Desperately seeking diversity

05 September 2014

Horror: the abuse story in The Daily Telegraph on Friday

Horror: the abuse story in The Daily Telegraph on Friday

ABSOLUTELY nothing seems to have happened in the Church of England this week, according to the dailies. I do hope the news is not too disheartening for those who toil on the earlier pages of this paper. To make up for this lack, there was an extraordinary blast of attention on Islam, or at least on Muslims.

The story of the child abuse in Rotherham was sufficiently awful to awaken in every observer a longing for repentance and amendment of ways. As it happened, the people who needed to repent and to mend their ways were never those calling for repentance. Odd, that.

Let's start with Allison Pearson in the Telegraph: "It is of the utmost importance that wider society wakes up to the fact that there is what the inquiry found to be a 'deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls'. Many of us who have been saying this for a long time have been shouted down as racist. Thanks to Prof. [Alexis] Jay, it has been stated publicly for the first time that the fear of appearing racist was more pressing in official minds than enforcing the law of the land or rescuing terrified children. It is one of the great scandals of our lifetime."

Was it really the first time this had been stated publicly? It didn't take more than ten seconds on Google to find a newspaper article from 2012 arguing that "By now, even the most trusting and generous-minded liberals must have woken up to the fact that our fear of being tarred as racist has allowed ugly practices and outmoded attitudes to flourish, hidden away behind a nervous respect for 'difference'. Stymied by political correctness, social workers, carers, police, lawyers and council staff all failed to protect those young Rochdale girls."

Oh. That was Allison Pearson in the Telegraph, too.

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There is no defence to be mounted for Rotherham Council, nor for its police. The Telegraph nurtures a further, and wholly justified, grievance against the social workers there, because they were, until last week, largely famous for removing three foster children from their parents on the grounds that these were UKIP members.

None the less, there is something unpleasant about the claim that "political correctness" was at fault for the failures of the authorities. The South Yorkshire Police are not often credibly accused of excessively delicate sensibilities. More likely is a combination of political cowardice - not wanting to rock the boat - and contempt for the victims of these crimes which spread far beyond the nasty prejudices endemic to Pakistani culture and into the ranks of the police and the local authorities, too.

YASMIN ALIBHAI BROWN, in The Independent, started off on Allison Pearson lines, and then veered off somewhere more interesting and touchier. "The Rotherham report will, I hope, stop the apologists and silence their usual denials and pretexts. I mean the anti-racists, academics and time-serving public-service workers who have been defensive and unwilling to condemn what they should.

"I can imagine what the talk will be among Asians in Rotherham today. Good people, of course, will feel shame. Lots, however, will not, and instead will blame the system or the victims - young girls from disadvantaged backgrounds who were lured with cheap gifts and false affection. Such children are seen as trash, low life, by their rapists as well as the authorities, including the police.

"Within some British Asian circles, the West is considered degenerate and immoral. So it's OK to take their girls and ruin them further. Some of the most fierce rows I have ever had have been with Asian women who hold these disgusting views.

"I tell them about at least three young Asian girls who have thus been entrapped and exploited. 'That is their fault. They have become English, so of course these things happen to them.' "What to do in the face of such attitudes?"

I'm not sure. But it is hard to blame them on "political correctness". The other important point is that these attitudes will only be ever exposed and discussed by other Asian Muslim women. There is a very important sense in which a more diverse media is just as important for the health of the country as a more diverse police force can be, and for very similar reasons. 

MEANWHILE, the association of "Muslim" with child rapist will do nothing to make jihad seem less attractive to some young men. Most of what was said about returning jihadis last week was windy or worse: it is hardly likely that a policy designed to appeal to UKIP swing voters will have the desired effect on disaffected Muslims.

But the sheer tangled futility of some of our outrage over the barbarity of IS was highlighted for me by a report from Human Rights Watch. It pointed out that, in August, Saudi Arabia beheaded at least 19 people, one for supposed sorcery.

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