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  • Cultural relativism and the state

    by Rumbold
    20th December, 2009 at 9:25 pm    

    After the conviction of Mehmet Goren for the murder of his fifteen year old daughter because she had fallen in love with the wrong man, numerous columnists and campaigners have delivered broadsides against ‘misplaced cultural sensitivities’ and ‘multiculturalism’ (MixTogether has a roundup of initial responses here). Jaswinder Sanghera, founder of the charity Karma Nirvana, argued that:

    Up until last month, 86 forced marriage protection orders have been issued, yet not one of them was in Bradford, Leicester or Tower Hamlets. Is this because forced marriage is not a problem in those areas, all of which have some of the largest Asian populations in Britain? Or is it because authorities there are failing to use the powers for fear of creating offence? I am afraid it is the latter.

    Poorna Shetty meanwhile highlighted two cases where the police had failed to take women who contacted them seriously: both would end up dead.

    There is still much to criticise the state for the way in which it deals with ‘honour’-based violence (HBV). Too little money gets to specialist charities (and even less will in the future), while the Forced Marriage Unit is understaffed and underfunded. Some state employees, whether politicians or officials, have been downright hostile in the past towards efforts to combat HBV. Jaswinder Sanghera recalls councillors and school officials in Derby (where she is based) criticising her and refusing to put up posters that told pupils about organisations which they could turn to if they felt under threat. Some victims of HBV have discovered in the past that the state does not take them seriously; one girl who feared that her parents would kill her was eventually re-housed, but only in the street next to theirs. Suspects fleeing oversees have often found safe havens in areas like Kurdistan.

    Yet is there still a cultural relativism pervading the state to the extent that Jaswinder Sanghera can claim that:

    The shame is not just that it is happening on such a large scale, but that it is so often covered up for fear of upsetting cultural sensibilities. Serious crimes are being treated as a matter for diversity officers rather than for the police and the courts.

    I’m not so sure. Take the police for instance. They have probably done more than any organisation to improve the way in which they deal with HBV. There has been an improvement in dealing with suspected cases, as well as the number of cases dealt with (as Poorna Shetty points out), while specialist HBV officers have been trained and posted around the country. The Goren case occurred before all the changes. Senior police officers like Steve Allen have emerged as experts on HBV, and the police are more willing to work with, and listen to, HBV charities. Nor are situations where the victim has not been taken seriously been confined to HBV cases, with one woman being murdered by an ex-partner despite alerting the police numerous times, while a mother and her daughter killed themselves after months of vicious bullying while the police did nothing.

    The 2007 Forced Marriage Act allowed for forced marriage orders to be issued (most famously in this case), and was designed so that people could escape marriage without their parents being prosecuted (studies found that the vast majority of victims didn’t want their parents to be prosecuted, so the Act was a way of ensuring that they could come forward). Jaswinder Sanghera’s statistics about the distribution of forced marriage orders is damning though, which suggests that much more needs to be done is schools and other community centres to publicise how victims can escape and how their friends can help them, and makes one wonder about the complicity of the state. I don’t know if social services have got better at dealing with such situations either.

    The state can only do so much. It can educate, deter, prosecute, and provide funding. It has got better at doing all of those things in recent years, yet, especially with regards to funding, it needs to do more. Where the state is limited is when it comes to mentalities. HBV tends to be marked by a premeditated thinking, a cold-blooded need to reassert a person or family’s standing in the ‘community’ (which is what marks it out from other areas of domestic violence). The question is, how do you remove that need to reassert a person’s ‘honour’ in the eyes of their ‘community’?

    History provides only a partial answer. For hundreds of years, Europe was blighted by men (and women) fighting each other to defend their ‘honour’, whether in the classic duel, or ambushes, and so on. Yet that phenomenon doesn’t exist now, as a result of centralising states (which cracked down on duels and feuds since they threatened public order), and a shift from a culture that prized martial prowess to one that put more emphasis on learning and culture (and a few other factors). So in the end it was the combination of the state and contemporary opinion that reduced the need to defend one’s ‘honour’ through violence. Can the same thing happen to ‘honour-based violence? I hope so.

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    1. Leon Green

      RT @pickledpolitics Blog post:: Cultural relativism and the state

    2. pickles

      Blog post:: Cultural relativism and the state

    3. Britblog Roundup #253 « Amused Cynicism

      [...] looks at “honour” killings: History provides only a partial answer. For hundreds of years, Europe was blighted by men (and [...]

    1. splinteredsunrise — on 20th December, 2009 at 1:51 pm  

      Well, up to a point. I'm suspicious of explanations that rely on “cultural relativism” because a) the cops and courts don't have that brilliant a record of being sensitive to minorities, and b) if it gets used any more promiscuously, it risks being the left's equivalent of “PC gone mad” - a boo-phrase that doesn't explain anything.

      That said, you've provided plenty of food for thought. But actually, I think the line of least resistance is the best explanation for the failures of the state. One might just as well ask why the police aren't intervening more forcefully in the Albanian community, which has HBV and forced marriage just as much as, say, Pakistani or Kurdish communities. I don't think it's because of cultural relativism in the postmodern sense, but because it's more trouble than it's worth - you might antagonise a minority community for very little return.

