Davies, Straw, Woolas ... playing the same card

It was at about this time last year that David Davies showed the more unpleasant side of his character when he said that the case of a Muslim teenager convicted of rape was linked to "barbaric and medieval" views towards women that had been "imported into this country". It was a deliberately inflammatory outburst which should have resulted in disciplinary action by the Conservative Party ... though of course they did nothing, showing that they are quite content to condone an anti-Muslim agenda if they think there is political advantage to be gained from it.

Now Jack Straw has shown us that the Labour Party can do exactly the same thing. He has blamed the attitude of the Pakistani community for the recent conviction of two men for rape, saying that they saw white girls as "easy meat". Though as a former Lord High Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, he has much less excuse than the more immature MP for Monmouthshire. Nor is this the first exhibition of his views, as he showed when he said he wanted Muslim women not to wear a face covering veil, and certainly not when talking to him.

In the case of both politicians, the problem is one of bigotry. By this I mean that both have singled out a particular group they are predisposed to criticize for something that applies just as much to people from other groups. They are either deliberately applying double standards, or are incapable of seeing past their prejudice.

In and of itself, rape is not an issue of nationality, race or religion. There might well be circumstances in which racial or religious prejudice is a motivating or aggravating element of rape or of other crimes, but that will be something for the courts to determine. In this particular case, the judge said that the race of both the victims and their abusers was coincidental.

Perhaps it is not so surprising that Jack Straw should take this opportunity to express anti-Muslim prejudice. This Thursday will see the Oldham and Saddleworth by-election, brought about because another Labour minister, Phil Woolas, chose to play to anti-Muslim feelings when he narrowly won the election in May. He was prominent in supporting Jack Straw in the row about veils, and a couple of years later raised the issue of inter-cousin marriage in Pakistani communities. The two could be said to be joined at the hip on this matter. Woolas might have been unceremoniously dumped by the Labour Party after the Election Court's verdict, but Labour certainly didn't criticize what he did at the time.


What are we to make of this? To me it appears that there is seam of political opinion in which politicians think they can keep pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable, pandering to the anti-Muslim feeling they presume must exist in the minds of potential voters ... an impression it is all too easy to get by taking the more rabid utterings of some of the gutter press seriously. But are they simply trying to take political advantage of feelings that are already widespread, or is it their intention to stir up and spread those feelings? I find it hard to believe that politicians like these would make such inflammatory statements without having a very good idea of what they want to achieve by them.

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the outsider said...

I have a lot to say on this subject, as I have given it considerable thought but let me begin with just one comment.

We as humans, and for that matter many animals, use facial expression as part of our ability to effectively communicate with each other. Yes we also use 'body language' as a means of communication. But the face is particularly important and able to convey subtle messages and meaning. We have begun to learn a great deal about just how important facial language is in terms of our general well-being and social interaction, and it is of course crucial in the early years of bringing up children and getting them to interact with all manner of adults outside the family. For example there has been a considerable body of work around the difficulties experienced by people diagnosed with autusm or aspergers syndrome. The wearing of the veil is the most inhibiting form of social custom in this regard and because it is a social custom encouraged in woman but not in men it is clearly socially discriminatory. I think all social behaviour has to be looked at in the wider context and of course some of that context is the religious beliefs and geographical heritage of the society in question. Please be very careful about supporting a cultural behaviour that has the continuing potential to do great harm both to the community that practices the cultural morals and mores and to those other people who need to interact and indeed live alongside that grouping.

the outsider.

Owen said...

When you shy away from criticising a group, for fear of racism or anti-whatever-ism, you can end up doing more harm than good. For example, crime and nihilism amongst predominantly black youths in inner-city London or the long-standing problems in Butetown.

I think targeting or criticising groups or minorities is fine only as long as it is - more importantly - backed with resources, engagement and the political will to help solve their problems and address any concerns they might have about being marginalised.

I don't see that happening with Jack Straw, sadly.

Owen said...

I take your point, MH and you are correct of course. What I'm trying to say is that is we want to avoid giving credence to views like Anon 20:40, inherent problems within certain groups which are out of kilter with secular liberal society have to be confronted tactfully (unlike Jack Straw and David Davies) but head-on and not tip-toed around for fear of causing offense. I'd say that also extends to things like school bullying, economic inactivity in the Valleys, drug abuse and petty crime.

I'm definitely not saying the problems are based on race either. Like many things it comes down to deprivation, personal circumstances and marginalisation.

Would young Muslim men (or young white men for that matter) turn to extreme religious, social or political views if they were not ghettoised and pushed to the fringes by the economy and society they find themselves in? They can be pushed to the fringes as much by being ignored than hit with a stick or stereotyped.

Anonymous said...

So MH.....you calle me 'racist scum'. And I stated that" I don't for one moment say that all Pakistani men are this way inclined." Thank you. I wish I was as righteous as you.

MH said...

You sound like a murderer trying to justify himself by saying that he doesn't murder everybody.

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