to the vast majority of British Muslims, for whom a truer reflection of Islam was the kindness of fellow believers who came to the aid of the victims and who stood, in defiance of terrorism, in solidarity with fellow Mancunians.

Who, though, gets to define what is or is not Islam, who is or is not a Muslim? Who makes the rules?

How to pray, how to wash, what to wear; there seems barely any element of the faith that is not subject to furious debate long before bigger issues — such as the meaning of jihad and when it is permissible to wage war for the sake of Allah — are confronted.

Consider patriarchal attitudes towards women, however, within different Islamic sects and nations and in different centuries, and you will find a path well trodden. In all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence, girls become women — and eligible for marriage — at puberty. Women are either modest, housebound wives and mothers or Jezebel temptresses, shameless objects of sexual desire, born to lure men astray.

One need not travel far from Manchester to understand why some men, schooled in medieval theology or the conservative culture of homelands in south Asia, the Middle East or north Africa, struggle to treat western women with respect.

Near Bury, Greater Manchester, is a former sanatorium that since 1975 has been home to Britain’s leading Islamic boys’ seminary. In 2014, Ofsted hailed its production of “exemplary British citizens”. Its 21st-century perspective is instructive.

A website promoting the seminary’s teaching states that Satan uses women “as his avenue to create evil in society”. She should always remain in the home. If she must venture out, her clothing should conceal her entire body. Unless hidden from view, she will inevitably “attract men like swamps of flies are attracted to uncovered sweets”.

Befriending a non-Muslim invites corruption. To marry a Christian or Jewish woman risks the filtering of “their repulsive qualities into Muslim homes”. Singing and dancing is banned. The music industry is a Jewish-influenced means of “spreading the Satanic web”. We allow such values to be taught in 21st-century Britain.

Girls. Music. Danger. Pollution. In the early 1950s, Sayyid Qutb, an Egyptian writer who played a pivotal role in the birth of supremacist Islamist ideology, studied briefly at a college in Colorado. His verdict on western women spat contempt. “The American girl is well acquainted with her body’s seductive capacity. She knows it lies in the face, in the expressive eyes and thirsty lips. [It] lies in the round breasts, the full buttocks, and in the shapely thighs, sleek legs — and she shows all this and does not hide it.”

American dance music was for Qutb, a hero of the Muslim Brotherhood, what “savage bushmen created to satisfy their primitive desires”. He described his visit to a church dance: “They danced to the tunes of the gramophone and the dancefloor was replete with tapping feet, enticing legs, arms wrapped around waists, lips pressed to lips and chests pressed to chests. The atmosphere was full of desire.”

Sexuality and freedom, in women, are to be stamped upon. An errant daughter or sister shames her entire family. Cue acid attacks and honour killings.

These are not fringe opinions. In 2013, a study of 38,000 Muslims by the Pew Research Centre found that 46 per cent of Pakistanis and 59 per cent of Bangladeshis believed it was sometimes justified for family members to kill women as a punishment for pre-marital sex or adultery.

More than 80 per cent of Muslims in Jordan, Egypt, and Pakistan said that a wife must always obey her husband. In Iraq, Morocco and Tunisia it was more than 90 per cent.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban outlawed music and the education of girls. There, child marriage flourishes as in so many Muslim nations including Iran, where women are banned from dancing and performing music on stage.

Religious laws that dictate the treatment of women in many Islamic states reached new levels of barbarity in 2014 when Islamic State seized huge swathes of Iraq and Syria and declared its own caliphate.

Its interpretation of God’s rules led to mass public beheadings and to the enslavement of more than 3,000 Yazidi girls and young women.

Rules published by Isis in December 2014 codified lawful conduct with slaves. They included a declaration that “it is permissible to have intercourse with the female slave who hasn’t reached puberty, if she is fit for intercourse”.

For millions of Muslims worldwide who believe they follow a religion of peace, such crazed bloodlust is a monstrous perversion of Islam.

As the historian Tom Holland has noted, the truth is less comfortable. Isis argues that its killings and use of concubines is “sanctioned by the Koran and by the sayings and example of Muhammad”.