      See also, the Ispwich murders and why the police weren't too troubled about working-class white women who had drifted into drugs and prostitution. Had the strangler been killing respectable young women, he'd have been caught much sooner.

    2. Trofim_Vissarionovich — on 20th December, 2009 at 2:15 pm  

      Had the strangler been killing respectable young women, he'd have been caught much sooner.

      A sweeping assertion. Evidence please.

    3. A.C. — on 20th December, 2009 at 2:17 pm  

      Rumbold you are correct that the government and police can only do so much.

      Until there is more pressure from within the communities themselves, the government will always be fighting a reactive not a pro-active battle.

      There is a very interesting article on the Independent website about Surjit Athwal's brother where he says:

      “There is this very distinctive and self-incriminating silence within communities that have a history of 'honour' killings,” he says. “The so-called community leaders, the influential religious groups and the local language newspapers remain deafeningly silent when these killings happen. But that silence makes them just as guilty as the people who kill in the name of honour.”

      One thing that I always find very strange is the lack of discernable consciousness among the majority of young Asian women about the plight of some of their sisters. Yet if white or black men were subjecting young Asian women to the kind of abuse these girls suffer there would be outcry (and hit squads on the streets).

      The next step is to bring the different campaigning organisations together. They need to ask young people- especially those from vulnerable communities- to stand with them and speak up for what is right.

      They will need some good comms and publicity to do that, so keep your keyboard at the ready ;)

    4. Yakoub — on 20th December, 2009 at 2:39 pm  

      ” a shift from a culture that prized martial prowess to one that put more emphasis on learning and culture (and a few other factors)” -LOL

      Honour - as it existed - crashed in the UK almost certainly because of the huge social dislocation and transformation of society that resulted from enclosure and industrialization. Compulsory education in the UK prior to WWII, for most UK ppl, was shite, and popular working class culture largely resisted high culture until the class shifts beginning in the 50s and 60s. I would also add that honour is a specific cultural form of misogyny that has been named by colonial social sciences. Anglo-saxon domestic violence, so to speak, having not been subjected to colonial categorization, risks remaining elusive and invisible. Witness the huge indifference to the Amnesty domestic violence campaign. HBV must not allow itself to be detached from wider misogynistic and femicidal violence. The problem aint culture. It's men.

    5. Trofim_Vissarionovich — on 20th December, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

      Come on, Yakoub. You used the postmodernist text generator to write that, didn't you.

      There are some more exampes of postmodern gibberish here:

      You look very young for someone who remembers pre-WWII. What do you put on your skin?

    6. MiriamBinder — on 20th December, 2009 at 3:36 pm  

      I was discussing the Mehmet Goren conviction with my eldest daughter and her friend. Both these women are 30 years old and have been brought up in a mixed neighbourhood which included friends and acquaintances from various cultural backgrounds.

      One thing they noted that a lot of their friends from differing cultural backgrounds found difficult was moving between the two worlds (as it were) … letting one side of them show at school and another at home. Another point was that though some stayed active socially even when getting towards secondary school age, some seemed to vanish from the scene. This was not an abrupt but rather a gradual process so that it was suddenly that they would realise they hadn't really seen … lets pick a name for argument sake … Anjali outside of the classroom for a few months.

      To an extent the issue is probably more a first generation immigrant issue as by and large that is the generation with the biggest disparity between their home-life and their, for want of a better word, outside lives.

      I agree that by and large the police has made huge strides to deal with the issue of HBV. I also think that Jaswinder Sanghera's findings intimating that schools and community centres can and probably should do a lot more are worth pursuing.

      Nothing much to do with cultural relativism as such, though it may be a very interesting academic study, but more with the fact that this issue is very much a social problem we have to deal with.

    7. Boyo — on 21st December, 2009 at 12:27 am  

      It's not the fault of any one factor, however transplant one culture with this tradition into another and it's going to happen. Inaction is doubtless exacerbated by the “culture of offence” promoted by years of multi-culti brainwashing and head-bashing, however it is always going to occur when you have immigration of this form, probably always has.

      The only way to begin to address it is by state intervention, of the duel-banning variety mentioned above (as you are not going to change the cultures overnight - particularly in the 21st Century where they can maintain contact by satellite, internet and aeroplane). This means strictly monitoring female attendance at schools (making it illegal for them to leave until 18 and punishing the parents if they do), banning home schooling and publicly-funded religious schools (ie, state-sponsored segregation), providing mandatory 30-year-minimum sentences for honour killings and those associated with them, plus something like a seizure of assets law which would mean that while honour may have been served, their (extended) family would suffer as a consequence, which might remove the tendency to encourage the practice.

    8. MiriamBinder — on 21st December, 2009 at 12:44 am  

      @ Boyo … The “transplant[ing]' of one culture with this tradition into another and its going to happen.” has very little, if anything, to do with it. The concept of HBV is admittedly a cultural phenomenon but even the most cursory look in Social History will show that it has been an aspect of most cultures especially our Western Cultures at some stage/s of their evolution.

      The state can only intervene so far and as such I think in that particular our police forces are not behind-hand. What needs must happen now is that it is made possible for the potential sacrifices to familial honour to come forward … For that we need the various drop-in centres, community centres, schools and refuges as well as diverse dedicated help-lines and support staff.

