Friday, 29 August 2014

Muslims are rapists

                                   Lazarus' favoured panel of sociological expertise

One of the great things about being conservative is that you're allowed to be stupid: indeed, it's positively a vocation. One resists grand narratives of decline and fall and the cheap theories of bearded Germans, and one sticks to more local verities. In particular, one assumes that evil and criminality are abiding features of the world, and primarily one doesn't worry too much about that except to arrest criminals when you find them and lock them up.

Of course, being a highly complicated and interesting chap myself, I don't mind slumming it with a little Hegel or even Marx now and then. But it's strictly a hobby, you understand. Mostly, I just want the criminal justice system to get on with protecting the virtuous and harmless against the vicious and harmful, and not worry too much about the grand sociology that underlies it all. (To put a Catholic spin on all that, we should be suspicious of theories that attempt to pin down the mystery of evil and explain it away as a factor of society or culture: evil is fundamentally a matter of intelligent agency and traditional Western law recognized that.)

So when one comes to the Rotherham rape gangs, I see it primarily as a police and criminal law issue. Bad men did bad things and got away with it for far too long: there seems little merit in worrying about deeper theoretical issues such as the link between patriarchy in Islam and child abuse. Most of the things that went wrong seem to fairly straightforward failures in policing or control of children (particularly by the council operating in loco parentis) (all para references to the report here):

One parent, who agreed to her child being placed in a residential unit in order to protect her, wrote to children’s social care expressing her fears for her daughter’s safety. She described her despair that instead of being protected, her child was being exposed to even worse abuse than when she was at home:
“My child (age 13) may appear to be a mature child, yet some of her actions and the risks to which she constantly puts herself are those of a very immature and naïve person. She constantly stays out all night getting drunk, mixing with older mature adults, and refuses to be bound by any rules.” (5.11)

Or the case of criminal gangs being allowed to intimidate without police response:

Within just a few months, Child B and her family were living in fear of their lives. The windows in their house were put in. She and her family received threats that she would be forced into prostitution. (5.22)

most of the men in South Yorkshire who were involved in the sexual exploitation of young people for the purposes of prostitution were also believed to be involved in drug dealing. They might also be involved in rape, violence, gun crime, robbery and other serious criminal offences; (10.22 (a))

If one looks more widely than the Rotherham problem, we see here recurrent social issues: the difficulty in exercising adult control over teenage behaviour; the difficult of the police in exercising effective responses to criminal gangs.

It is clear that one area that police action failed miserably was in the control of taxi drivers:

One of the common threads running through child sexual exploitation across England has been the prominent role of taxi drivers in being directly linked to children who were abused. This was the case in Rotherham from a very early stage, when residential care home heads met in the nineties to share intelligence about taxis and other cars which picked up girls from outside their units. In the early 2000s some secondary school heads were reporting girls being picked up at lunchtime at the school gates and being taken away to provide oral sex to men in the lunch break. (8.16)

The paragraphs following this makes absolutely clear that, whether as a result of poor regulations or poor application of those regulations, taxi drivers became a key way in which girls were brought into abuse or kept in it. I've no doubt that most drivers are probably Pakistani (as has been widely claimed in the press): it's also completely clear that effective action in this area is not dependent on identifying ethnicity or religion.

Against the narrative of brutal Paki males abusing second class women, the report continually emphasises the unfinished business of the investigation of homosexual abuse:

Generally, there has been relatively low reporting of sexual exploitation of young males, with the exception of the police operation and a criminal conviction in 2007 of an offender who abused over 80 boys and young men. Over the years, this was identified at inter-agency meetings and in CSE plans as an issue that required attention in Rotherham. That continues to be the case today. (4.16)

Or the (continued) underassessment of abuse of Pakistani women:

The Deputy Children's Commissioner’s report reached a similar conclusion to the Muslim Women's Network research, stating 'one of these myths was that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males, as if these men only abuse outside of their own community, driven by hatred and contempt for white females. This belief flies in the face of evidence that shows that those who violate children are most likely to target those who are closest to them and most easily accessible.' The Home Affairs Select Committee quoted witnesses saying that cases of Asian men grooming Asian girls did not come to light because victims 'are often alienated and ostracised by their own families and by the whole community, if they go public with allegations of abuse.' (11.16)

What to make of all this? First, that race isn't the most immediate issue here. (And, by covering up abuse of Muslim/Asian girls and boys rather than girls, the narrative of Muslim patriarchal violence against women is likely to be positively harmful.) Far more important are (eg) issues such as listening to women (and boys), following up evidence. These are pretty clear lessons that have come out again and again in the various permutations of the child abuse scandals that have come up over the years, and some are merely straightforward issues of traditional good police practice. Secondly, it's not surprising that child sexual abuse is so difficult to deal with. Here, you are dealing with rape (never easy to prosecute), child witnesses (again, not easy to deal with in adversarial criminal system), and often issues of mental health and drug use (leading to obvious difficulties in credibility). That's not a complete excuse for failure, but it is an explanation of how failure took this particular shape (and why it's likely to be resistant to solution).

The overwhelming impression in reading the report is less one of a cover up of Muslim/Asian complicity, and just of the sheer hell that awaits those who fall out of protective social structures: basically, you'll be written off as vermin by those of us who are all right, and left to the mercies of the more violent among your fellow Lumpenproletariat. If race is an issue at all, it's because it made some officials tread carefully (hardly surprising if regrettable) and because it just seems to be a fact that the vast majority of abusers in this particular episode were Muslims of Pakistani origin. I'm not sure why this matters so much. Criminality often has some sort of cultural dimension. (Why was America dominated by Italian gangsters such as the Mafia?) Doubtless, there's some interesting sociology to be done here. But in the meantime, such speculations seem entirely irrelevant to struggling with identifying and successfully prosecuting crime.

So I disagree profoundly with (eg) Melanie McDonagh:

But, as the report on abuse in Rotherham makes embarrassingly clear, the ethnic character of the predation was the reason why the initial police report was simply stuffed under the sofa (and in passing, this oversight shouldn’t be investigated by the same force that perpetrated it).

I've read the report a few times now and -allowing for having missed something in its 159 pages- I don't see anything of the sort made 'embarrassingly clear'. (If someone wants to point out the relevant paragraphs, I'd be grateful.) Certainly, the ethnic character of the predation was played down (and should it have been played up? difficult to get the balance right) but the real problems seem to be elsewhere. She goes on:

When the issue was abuse in the Catholic Church, the church underwent prolonged soul searching about the background of individuals accepted for the priesthood and about the requirement for priestly celibacy (though the issue was power, not celibacy). In England, the church commissioned the Nolan report on child protection, which was a model of its kind.

When it came to the abuse of minors by celebs like Jimmy Savile, we examined our collective conscience about the cult of celebrity and the immunity it seemed to convey to those in that bubble; we’re still agonising about it.

I'm not convinced by either of these. To take celebrity culture, how's that 'agonising' going? (Have the Kardashians disappeared? Have pop musicians disappeared into the anonymity of mediaeval craftsmen?) On the Catholic Church, the main advance has not been so much a conclusive analysis of the causes of the abuse (what would that look like? Instead you have the sort of 'combox punditry' convinced that it's all the fault of celibacy, analogous to that attributing all fault to macho Islam) so much as the systems needed to prevent it: the sort of dumb, conservative 'how to catch them and lock them up' sort of response I'd suggest.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Enoch was right and doing something about Islam

I'm surprised no one (or at least no one I've come across) has yet said it, but let me be the first: Enoch was right.

Having said it, let me add that I don't mean it: I actually think he was profoundly wrong. But it's probably worth saying it out loud, because large numbers of commentators are muttering things about Islam that are very hard to understand in any way other than words disguising the thought too terrible to utter explicitly: that Enoch Powell was right in warning about the dangers of immigration, particularly Muslim, and we must now do something to prevent the rivers of blood he predicted -if indeed there is still time. And now that line of argument has been brought into the air, let's dispose of it.