“To dismiss them as psychopaths is to ignore what is most truly terrifying about them — that their thuggery and greed coexist with a profound strain of religiosity. [Isis] propagandists present it as charged by God with restoring to the world the pristine Islam that existed back in the days of Muhammad and his immediate successors.”

Dewsbury is far from Sinjar but it was no surprise when Baroness Warsi suggested that in her West Yorkshire home town, some Pakistani men “see woman as second-class citizens and white women as third-class citizens”.

They “believe white girls are fair game”, she said. Shabir Ahmed, leader of the Rochdale grooming gang, would have agreed. The 59-year-old kebab shop worker told a 15-year-old girl that it was not wrong of him to deliver her to numerous Pakistani men for sex because in his homeland “you’re allowed to have sex with girls from the age of 11”.

Ahmed enjoyed having sex with children but worried they would make him impure. He forced girls to wash before he abused them. Afterwards he would “go home, have a shower, say two units of prayer and ask Allah for forgiveness”.

Muslim girls are saints or sinners who must be punished. Western girls are corrupt sluts. This is not an uncommon perspective in the Islamic world.

Ariana Grande, a 23-year-old singer from Florida, is a former children’s TV star whose global Dangerous Woman tour reached Manchester, 12 miles from Rochdale, on Monday. A year ago, she told Twitter critics that “expressing sexuality in art” was no more an invitation for disrespect than “wearing a short skirt is asking for assault”.

Girls the same age as those serially abused by Ahmed and his friends went to the city in their thousands to watch a mini-skirted, cat-eared woman dance and sing on stage in black thigh boots.

When it gleefully claimed responsibility for the slaughter of 22 “crusaders” by its “soldier of the caliphate”, Isis condemned the Arena event as “shameless”. It said that the bomb plot succeeded “with Allah’s grace and support”. There are many Islams in this world. This death cult is one of them.

What’s bad for white women is bad for all women

Louise Casey

I have spent the past year touring the country conducting a review into integration and opportunity in our most isolated communities. I have heard numerous personal accounts that have brought home to me the disadvantage still being suffered by some people, including those in white working-class communities.

But the inequality suffered by so many black and minority ethnic women has really stood out for me and this has been particularly apparent in some Muslim communities. I think it is time we talked about this in a more open and honest way.

From the outset I want to say that no culture or religion can ever excuse violence and oppression against women, but my review has caused me to reflect on whether we – myself included – have been as active in promoting opportunity and as vigilant and robust in calling out sexism, taking on patriarchy and standing up to misogyny in some minority communities, as we would have been for white women or girls.

Not because we thought that white women were more worthy of help, but because we thought we were less qualified to comment on cultures we didn’t understand. To be blunt, I wonder if our abhorrence of racism and fear of being called racist, along with our desire not to cause offence, has sometimes got in the way of our feminism.

Analysis of 2011 census data produced for my report shows that 44 per cent and 36 per cent of women born in Bangladesh and Pakistan but living in the UK were unable to speak English well or at all, compared to 20 per cent and 13 per cent of Bangladesh and Pakistan-born men.

And while 20 per cent of all British Pakistani and Bangladeshi men were economically inactive in 2015, the rate for British Pakistani and Bangladeshi women was nearly three times higher, at 57 per cent.

Not only are all those figures too high, they are shockingly gender unequal. Not enough of us have spoken out against this unfairness and/or supported those Muslim women, many who have been courageously fighting these battles and whose voices have not always been heard.

We should not think that this is a problem that affects only older women who arrived in Britain 30 or 40 years ago, as 44 per cent of non-UK born Pakistani and Bangladeshi women aged 16 to 24 are currently unemployed or inactive and not in full time education.

Some ongoing patterns of inter-cousin marriage and a custom of bringing in brides from “back home” have meant young women are continually arriving into patriarchal Muslim communities with a lack of English, a lack of education and a reliance on their husband for their income and immigration status.

This first generation in every generation can have knock-on effects in their ability to understand even basic legal rights, to access health or domestic abuse services freely, as well as for their children who may not speak English in the home and are less well prepared for school as a result.