      We need commitment from our government that they will support and continue to support the various programmes that exist for these unfortunate (primarily) young women and men …

    9. Boyo — on 21st December, 2009 at 1:43 am  

      “What needs must happen now is that it is made possible for the potential sacrifices to familial honour to come forward … For that we need the various drop-in centres, community centres, schools and refuges as well as diverse dedicated help-lines and support staff.”

      I picture you Miriam as those three monkeys…. heaven help us from judging or intervening, eh? Better to let the little lambs escape their bonds and demand support. That way at least we won't risk imposing our values on anyone.

      Your response typifies how hopelessly ineffectual, indeed actively damaging, has been the response of so many “progressives” to the very real challenges we face. It is the classic Pilote approach. “Truth? What is truth?”

    10. MiriamBinder — on 21st December, 2009 at 2:06 am  

      Maybe Boyo … then again, change forced from outside rarely lasts unless you keep up the pressure from the outside … I'd sooner see change come about from within. That way it stands a chance of being a long lasting change …

    11. Reza — on 21st December, 2009 at 2:57 am  


      “For hundreds of years, Europe was blighted by men (and women) fighting each other to defend their ‘honour’, whether in the classic duel, or ambushes, and so on. Yet that phenomenon doesn’t exist now, as a result of centralising states (which cracked down on duels and feuds since they threatened public order), and a shift from a culture that prized martial prowess to one that put more emphasis on learning and culture (and a few other factors).”

      That phenomenon doesn’t exist because for hundreds of years Europe wasn’t blighted by cultural relativism. Its leaders decided what was “right” and “wrong”. They didn’t worry about offending cultural sensibilities of some ‘minority’ or another. They drew a line in the sand and ensured, with force, that the people kept to the right side of that line.

      Today, we have ‘multiculturalism’. And multiculturalism can only exist in an environment of non-judgementalism.

      The problem with non-judgementalism is that it becomes very difficult to draw a line in the sand.

      The other problem with our multiculturalist environment is that we cannot get to the root of HBV. Because to do so would mean challenging the cultural practices of particular ‘minorities’ such as arranged marriage, misogyny, cousin marriage etc.

      And that would not do.

      So let’s just accept that in order to benefit from all the wonderful ‘benefits’ that incorperating and ‘celebrating’ foreign cultures bring to our bland and dreary society, such as, er, ‘increased diversity’ and ‘vibrancy’ and ‘enrichment’ and ‘adding rich cultural richness’ etc., we have to take the downsides such as HBV too.

    12. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 2:59 am  


      I do think there are worries about antagonising 'communities' without really achieving much in return. Boyo has pointed out the sheer scale of state intervention needed, which borders on the draconian, if the state tried to solve this problem all on its own.


      You are right in that it requires people potentially under threat to change behaviour in the end. I think plenty of young Asian woman are worried about this, but there is only so much they can do, especially in isolation. Add to that the fact it is a lot easier to conform then struggle and you have the present situation.


      Honour - as it existed - crashed in the UK almost certainly because of the huge social dislocation and transformation of society that resulted from enclosure and industrialization.

      Not really. Honour, as expressed in feuds and suchlike, declines notably in the seventeenth century as central governments begin to assert their monopoly of violence, while the rise of education and centralisation of the army reduces the notion of the warrior aristocrat/gentry. Honour is still around, and there are examples of mortal feuds after that, but it is on a much more infrequent basis. There is a wealth of historical literature on this. I would be happy to send you the links.

    13. MiriamBinder — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:09 am  

      Like it or not, HBV is part of society as we know it and that means dealing with it. Values are an emotional and abstract and cannot be changed by outside enforcement. All you can do is address the actions.

    14. Reza — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:19 am  

      “Like it or not, HBV is part of society as we know it and that means dealing with it. “

      No it isn't part of “society”. It is part of specific and clearly identifiable cultural groups within our society.

      ‘Paki-bashing’ was once “part of society”. We didn’t make it history by simply telling people to stop bashing immigrants and punishing them when they did.

      We identified the root of the problem: The culture of racism. Then we addressed it through our schools and state institutions; We made racism socially unacceptable.

      That was possible because that cultural deficiency affected ‘white’ people.

      The cultural deficiencies that lead to HBV affect ‘brown’ people. And sadly, in the current multiculturalist environment, we cannot address them.

      Because it would be ‘racist’.

      Oh the irony!

    15. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:26 am  


      The crackdown on feuds/dules was not to do with right and wrong. It was purely a public order matter. The state wanted to have a monopoly of violence, and to do that it needed to curtail the power of overmighty subjects, and to do that it needed to convince those overmighty subjects that the state could protect them (and would crush them if they didn't fall into line).

      We are challenging HBV. But as I said, the state can only do so much. In the end, individuals have to change their mentality. Or to put it another away, how does a state change a mentality? You tell me.

    16. MiriamBinder — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:26 am  

      Actually that all depends on how you view society I suppose. I view all legal immigrants and their offspring as part of society and therefore any issues which come about as a result of their being here is an issue of society.

      It has nought to do with racism … it has a lot to do with insecurity.

    17. Reza — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:39 am  


      “…does a state change a mentality? You tell me.”

      I've told you. In the same way that the state changed the mentality of cultural racism.