There's an argument to be had about immigration whether past or future. But let's put that aside. Even if you closed the gates tomorrow, there are going to be many people within this country of the Muslim religion (2.7 millions) most of whom will be British citizens born and raised here. (And if any one is wondering why I'm focusing exclusively on Islam just now -please don't be silly.)

Now, these are people with human and legal rights and, just more generally, a right to respect as persons. (This really ought to be bread and butter stuff for Catholics. Anyone else can just accept it as a statement of my starting point.) So there can be no question of 'sending them back where they came from' or making them disappear in some unexplained way, and that means there are going to be large numbers of Muslims in the UK for ever. So whatever doing something about Islam might mean, it can't mean getting rid of Muslims. (I think we ought to be profoundly shocked by the very idea, but there is wild talk out there.)

So presumably it means changing them in some way. Multi-culturalism is its loony sixties best was founded on the thought that, deep down, we all agree, and that having different religions is merely a matter of exchanging samosas for Scotch pies: cultures were all beautiful and all mutually fertilizing. Any 'odd' traditional practices like sexism would disappear under the benign influence of the Western sun, and we'd just be left with all the nice, entertaining colourful differences. As such, multic-culturalism was really a variety of the secularisation thesis: that modernity would lead inevitably to a reduction in religion. Either way, any unfortunate aspects of other cultures or religions would be smoothed away over the generations in the West.

Well, no. And because that doesn't seem to have happened naturally, we now need (so the story goes) to do something about it, by, for example, getting them to adopt wiser, British values. The problem with this is twofold. First, there is the question of practicality. If we have abandoned the secularization thesis that modernity will do its work without any help, there are very few plausible mechanisms for enforcing religious change. If we knew how to mould people religiously, believe me, the Vatican would be far more successful in retaining Catholic children in the Church. To take a specific example which I have spent a great deal of time blogging on, the attempt to clamp down on the influence of parents in the 'Trojan Horse' schools a) cannot have any relevance to current radicalized adults since the supposed Islamicization of the schools has only taken place in the last few years; and b) is just as likely in my view to promote further radicalization by alienating (conservative but peaceful) Muslims from the education system and the state. Secondly, there is the question of what values we mean them to adopt. Do they have to be sexually licentious for example? Must they drink? Are they allowed to accept traditional understandings of Islamic punishments, or do they have to adopt some sort of liberal Protestant figurative interpretations? (And if the later, by what mechanism do we get current Muslim authorities to teach these revisions?)

Again, much muttering and very few explicit statements in this area, but there does seem to be widespread view that Islam as an intellectual/cultural system is inevitably prone to producing offshoots such as ISIS: in Gove's words, we need to 'drain the swamp'. But people are not mud: what is a mechanical action in drainage, becomes that chimerical goal of a sure way to change people's minds: we cannot (should not) stop people from being Muslims and we cannot (should not) stop the values of that religion from challenging certain 'British' values. Moreover, we cannot control the shape of Islam: it has its own history, its own depths which go beyond the control of governments or schools.

But we must do something. Surely? Well, it's worth considering the possibility that we should do absolutely nothing or at least very little. Part of the problem here are emotional associations between different problems. There is undoubtedly a geo-political/foreign policy problem with ISIS. There is undoubtedly a moral problem with regard to the fates of Christians and other minorities in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. There is undoubtedly a problem in Gaza and Israel. (And so on.) Some of these can be helped. Some possibly cannot. But I put those foreign aspects aside. There is no direct link between these and the 'problem' of Islam at home.