I fear that we have been too afraid to talk about a lot of this, along with other issues of violence and abuse including female genital mutilation, forced marriage and so-called honour-based crimes, or the worrying prevalence of male-dominated Biraderi (meaning brotherhood) politics that has taken a hold in some councils and parts of our political parties and system.

We worry about lacking the understanding and confidence to confront such problems, unless laws are clearly contravened. It is more difficult to challenge or act on behaviours that fall into grey areas along this spectrum – where one person’s arranged marriage is another’s forced marriage; or where one person’s religious conservatism is another’s homophobia.

Those of us who regard ourselves as progressives rightly don’t want to be racist and hold back from calling out wrongdoing for what it is.

But the best case explanation for what happened in Rotherham is a lesson here too.

By failing to confront known child sexual exploitation because the majority of perpetrators were Pakistani-heritage men, for fear of upsetting race relations in the town, the council and police only made things worse: for the young women and girls who suffered the most appalling abuse and for race relations as well.

So I hope more resources can now go back into English language and domestic abuse services.

But we also have to be honest about abuse, discrimination and disadvantage wherever it occurs. If we wouldn’t stand for it with white women, we shouldn’t stand for it with any women.

I want to stress that feminists and those who have campaigned for women’s equality and against racism and discrimination down the years are not the enemy here.

They are, in so many ways, heroes who deserve our gratitude and respect. But I hope that the next wave of our fight for women’s equality is one that reaches far into all communities and not just those that we are most comfortable criticising.

By uniting around our common values in a way that allows for and celebrates our differences but also guarantees our fundamental rights, we can start to provide a route map through the difficulties as well as the opportunities of our increasingly diverse nation.

And, by unlocking the potential of all women, we can tackle both the gender and race inequalities that still persist in this country and that all progressives, of whatever political persuasion, should want to end.

This article is based on a chapter Dame Louise Casey wrote for the report A Sense of Belonging: Building a More Socially Integrated Society, published by the Fabian Society and Bright Blue, in partnership with The Challenge.

The Migrant Crisis, comment from Dominic Lawson

After a week of emotional incontinence and frenzied virtue signalling on this issue, this piece by Dominic Lawson should be required reading on the Migrant Crisis. Lawson along with precious few others such as Matthew Paris and Max Hastings  have actually tried to swim against the onslaught of the one-sided analysis being peddled by most of the UK print and broadcast media. I have copied the article in full as it is too important to be hidden behind the Times pay wall.

 

The more we ‘feel’ for the refugees, the worse their plight will be

Dominic Lawson Published: 6 September 2015

WHEN Winston Churchill spoke about the crimes of the Nazis, did he begin by saying how much he personally had been affected by the horror? When William Gladstone produced his thunderous pamphlet denouncing the Turkish massacre of Bulgarian Christians and calling the British government to action in 1876, was there a single sentence in his many thousands of words that referred to his own emotions on the matter? No, not even a word.

Both these men understood it wasn’t about them. If only our current political and spiritual leaders had the same understanding. Following the publication of pictures of a Turkish police officer carrying the corpse of a Syrian Kurdish boy drowned in his family’s failed attempt to reach Greece, few can resist telling us how it has affected them, personally.

The leader of the Scottish National party, Nicola Sturgeon, wanted us to know it had reduced her “to tears”. The Archbishop of Canterbury and the Chief Rabbi both declared: “My heart is broken.” Really? Or do they just mean they are jolly sad? And, anyway, who cares? I don’t mean about the death of that boy, but about whether various important people are upset by the sight of a drowned toddler. Some things should not need saying.

That was David Cameron’s first, sensible reaction. But after the broadcasters spent 24 hours showing and reshowing that poignant scene — mixed with tendentious reports that this was somehow “our fault” — the prime minister cracked. He felt forced to declare how upset he had been “as a father”.

The risk now is that a self-centred re–action will make a dreadful situation worse. Thus Alex Salmond, the former Scottish first minister, argued that Britain should join in an enlarged European quota system of receiving asylum seekers from Syria “so’s we can hold our heads up”. You see? It’s all about how we feel about ourselves, not about what is in the interests of the country that is actually in most need of help: Syria itself.