      You can’t tell cultural groups that we will ‘value’ and ‘celebrate’ their cultures without appreciating that those very cultures lead to HBV.

      Just as the state teaches kids from an early age that racism is wrong, it should teach them that coerced marriage, sexism, misogyny, fetching marriage, cousin marriage etc. are wrong.

      Instead we live in an environment where schools refuse to put up posters against forced marriage for fear of giving offence to ‘minorities’ that force their children to marry their cousins.

      It’s sickening.

    18. Pobeda — on 21st December, 2009 at 3:55 am  

      Some places in historic Europe - even if we include the outer suburbs of historic Europe - are not at all squeamish about telling dreadful truths out loud.

      Here is PRAVDA on 'hate crimes' in Europe and the USA:…

      Grim stuff, eh?

      But these days there are more Bangladeshis than Russians and sooon there will be more Yemenis than Russkis.

    19. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 4:39 am  


      Just as the state teaches kids from an early age that racism is wrong, it should teach them that coerced marriage, sexism, misogyny, fetching marriage, cousin marriage etc. are wrong.

      You will find no disagreement with me on that (though what is “fetching marriage”?).

    20. Reza — on 21st December, 2009 at 6:47 am  


      “Fetching marriage” is a term to describe international arranged marriages, where a child with British citizenship is married off to someone overseas, more often a first-cousin back in the ancestral village who is subsequently “fetched” to the UK. A very high percentage of marriages to second and third generation Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are “fetched”.

      The problem with this arrangement is that often a lot of money is at stake as the family of the “fetched” spouse are willing to pay a lot of money for their child to have access to a British passport. This will allow the “fetched” spouse to subsequently “fetch” relatives into the UK under the Family Reunification rules.

      Because of what is at stake, children are most likely to be coerced or forced into these “arranged” marriages.

      They should be banned asap.

    21. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 6:47 am  

      “Just as the state teaches kids from an early age that racism is wrong, it should teach them that coerced marriage, sexism, misogyny, fetching marriage, cousin marriage etc. are wrong.

      Instead we live in an environment where schools refuse to put up posters against forced marriage for fear of giving offence to ‘minorities’ that force their children to marry their cousins.”

      Try going to school again and you'll find teachers are still leading the fight against sexism and anti-racism.

    22. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 6:57 am  

      Is multiculturalism and cultural relativism is the cause/explanation for the escalation of such violence? There are so many things wrong with your mis-placed concern on 'honour-based' violence - the first of which is no-one I know sanctions such violence. To associate such violence with multiculturalism is wrong and dangerous to the predicament of women who are potentially affected by such violence. I don't read about incidences of violence in the papers but have lived in such sink neighbourhoods and have close kinship links with men/women who are happy to degrade women routinely. For many women like me, the battle against such misogyny starts not on internet pages or policy think-tank discussions, but from way back when we're at school. In other words, we've been fighting this game a lot longer than today.

      For every post you put up with such arguments you do a disservice to all women/girls I know, and by association the hard work of social services and local councils to wipe out such violence.

      There are many reasons why it's difficult for councils to do more about violence against women - most of it is to do with resources, and mostly, it's because crimes against women/girls aren't treated with the same level of seriousness as those committed against men, and crimes against women/girls of non-white background are treated with even less seriousness. And we know what our society's attitude to domestic violence is - so even if people know that a women/teenager is knocked out by partner/parents, people don't do anything, they think it's bad, but they won't intervene. Trust me so few will intervene - how many times have you been on a train and seen a bloke harass a girl on a tube and for everyone to look away , as though they didn't see it - just in case it involves raising your head above the line. They won't intervene because they think the trouble is of a private/domestic nature. The worse offenders are the blokes on the tube who carry a nice briefcase. This is the biggest problem - people's attitudes. I bet you if I met you in the tube and a bloke bothered a girl , chances are, you'd be one of those blokes that just looks away.. Whoa, hold on, gross generalisation, I hear someone shout - oh, hang on, we've been making gross generalisations all day in this post - and usually about Muslims, so why stop at generalising about men's attitude towards violence and harassment towards women.

      Real life is more complicated than reading about diversity etc, you'll appreciate, like me, that not every crime that is committed in non-white communities is related to their culture/cultural predicament. Culture is always a dangerous and offensive weapon - in the hands of fundamentalists and in the hands of people like you who don't like the state or others that don't like multiculturalism. Either way , you're saying the reason why such violence happens is because of cultural relativism or that the reason the authorities don't act is out of a concern for cultural sensitivity - you must think local authorities are beacons of cultural sensitivity or something. So not the case. If you want to fight off multiculturalism do it in a clean way - don't drag in violence against women as mounting evidence for it - it's just wrong and condescending.

    23. Pobeda — on 21st December, 2009 at 7:33 am  

      ME WRONG !

      Not actually PRAVDA was the source as claimed above but here's something on the subject of WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE - tribal prordialism meets dhimmi wet journalist:…

      Good source, I thought!

    24. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 7:52 am  

      No, Reza, the irony is that you and others are implying that 'brown' people will let murder happen in their ranks - and will hide it, because, because, well, it's in their culture, innit. Yes, that is incredibly racist and arrogant and lots of other words that I couldn't really utter in polite society.