So what is the 'problem' of Islam at home? That a few hundred youths have gone off to fight? Not new and, whilst regrettable, of no real effect on the Middle East. (By all means use military force and the criminal law to punish the guilty and preserve the innocent -but here, either we are in the area of the marginal (how to treat a few criminals) or the area of foreign policy again.) That the fighters may come home as terrorists? A real issue, but one that can only be dealt with by police measures or personal engagement with the returners. (And even if, per impossibile, we could ensure that no British youths fought for ISIS, this wouldn't remove the threat of Middle Eastern terrorism hitting our shores.) I think these are genuine problems but are of the sort that can only be dealt with as part of an ongoing security awareness in a dangerous world: the main driver for a terrorist threat against the UK is the unstable state of the Middle East, and the solutions there are extremely unclear. There is a general historical lesson here that each generation needs to remember: most people don't think like you and some will try to kill you.

Back to 'draining the swamp'. Part of the inchoate, vague sense of 'something must be done' is that Islam represents a threat to 'British' values, not so much through violence, as through its very presence. I think the main response to this is agreement: of course it does. That's what democracy means. If large numbers of people think a current aspect of British life is wrong, it is, ceteris paribus, liable to be changed in a democracy. There is absolutely no guarantee that, in one hundred years, our country will be dominated by the same values it has now. If you think that, despite the comparative smallness of the Muslim vote and cultural weight, it might in future be able to exert more influence, then, unless you are willing to do something about Muslims, you are going to have to accept that possibility.

To dig down into the range of issues a little more here, if British values are just the preservation of a snap shot of British culture now, then they are clearly not going to be preserved: the snapshot will change. If it means preserving a subset of 'key' values, then much depends on what those key values are. Roughly, we might distinguish between the political liberal values (say, representative democracy, an independent judiciary and the rule of law, freedom of speech etc etc); and the ethical, substantive values of attitudes to sex, family, religion, art etc etc. I don't see any particular reason why the first class couldn't be preserved simply on the grounds of effectiveness: almost any society works better with such structures. But there is certainly no way that a society with a greater traditional Islamic influence upon it would have the same attitude to the ethical issues I've mentioned. And of course it's precisely those issues that many moderns are obsessed about: if you are a feminist, for example, the structure and ethos of the family is not so much just one more item up for negotiation over the years as the very heart of political life. And it's precisely these 'non-negotiable' issues that are most likely to be negotiated in a society with a lively Islamic contribution.

As a Catholic, I have no doubt that society would be better run with a Catholic view on those ethical, substantive issues. But equally, I accept that I can only do my best to persuade others and utilize my rights to preserve what I can of the best life within my own private sphere: I cannot (indeed have not been able to) stop others, unpersuaded of my views, making use of the political values to support their (wrong, I believe) view of the ethical values. Equally, in the future, there is nothing that I (or they) can do to guarantee that Muslims will not influence ethical values in ways that the currently victorious progressives will dislike. If they (and I) want to do anything about preserving what the correct ethical, substantive values are, then we need to fight the culture wars (or, more pacifically, defend our view of the correct nature of human flourishing and seek to persuade (not compel) others). The outcome of that dialogue is indeed not certain.

Back to Enoch. He was right, I suppose, to see a threat to British values from immigrant communities: to substantive ethical British values rather than political ones (to use that rough and ready distinction). Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing is almost irrelevant: it is simply a fact that is not going to change. (I can't resist pointing out, however, that the major change in (destruction of) ethical British values from those (say) of the fifties to those of 2014 has been nothing to do with Islam and everything to do with Powell's cronies in the existing educational, political and artistic (native) elites.) I see every reason to be optimistic that the political values can survive over the future. Or, to be more precise, I see rather less threat from Islam in this direction than I do from progressives who wish to impose their views of human flourishing on everyone at the expense of freedoms of speech and family life.

To finish, let me put all this from a more positive direction. I think a Britain (or Scotland etc) with a politically active Islamic population challenging the ethics and aesthetics of our current society within the peaceful political values I've sketched above would be a better place than it is now or was with Enoch. Not only would Muslim youths find themselves with a better struggle in which to channel their young energy, but the critical edge provided by such a critique would mean that Britain might arrest some of the cultural decline that was presided over by a predominantly  white, male and aboriginal elite.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Politics isn't therapy

                                                         Do not be afreud!

