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Jane Kelly: The law must be blind to the origins of the guilty

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Many of us were shocked and annoyed to hear details of a case which came up for appeal this month. Paedophile Jamal Muhammed Raheem Ul Nasir, aged 32, of west Yorkshire, was jailed for seven years at Leeds Crown Court last December for sex attacks on the girls aged nine and 14.  Judge Sally Cahill called the fact the victims were Asian an ‘aggravating feature’ of his crime and gave him a stiffer sentence than she would have done if his victims had been white Christians. She said the victims and their families had suffered particular ‘shame’  in their communities. Their parents had voiced fears that the girls’ prospects of marriage had been damaged.

Several British charities expressed disgust. ‘British justice should operate on a level playing field and children need to be protected irrespective of cultural differences,’ said the NSPCC. ‘Every child deserves the right to be safe and protected from sexual abuse and the courts must reflect this.’

Peter Saunders, of the National Association of People Abused in Childhood, said: ‘There cannot be any suggestion that there is a hierarchy of victims. It is wrong to categorise victims like this, no matter what their background is. It is damaging and dangerous.’

This story reminded me of another case, Bakhtiari v London Zoo, in 1991, when an Iranian girl had three fingers bitten off by a chimp, after sticking her hand through the bars of its cage.  The court awarded her a larger compensation than usual because of the ‘social significance of the stigma she would suffer in her community.’  i.e. no one would want to marry her.

I remember that case because I was so angry at the sexist nature of the decision, and the infuriating use of cultural relativism. Her community needed to change not our law. Since then I have nearly blown a gasket several times about cases of blind people, one of whom I knew well, who are refused taxis, buses and entry to cafes and shops by Muslims, who will not accept their guide dogs on religious grounds, as they think dogs are ‘unclean.’

Victims can use the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 to help them. Under this law the plaintiff should prevail but in fact it is often hard to enforce. Who wants the hassle? Most blind people just wait for another bus with a non Muslim driver or go to a different cafe. Muslims who are taken to court, such as a taxi driver in November 2008, usually cite their ‘enculturation.’  They rely on cultural relativism as a defence.

Western Europe now faces a newly reinforced pluralism due to the massive presence of Muslims. This situation calls into question our national identity, liberal values and the wider interpretation of our laws. The cult of multiculturalism has insisted  that we embrace ‘different forms of emancipation,’ such as women completely covered in public, a lack of prosecutions for FGM, corporal punishment in mosque schools, unequal rulings such as those by Sally Cahill, and domestic violence.

Muslim migrants won’t change in their ‘acculturation’ so we have to bend around them. The main victims of this liberal relativism are of course women and children. A new academic study, carried out among families from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India, has found that many immigrants have no idea that their behaviour is contrary to British law.

‘There was certainly no awareness that there could be rape within  marriage,’ said Dr Karen Harrison of Hull University, who co-authored the report with Dr Aisha Gill from the University of Roehampton.

‘Imams we spoke to had never heard of marital rape,’ said Harrison. ‘They weren’t aware it was against British law. Parents protected (victims of rape) by taking them away from the situation, but were too worried about the consequences for the family, the shame and the dishonour, to report the abuser.’

Police data suggest that incidences of sexual violence among south Asian women and children are low, but Harrison says this is not accurate.

‘It’s happening,’ she said, ‘just not being reported.’

Rapists and abusers are getting away with it in Asian communities, leaving women and children trapped in a culture of shame, with the collusion of the larger, liberal society. But perhaps things are changing, at least from above. On BBC Radio 4’s, Thought For the Day, (23/9/15) Pakistani born Mona Siddiqui, Professor of Islamic Studies at Edinburgh University, called for Muslims to embrace change. She referred to the current migrant crisis  as ‘the Muslim migrant issue.’ She even called Islam ‘the central point’ in this discussion. Her attitude is in marked contrast to the usual one of the BBC. On September 9th Ed Stourton hosted a debate on migration on Radio 4, lasting well over an hour. Islam wasn’t mentioned once.

Siddiqui referred to ‘the failure of the multicultural experiment,’ and what she called ‘the failure of Muslims to integrate because of their faith.’ She said that they are unwilling to accept change and intellectual diversity, clutching onto traditions ‘that no longer have any moral weight.’ She also referred to a faith which sees itself only as either victim or dominant as doomed.

If this kind of honesty is now being voiced on Radio 4 perhaps a change is coming to all of us. It could be that before long British people in large numbers will feel able to assert their own values again and  say rubbish to rulings such as those by Justice Sally Cahill. Perhaps soon there will no longer be any need to call to account the legions of teachers, town councillors, police and social workers, who are still prepared to turn a blind eye to abuse, rape and murder on the grounds that they are protecting ‘cultural sensitivities,’ and  ‘community cohesion.’

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Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly
Jane Kelly was a journalist with the Daily Mail for fifteen years. She now writes for the Spectator and the Salisbury Review.

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