      You must think teachers run circuses or something in the UK, and not teaching children that murder and violence is wrong. Or it is that 'brown' children just don't learn in the same way? Which is it? Or is it that the teachers dem are brown, too, and preach their own culture? Guess, there's a lot of other things teachers can teach little children - how not to nuke the world but maybe it's just not what you do at Key Stage whatever.

    25. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 7:52 am  

      You seem to be in good company here with Reza, Rumbold. It should tell you something about where your politics swing on this issue.

    26. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 7:57 am  

      Will you ban Russian Mail Order brides?

    27. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 8:01 am  

      Not sure I follow you Halima. Is it the fact that I agreed with Reza teaching children that things like sexism are wrong? As far as I can tell that is the only thing we agreed upon.

    28. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 8:22 am  

      Reza is stating that schools don't teach children that sexism, misogyny and honour killings are wrong, and they apparently don't teach this to brown children because er.. for fear that this will bring in a charge of racism.

    29. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 10:21 am  


      I don't know how often issues like forced marriage and honour killings are discussed in schools. I would be interested to know. I don't think that issues like sexism and misogyny aren't discussed enough because teachers fear being called racist, but we do know that some schools in the past have rejected posters/information on forced marriage for fear of 'offending the community'.

    30. Ravi Naik — on 21st December, 2009 at 11:22 am  

      I don't think that issues like sexism and misogyny aren't discussed enough because teachers fear being called racist, but we do know that some schools in the past have rejected posters/information on forced marriage for fear of 'offending the community'.

      Sexism and mysoginy are not “brown” problems and they should not be framed as such. However, I am afraid that forced marriages and honour killings do happen in certain communities, and it is disappointing to see that schools reject this sort of information on the grounds that it offends communities.

    31. MaidMarian — on 21st December, 2009 at 12:14 pm  

      Reza - 'This will allow the “fetched” spouse to subsequently “fetch” relatives into the UK under the Family Reunification rules.'

      Slight problem there Reza - it is factually wrong. There is no automatic right of family reunion simply by virtue of someone holding a UK passport, or even a right to a temporary visa for family members. My wife for example is a naturalised UK citizen however her parents have no de facto right to come to the UK.

      Many people in Asia may BELIEVE that if they mary a child off to a UK national that they will get a right of entry to the UK, but they are mistaken. I would be interested if you have any actual evidence (and 'evidence' and 'Daily Mail article' are not the same thing Reza) that people's mistaken understandings about UK immigration law contributes to focred marriages.

      I suggest that you familiarise yourself with the Surrinder Singh case -…
      That is something actually worth getting angry about! The Singh case was in 1993 so there has been no automatic family reunion for at least 15 years and probably an awful lot more.

      It should also be noted that New Labour's sensible ending of the Primary Purpose Rule made 'fetched' marriages easier to weed out of the system as the regs were massively tightened.

      But hey, why let the facts get in the way?

      More generally, your arguments on here might have some remote semblence of credibility if those forcing marriage, marrying cousins and the like were doing to as an active demonstration of multiculturalism in action. Indeed, in the sense that they do not care what opinion about such actions is I would suggest it is the opposite of multiculturalism in action. There is indeed a reasonable argument that other people's marriages and private lives are none of your business.

      A better argument would be to separate identity politics from multiculturalism. The chip on your shoulder seems far more connected to the former than the latter. There is certainly an argument to be had about how far identity politics should be in and out of schools. But I suspect that just having a bit of a moan about multiculturalism is easier for you.

    32. MiriamBinder — on 21st December, 2009 at 12:14 pm  

      I think it is more a case of teachers being unclear of how to tackle such subjects rather then fearful of offending. As for the posters, again I personally am not aware of any such rejections - though I am perfectly willing to concede that such rejections may well have occured.

    33. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 1:30 pm  


      Good points. A multicultural state (in the proper sense of the word), is a desirable one, as it is one in which the government does not intervene in a person's culture unless a lwa is being broken.


      Well, we know the posters were rejected in some Debry schools. Beyond that, I don't know.

    34. Rumbold — on 21st December, 2009 at 1:34 pm  


      Sexism and mysoginy are not “brown” problems and they should not be framed as such.

      Agreed. Which is why it is odd that someone would claim that teachers don't talk about those things for fear of being branded racist.

    35. MaidMarian — on 21st December, 2009 at 2:29 pm  

      Rumbold - Thank you. Reza might have a good point if motivation could be evidenced and gauged.

      As it stands though the idea that judgement ought to be somehow legislated is bizarre. There are indeed absolutes - female genital mutilation for example is wrong, whatever the motivation. But things like marriages are fundamentally the private sphere - and states can not and should not legislate for motives. Nor should they. I married as I chose - it is not for Reza to second guess me.

      Now Reza and his ilk may well take the view that their judgments matter more than those of people involved. They are after all political authoritarians by instinct, and that is their business, Other people's marriages however are not.

      I do however still think that there is an argument to be had about how identity politics and the media are essentially institutionalising identity offence. There is, for example no law against talking in school about forced marriages, but the fear of offending (and litigation) is real. But this is a very sepatate issue to multiculturalism.

      For what it's worth Rumbold I think that the article is about right and I think that the government is tackling a very difficult issue as well as one could expect.