I'm not sure if Gerry Hassan's piece on admitting and overcoming doubt is responsible for this (the rejection of Project Fear has been a noticeable trope of pro-Independence rhetoric for most of the campaign), but there have been a number of pieces recently which treat the highly political choice on 18 September as a therapeutic choice, where the aim is less a rational assessment of the Common Good, but rather an overcoming of the Scotch (or a more individual) Cringe.

A prime example of this is Val McDermid in the Guardian:

What I don’t respect are the “fearties” – the ones whose reason for voting no is that they’re afraid we’ll turn out to be incapable of managing our own country. I don’t want us to stay in the union because we’re scared of what the future holds if we strike out on our own.

Now, frankly, this is nonsense. The idea that we need to cleanse ourselves internally of unpleasant emotions is (admittedly a rather jejune version of) psychoanalysis: we are neurotic; by therapy, we cleanse our neuroses. We are cured. But appropriate fear can be a perfectly rational response to a danger: the virtue of courage, as Aristotle would put it, is the mean between cowardice and rashness -the feeling of the correct amount of fear at the correct objects of fear. If we are not to be 'feart' at the prospect of Independence, it is only because the objective dangers of such Independence are not appropriate objects of fear. If, to take the Domesday scenario, there was a realistic prospect of every large corporation making a dash for Berwick upon Tweed on 19 September, together with an abandonment of post NATO Scotland to some sort of alliance with, at best, Samoa, I'd be quite afraid -and rightly so. It is only because the future is unlikely to be quite so clear cutly awful, that Independence is a possibility. For those who, on the best assessment, think that Independence will wreak economic and social havoc, fear is the appropriate response. For those who do not, there will certainly (ought certainly) to be some fear, but such as will be met by the virtuous agent with courage. A certain amount of self assessment is required for virtue: am I more or less likely to feel fear than the practically wise person ought? But the point of such assessment is to have 'figured plain/As though upon a lighted screen': when one has purified oneself, one sees dangers correctly and fears them correctly. Therapy is to allow oneself to fear rationally, not not to fear at all.

Politics is, essentially, the projection of ethics beyond one's own life and those of one's immediate circle. The virtuous person can be trusted to have the correct affections to react properly to everyday circumstances, but in planning and assessing the life of the City, hard rational thought is required. Both campaigns rely on rhetoric: the manipulation of emotions to serve their campaign aims. To resist that requires rational reflection and character: to recognize the correct place of fear in the good life rather than the childish desire not be be shamed in front of one's peers. Moreover it requires the analysis of language. When McDermid talks of our being 'scared of what the future holds if we strike out on our own' (my emphasis) again I must ask: Which we? If she means me, I'd be terrified: any country which put me in charge would be a country I'd like to leave. If she means 'progressive Nationalists' then again, I see every reason for being terrified. I presume she means something like 'the sort of people who'll be thrown up in any realistic scenario in a medium sized country' -a much more plausible perspective. But even here, it would not be unreasonable to fear that there will be a process of formation of governing expertise which undoubtedly would be a transition cost of Independence.

I'd originally intended blogging today to a similar purpose on the political response to IS and Islam in general. Perhaps soon. But in short, politics is too important to trust your emotions. (And I say that holding in my mind the shock and outrage that I felt seeing, albeit only for a split second, the decapitated corpse of James Foley when I clicked on a twitter link. Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord.) The sifting of pride, fear, confidence etc etc are, roughly, a matter of therapy: that spiritual therapy which all of us who aspire to virtue should be undertaking every moment of our life (and where, let us remember, the theological virtues of faith, hope and love are a matter of being open to grace more than effort). Thereafter, think. Hard. And that applies whether it is  the Yes Campaign telling you not to fear, or the No Campaign telling you that no right thinking person could ever envisage splitting the Union.