British Labour MP And Her Views On Multiculturism

Discussion in 'Europe' started by GotZoom, Aug 11, 2005.

  1. GotZoom

    GotZoom Senior Member

    Apr 20, 2005
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    Cordova, TN
    KEIGHLEY, England - Amidst the horror and tragedy of 7/7 and the subsequent attempted bombings, there is a glimmer of hope in the United Kingdom: Important issues that were once seen as taboo are now open for discussion.

    I am a British Labour MP for the riding of Keighley in West Yorkshire. For a number of years, I have tried to raise sensitive issues affecting the large South Asian community in my riding and in the U.K. more generally -- with a view to improving their lot. As a result, I have been targeted by both the politically correct (who have accused me of racism), and the right (which has pounced on my work to support its attacks on migrant communities). It has not been an easy course to maintain, but it is one that, as recent events in London have proven, is important to see through.

    If we do not have the courage to stand up and challenge unacceptable cultural practices when we see them, how can we ever expect others to do so? The teaching of a perverse interpretation in some of Britain's Muslim communities -- which fuels hatred, describes non-believers as "infidels" and breeds suicide bombers -- is absolutely unacceptable. Pointing this fact out does not amount to intolerance.

    The problem goes beyond the teaching of violence: A patriarchal immigrant society that treats women as mere commodities, tolerates murder in the name of honour and forces children into marriages they do not want is unacceptable in a modern, 21st century society such as Britain's. Indeed, it is hardly surprising -- when women are excluded from the echelons of power and, therefore, decision making -- that macho tendencies develop. This is the fertile ground -- unsoftened by the involvement of women -- where young men learn that they can only forward their cause through bullying and violence.

    Britain and other Western nations must question the policy of allowing religious teachers and Imams to come to the U.K. from rural communities in Muslim nations, untrained in the teaching standards expected in our schools, or of our child-protection policies. There are 1.5 million Muslims in the U.K. There are many well-educated men and women in that community, including some trained as teachers and Imams. So why are we allowing the recruitment of radicals from outside the U.K. when someone trained in this country, fluent in English (and other languages), is more in touch with the intricacies of our society and the needs of young people?

    To have had this discussion before 7/7 would have encouraged a wave of criticism. As my own experience has shown, to voice such concerns has been to invite claims that you are "demonizing" a community through Islamophobia. But if we shy away from challenging unacceptable practices then we are as guilty as those who seek to enforce them. We cannot afford to have double standards: Unacceptable cultural practices are unacceptable for everyone.

    In the north of England, over-zealous political correctness has, far from protecting the Asian community, fuelled the growth of the right-wing British National Party (the leader of which stood against me at the last general election in May). This vile organization has garnered support by playing on the perception that minority groups are somehow above the law or, as I hear regularly in my own constituency, "there is one law for us and another for them." I do not believe that this is the case. But the fact that the perception has allowed to fester has played into the hands of the far right.

    For instance, can it really be helpful for some British university student organizations, in a misguided attempt to encourage debate, to insist on "safe spaces" for discussion, where the rantings of the far right are (quite correctly) excluded but the dangerous teachings of Islamic fundamentalists are given a hearing? At last year's Bradford Mela -- a local celebration of multiculturalism -- the group Hizb-ut Tahir were allowed by the organizers to operate a stall to advertise their extreme jihadist views. It is pointless to oppose the British National Party but turn a blind eye to Hizb-ut Tahir. They are both intolerant, and need each other to survive.

    For too long, I have heard the call to celebrate "diversity." How can it be helpful to try to highlight the difference between us? We all know that each of us is different, but it is not what makes us different -- but what we have in common -- that brings us together. Rather than "celebrating diversity," perhaps we need a greater emphasis on celebrating our common interests -- our humanity, social justice and care of others. The cause of integration would develop by leaps and bounds.

    I am an old-fashioned socialist with an absolute commitment to equality. It would be contrary to every belief I hold to fail to defend the interests of women or the most vulnerable in society. By challenging those who want to undermine equality and other western values, we can see positive steps toward integration and cohesion and, in the process, take away the breeding ground for suicide bombers.

    Ann Cryer is the Labour MP for Keighley.


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