    36. Jas — on 21st December, 2009 at 4:05 pm  

      I have read all the comments on here, and wanted to add in my own simple way…how I experienced being inside the honour culture within an asian sikh family. The family extended system was my parents worst nightmare, theylived their lives in awe of who would judge them and more.I recall my parents asking my uncles and aunts for support and advice on our lives as the children,it mattered that my parents stayed in the clan,everything was dependend on this. The life of my sisters and myself was without question directed and expected from early age to be one of subserviance, this was the only way that we would be rewarded by God, and receive the love of our parents. How we 'carried' ourselves was regularly discussed,we were 'groomed' the only way that it was possible to be for arranged marriages to men we would never have known before we married.

      As someone who knew this well as a young asian woman, I took the risk to leave, hoping by some miricle that my immediate family might have the compassion that I would still need them, realisically however, I knew in the back of my mind that the 2 worlds were too different, and that they would reject me.

      So, how do I feel now some 30 plus years later? Unfortnatly for me ,my family remained firm in their own tightknit world where society is depended on the subservience of women, and men believe that this subservience, role of women is firmly supported in the sikh holy scriptures.

      For asian women to question forced marriage ..that by the way is not how it would ever be presented or seen in many cases by them…would be like asking to be abandoned, disowned. Guilt is the first emotion expressed by asian women if they question marriage against their will. They would blame themselves for questioning the system.

      The work has to start as much with young asian women,I have seen little change in these attitudes despite 30 years of change in general awreness raising.

      The thinking and the mindset of communities on how its possible for them to create another system of operating as families within cultural and religious context,and value base,is what needs to change from within. Its more than just education in schools. There are some tough communities out there, what needs to happen is that organisations like Karma Nirvana and IKWRO and many others that support men and women in desparate need of answers to their dilemnas as well as hostility and untimatly death …continue to receieve help…because we could be waiting around forever trying to change entrenched communities, they will never change, but change may come from men and women making a stand for themselves and their children into the future.

    37. douglas clark — on 21st December, 2009 at 5:33 pm  


      That is a sad tale you tell. On the basis of this:

      but change may come from men and women making a stand for themselves and their children into the future.

      I would like to think you have a family of your own and teach them your thoughts rather than the thoughts of others.

    38. halima — on 21st December, 2009 at 11:19 pm  


      Thanks for writing on this site and reflecting on what is a difficult and upsetting situation, despite being so many years ago.

    39. Reza — on 22nd December, 2009 at 2:23 am  


      Thank you for your moving account.

      I found this particularly interesting:-

      “…we were 'groomed' the only way that it was possible to be for arranged marriages to men we would never have known before we married.”

      In Britain, liberal cultural relativists like to convince themselves that there is a very clear differentiation between ‘arranged’ marriage and ‘forced’ marriage. For them, the former represent “the vast majority” and are ‘good’ and should be supported, the latter represent “a tiny minority” and are ‘bad’ and should be discouraged.

      Clearly you understand that it isn’t this clear cut.

      ‘Arranged’ marriages only become ‘forced’ when the son or daughter refuses to marry the person chosen for them. In many cases, the son or daughter knows that the consequence of refusal will result in becoming an outcast, as you became, or worse: a victim of HBV.

      Therefore, many of the ‘arranged’ marriages that multiculturalists choose to ‘celebrate’ as part of the ‘diversity’ that ‘enriches’ British culture are actually ‘forced.

      And as usual, multiculturalists end up promoting the misery that thousands of people like you suffer each year.

      Some people on these pages claim that the cultural attitudes behind ‘forced’ marriage are addressed in schools. Sadly, I know that this isn’t the case. Certainly not in London.

      And I know that subjects such as ‘arranged’ marriage are fairly taboo for fear of causing offence.

      Our schools should be addressing this area confidently and head-on. They should be teaching children that they can choose whom they marry. They should be making it clear that their parents have no right whatsoever to expect that they will be choosing their spouse. They should seek to embolden children so that they may challenge their parents.

      But schools won’t do this. Not whilst we have ‘multiculturalism’.

      Not whilst we have moral relativists like Miriam and denialists like Halima within our political class.

      Not whilst we have people for whom the destruction of countless lives is a price worth paying for a refusal to single out and criticize the attitudes prevalent in specific cultural groups.

    40. halima — on 22nd December, 2009 at 7:21 am  

      “Not whilst we have moral relativists like Miriam and denialists like Halima within our political class”

      Hi Reza want to play word games with me directly? Denialist? I've walked the walk on that shit against women from a very tender age. I think you need to take that pea-sized brain that's so het up with multiculturalism for a ride.

      Just because someone disagrees with you, doesn't mean they take less offence at the murder of a sister.

    41. Jas — on 22nd December, 2009 at 3:02 pm  

      Douglas, you speak my mind…Yes I have children who are now the age I was when I faced making a life changing choice that I describe above.

      My children have been raised to think for themselves, and are neither' taught 'my thoughts or the 'thoughts' of others. Like you they have the freedom to seek and debate and find answers for themselves. I have not been bitter nor have I shown my first family in a bad light to them, otherwise what would that say about me? Its a complex situation that has required careful handling but with as much honesty as possible.