It is true that the normally level-headed German leader, Angela Merkel, has been in the forefront of encouraging Syrian refugees to settle in the EU. To be fair, she has declared that her own country will take 800,000 — but went on to demand others take “their share”. But what is a fair share? Germany has a declining population and considerable unused housing capacity. The UK is in the opposite situation — last year net migration into this country was a record 330,000.

The European Commission has drawn up its own quota system, dividing up the recent influx of 160,000 into the EU. So, for example, it insists that Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria take almost 9% of that number between them. But the migrants don’t want to settle there — and if they are given EU passports, there’s no way they can be made to stay in those countries rather than move on to western Europe.

And what happens to the quota system after all those people have been “allocated”? How does the EU deal with the next wave? It will assuredly be a much bigger one. For as Cameron tried vainly to point out, before being damned as “uncaring”, if we take in many thousands of those who have risked their lives to get to the shores of the EU, it would be the biggest possible incentive for others to pay the people-smugglers for the sort of lethal dinghy rides that saw the end of three-year-old Aylan Kurdi. (It also saw the death of his five-year-old brother Galip, and their mother, but there were no poignant photographs of their corpses, so few emote about them, just as they don’t about the 71 Syrians suffocated in a van meant for animal carcasses while being smuggled into Austria.)

As Justine Greening, the international development secretary, explained to the BBC on Friday, we need to understand the scale of all this: she pointed out that more than 10m people have been displaced by the Syrian civil war. Her predecessor, Andrew Mitchell, had been instrumental in supporting the Zaatari refugee camp three years ago — the most significant visible manifestation of Britain’s near-£1bn of aid for victims of the conflict and a model of what should be done on a much wider scale.

Zaatari has markets, sanitation and multiple field hospitals. It is no sort of place for permanent residency; but the Syrian war will not go on for ever and when it ends that country will need all its inhabitants, especially the most skilled and energetic, to rebuild and restore it. That is much more realistic than reconstructing Syria in Europe.

This has been best explained by Sir Paul Collier, the author of Exodus: Immigration and Multiculturalism in the 21st Century. As this eminent development economist wrote: “Europe . . . [should be] fostering a Syria-in-exile economy located in Jordan and other neighbouring countries . . . Providing a skilled minority of Syrians with dream lives in Europe is not the answer . . . It would gut Syria of the very people it would most need. It is an intellectually lazy feel-good policy for the bien-pensant.”

Collier went on to point out that the approach pioneered by the Germans “is not just foolish, it is deeply immoral. Europe has a duty to fish refugees out of the sea because it is morally responsible for tempting them into the sea. So whatever else Europe does, it must stop this policy of temptation. Paying a crook thousands of dollars for a place on a boat should not entitle a Syrian refugee to a more privileged entry to Europe. It is profoundly unfair to the other suffering refugees.”

This, essentially, is the British government’s opinion, which is why Greening has proposed instead that we take those from the Zaatari camp who are least able to look after themselves. That will most likely mean orphaned children, an echo of the Kindertransport, under which thousands of central European Jewish children came to this country at the end of the 1930s. They were orphaned subsequently, of course: the Kindertransport preceded the Holocaust.

Perhaps the most nauseating aspect of the television coverage over the past few days was reporters implying that Hungary’s attempts to register refugees in holding camps were reminiscent of the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews. The Hungarian government was simply meeting its obligations under the Dublin convention, which demands that those seeking asylum in the EU are assessed and registered in their country of arrival.

Nor should this debacle be seen simply as “a European issue”, despite what you might have read or heard. The immensely rich and sparsely populated Gulf states are deeply involved in funding combatants in Syria — yet they have resolutely closed their doors to Syrian refugees. And the bereaved father of Galip and Aylan Kurdi, depressed by his family’s prospects after months in Turkey (where they had fled from Syria), was attempting to get to Canada to join his sister, a Canadian national.

It is true Britain bears considerable responsibility for the situation in Libya, because we helped to remove the Gadaffi regime. But if we are also to be held responsible for Syria because parliament voted against bombing the regime of Bashar al-Assad, then we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t.

The death of Aylan and Galip Kurdi really isn’t our fault. It is not all about us.

dominic.lawson@sunday-times.co.uk