      Thankyou Reza, I agree with your comments of how things really are on forced and arranged marriages. It had not occured to me as a child that they were any different, as I saw so many 'arranged marriages' as forced in so far as choice was not given,and the bride would be 'raped' in effect on the night of her marriage. Id be told that this isn't the case now…but is that totally true? Im prepared to accept that many arranged marriages now have an element of choice, but back then…you rarely saw the woman raise her head at the wedding ceremony to look at her husband,nevermind look forward to sharing a bed with the man that night.I also knew that my siblings saw the marriages as one way to leave the drugery of housework and subservience in the family home, in effect an escpae was sought in marriage. I might make it sound terrible…but to be honest with you all…the picture I give is not unknown now either from women I have spoken with escaping forced marriages.
      Multiculturalism isn't a word I like, exactly for the reason you give Reza…it represents for me all those wise white men and women I met whilst I was growing up to the present time, who wanted to defend 'my culture' for my own sake, as well as theirs..what utter rubbish.

      ' Fear' of any sort does not necessarily allow for healthy change, and any change is not possible without loss. I count my loss as the door to freedom for my children and generations to come.

    42. Pobeda — on 22nd December, 2009 at 7:02 pm  

      Whole areas of Britain need the vitality and enrichment which Somali immigration can bestow:…

      See what I mean? Plus a few Kurds and Afghans, of course.

    43. MiriamBinder — on 22nd December, 2009 at 7:14 pm  

      You really are sad beyond measure. Dropping little gems but never ever really engaging in any discussion. Oh well … so long as you can live with yourself and as long as I don't have to

    44. A.C. — on 23rd December, 2009 at 3:54 pm  

      Have been thinking of a comment, but it doesn't get much realer than the conversation between Jas and others above.

    45. halima — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:14 pm  

      This is my simple view:

      There is another reason why killings are not discussed in schools, and it's because schools struggle to discuss brutal murders -children and young people come to school to learn maths, science, and some citizenship.

      I am the product of British multiculturalism which takes in my educaton in Tower Hamlets in London and the access to wider youth work provision that compensated for the pressures of low/non-wages in many families around us. I am very proud of it, though recall at times being sick to death of teachers assuming girls like me were going to get an arranged marriage from a village in South Asia. I can imagine a re-run of my schools days now, the assumption (s) would be (a) you'll have an arranged marriage (b) a fetched marriage (c) you're at risk being honour killed. (d) all of the above. Lovely. Instead of teaching literature and physics and some work on the world being sacred and we must respect and value everyone on the planet, the school should be busy doing the work of political pundits and the police?

      My bottom line is for policies to be evidence-based. The figures tell it all : the figure of 12 'honour killings' a year in the UK is horrific, as is the figure of 2 deaths a week from domestic violence in the UK. Name and shame the schools that don't do enough as we claim? Wage and mount a campaign on gender-based violence which will get us out of the trappings of gross inaction and current paralysis on such violence.

      The process of socialisation is a product of family, school, societal influences, and stumping out violence against women can't be done through schools alone. Stop blaming the schools, stop blaming multiculturalism, start facing up to the real and complex challenges to rooting out such aggression and violence in families in our society.

      I've been fighting sexism (from individuals and institutions), and racists and fundamentalists from all sides since I've been in a nappies, like many other women i know in fact, so with due respect, this focus on multiculturalism as the harbinger of all evils is mis-placed. Killings don't happen because schools embrace a version of celebrating multiculturalism that is diversifying school meals so they include samosas and curry.

      Families, communities, the state - they all change, and they change from measures of reform, changes in social attitudes, they change because we stigmatise and stand up against women's inequality.

      They don't change because we blame and stigmatise diversity. That's the political project of people who hate difference, and don't want to see any social change.

      Stop ghettoising 'honour killings' from the very real and invisible poison that is misogyny and sexism and violence against women.

    46. halima — on 23rd December, 2009 at 7:20 pm  

      These are the views from experts who work on gender-based violence against women - day in and day out. Note the framing of the debate on violence against women and caution against 'culture trappings'.

      “It is important to underline the universality of violence against women and its causes, because we are increasingly observing a worrying trend towards singling out certain types of violence and essentialising certain cultures as the source of the problem.”

      Yakin Erturk, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women

      “By developing an effective human rights approach to honour killings it could be possible to move away from the ˜gender trap’ of cultural relativism within the liberal democratic discourse on multiculturalism.”

      “There is nothing ‘honourable’ about honour killings”: Gender, violence and the limits of multiculturalism

      ( Veena Meetooa and Heidi Safia Mirza, 2007)

      Hannana Sadiqui, Co-ordinator of Southall Black Sisters

      Southhall Black Sisters underscore the need for honour-based violence to be framed around the domestic violence and violence against women agenda to avoid honour-based domestic violence inviting an eroticized response and also to ensure that specialist services are not prevented from accessing domestic violence funding and resources that may be available.

    47. Pobeda — on 23rd December, 2009 at 9:24 pm  

      How long has the Harperson had her job?

      Longer than anyone can remember.

      How many prosecutions have there been for aiding, abetting, participating in or paying for Female Genital Mutilation during the period the Harperson has had her job?


      Has any real effort been made by McBroon's gang to stamp out honour killings and bring the perpetrators to justice?


      What percentage of the Muslim and Sikh immigrant vote does the Labour Party hope to harvest at the next election?

      At least 80%.

      Case closed.

    48. MiriamBinder — on 23rd December, 2009 at 9:51 pm  

      By Harperson I take it you are trying in a cack-handed, infantile fashion to refer Harriet Harman and if you cannot remember how long she has been in her job, you can look it up here: (it has all sorts of fascinating facts).

      As for the number of prosecutions? Surely that depends on how many charges have been laid in front of the CPS? Or are you suggesting that Ms Harman has gone around paying people to break the law so that the CPS can prosecute and Ms Harman can claim the kudos? Ah no, you are suggesting maybe that Ms Harman has paid the police to ignore any and all claims that FGM has occurred? On the other hand … it could just be that no accusations have been made … oh dear.

      As for your funny (in the sense of pathetic rather then funny Ha!Ha!) referral to McBroon - again I take it you are referring to Gordon Brown PM. Funnily enough this thread is actually started by an article that details exactly what the government has done with regards to that. The discussion (that is the process by which diverse individual exchange ideas) following the article holds various suggestions including whether what has been done is appropriate, sufficient or not. Read it … it could clarify some issues for you.

      And as for the percentage of Muslim and Sikh votes (after all, once they can vote they are no longer immigrants as such but nationalised residents) … I reckon they are hoping to get as many as possible of all votes all over regardless of the ethnic/cultural background of the voters. Most parties would be hoping for that given the nature of Democratic Elections.

      When you have a case, let me know …

    49. Pobeda — on 24th December, 2009 at 2:44 am  

      The incentive which WOULD be successful is simple; substantial cash rewards for information leading to a successful conviction for HBV and FGM. Cash rewards worked in Tokugawa Japan and work well in Arabia today.

      Posters up in the right places in appropriate languages offering lakhs, if not crores, of tax-free cash. Who could resist such a blandishment?

      Of course, the predictable gang of 'Community Leaders' would squeal about victimisation and racial targetting. Which peers would be angriest? Guess!

      Which is why McBroon and the Harperson would back off sharply and think up an alternative meaningless policy initiative to capture the next day's headlines, like sending Lord Mandelswine and his 22-thousand-quid Patek Philippe watch around the poorer parts of London to show how well Labour can reward its loyal supporters.

      Just an idea.

    50. Pobeda — on 24th December, 2009 at 2:49 am  

      What a delight it was to read about the fearless Harperson in such detail!

      I had totally forgotten about her wearing a stab vest in Peckham!

    51. Pobeda — on 24th December, 2009 at 2:52 am  

      Cash incentives for reporting Honour Killings and FGM would do the trick! Cash incentives worked well in Tokugawa Japan and work well in contemporary Arabia.

      Put up posters in the right places in Urdu, Bengali, Somali and so on, offering lakhs - if not crores - of tax-free rewards and the information would start flowing in!

      No problem!

    52. MiriamBinder — on 24th December, 2009 at 2:53 am  

      See how nice it is when you actually bother to find out about things before spouting off …

      Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year BTW

    53. MiriamBinder — on 24th December, 2009 at 2:54 am  

      Except that you would then have something else to fret about … the use of your tax monies.

      Much better helping those within to make changes from within.

    54. Rumbold — on 24th December, 2009 at 3:29 am  


      I agree with you- schools do need to talk more about domestic violence in general. And I don't deny that it is a difficult and violent topic. But in classes like PSHE and Citizenship (or whatever they are called this week), there is an opportunity to do so.

    55. Jas — on 25th December, 2009 at 10:15 am  

      Some points come to mind…Those pupils potentially facing forced marriage in their future… may have the one chance whilst at school to look at other posibilities for their future,however fear of parents disapproving what is said and taught only makes' professional' teachers stay out of what many call the…'social work' role.

      It takes brave teachers to say and do more…also Kids know more than we are allowing here .its all around them….. violence is raised on our TV sets, in general media etc…by pupils in schools…Certainly teenagers are exposed to information more today?

      Informing young people of 'choices' applies….often through their parents value of what this means…as much as anyone else telling them. It is very very hard to deny your parents values and wishes for you, because you want to belong, not be rejected.

      Handling the posibility a marriage against your will,when your parents say 'all will be well' can mean its easier just to say yes…because how can your parents be wrong?…if they are wrong,surely they will support the difficulties later? ( you dont know at this stage that they wont be able to do that in most cases)

      The govt taking the step to educate and legislate in some cases agaist forced marriages ,is one step to start to make changes in communities who remain silent on this subject. The next step is to make better provision fpr those who need it…to escape those dreadful situations. Young mena dn women often worry about where they will go, and how they will be supported, and these areas still need looking at…as provision of this lkind is still very thin on the ground.

      Schools can provide information and inform young people..if they are not doing that perhaps they dont feel the Govt would support them enough?

      Communites can undermine teachers through informers in schools, as can councillors and governors. Perhaps we need to see schools having clear policies with regard to these issues,and womens aid and organisations such a KN need early on, involving taking some of the responsibility of school being informers…because they fear what would happen? Cultural sensitivity = fear. Takes strong heads and support higher up in education and childrens services, and dare I say resources ?

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