Why the Shafilea Ahmed trial should be the final nail in the coffin of Multiculturalism
Through their own gravamen, multiculturalists ensure cultures are shut-down and sealed off identities, thereby giving license to barbaric practices
‘A person should be free to do as he likes in his own concerns; but he ought not to be free to do as he likes in acting for another, under the pretext that the affairs of the others are his own affairs’
- John Stuart Mill On Liberty
‘Some cultures are admirable, others are vile’.
- Brian Barry Culture and Equality
Multiculturalism is often mistaken for Jeremy Waldron’s theory of cultural cosmopolitanism – the insouciance notion that one can associate oneself with many different cultures. For example, an individual may study Ancient Greek, eat Chinese cuisine, wear Italian designer clothes, listen to Mozart played by Australian aborigines, read French surrealist poetry, and so on.
However, multiculturalism is a political philosophy that allows for the creation of multiple identities, and challenges the totems of a nation-state’s existing culture.
Thus, those who advocate multiculturalism are advocating the resistance of homogenization and assimilation of Western enlightened values and norms – such as the rule of law, parliamentary democracy, freedoms of expression and conscience, modernity, equality and secularization – values that often have little resonance within the Muslim world.
Instead, multiculturalists endorse what has been described by the Canadian philosopher, Charles Taylor, as the ‘politics of recognition’ – the notion that public policy should be based on the concept of one’s identity and difference, rather than equal citizenship.
This means everyone is recognised by the law for their individual unique identity. As multiculturalism respects how one individual understands themselves and the world around them – their culture can thus essentially excuse any action, and it is us who must relinquish the space in which their cultures can flourish.
Such cultural actions can include ‘forced marriages’, ‘honour attacks’, or even in some extreme cases, ‘honour killing’. Indeed, ‘honour killings’ are so commonplace that it is estimated worldwide over 20,000 women are slaughtered each year.
In 2010 alone, 2,823 ‘honour attacks’ had been reported in the UK. Although, the Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) estimated there were most likely another 500 honour attacks that were not covered in the survey.
The attacks are typically carried out in the West when family members adopt the cultural norms of Western society – such as dressing in Western attire, dating someone of a different culture, sex before marriage, and quite often the refusal of an arranged marriage.
This has resulted in ‘honour attacks’ that range from kidnapping, mutilation, beatings, acid attacks, and in some extreme cases, murder. Unsurprisingly, such crimes typically happen in concentrated, built up immigrant areas in the UK - mainly of Middle Eastern, and South Asian ancestry.
Honour attacks can be viewed in cultural relativist terms, as misbehaviour and sexual misconduct severely disrupts the moral order of societies. Indeed, some kangaroo courts in parts of South East Asia and the Middle East discard ‘honour attacks’ and ‘honour killings’ as far less serious than premeditated violence or murder, because it is a requirement of long-standing local culture to wash away the shame of sexual dishonour.
In India recently, a senior policeman actually encouraged a father to butcher his own daughter, in order to reclaim their family’s honour.
If we were to be truly committed to multiculturalism, we should recognise for some cultures, this behaviour and morality is justifiable. For example, in a BBC survey one in ten said they backed honour killings, and in a separate survey, two-thirds of young British Asians agreed that families should live according to the concept of ‘honour’ – ergo if we are to adopt Taylor’s notion that public policy should be based on the conception of one’s identity and difference, rather than equal citizenship, such practices (however vile) would become recognised cultural norms.
This is why multiculturalism is utter mendacity.
The most alarming issue with these cultures is that it denies their children the opportunity to cross cultural borders and borrow influence from other cultures. This is especially true with regards to ‘forced marriages’ - the idea that a marriage can be conducted despite one party not having full consent, and is thus usually under physical coercion. In this sense, it is not much unlike the act of rape.
According to Nazir Afzal of the Crown Prosecution Service, there are over ten thousand forced marriages a year in the UK. He argues such a practice is allowed to go on in part because of ‘multicultural sensitivity’ – clearly, decades of intense cultural relativism, has meant we no longer openly pass judgement on such practices.
The ability of certain women to define and/or redefine themselves is completely restricted as a result of her culture. In this respect, multiculturalism acts a cultural straightjacket – individuals cannot abandon the bigoted, misogynistic, and patriarchal society they are born into through the lottery of life, and by attempting to adopt the enlightened values of the West, they are punished in order for the family to regain authority and restore social equilibrium. This is the essence of sadism: forcing someone to love something they loathe and fear.
In the case of Shafilea Ahmed, her crime was she had brought ignominy upon her family for refusing to comply with her parents’ agreement of a formal offer for her to marry a Pakistani cousin, whom she had been introduced to in 2003, whilst staying at her grandparents’ house in Pakistan.
Prosecution Barrister, Andrew Edis QC, argued she was murdered because she did not conform to the wishes of her parents, was independent, and westernised, and thereby had brought ‘shame’ upon her family. Thus, a combination of refusing to conform to her father’s backwards culture and her crossing of a cultural boundary meant that she was deemed such a blemish upon the Ahmed family, that only death was suitable to sustain their family honour.
To paraphrase Roger Scruton - it must be known that no matter what culture one hails from, individuals must accept rules, customs and procedures that may be alien to their old way of life. This is not an injustice. As immigrants come into the country in order to gain, it is therefore reasonable to remind them that there is also a cost – and that cost is one’s cultural norms that are reprehensible in Western civilization.
In this country we have a great tradition and history of enlightened values of pluralism from the great Greek and Christian philosophers, such as Hobbes, Locke and Mill, who were able to say with authority and conviction which culture, society and method of existence was best. It is high time that we openly believe in such values too – and put the final nail in multiculturalism’s coffin.
Benjamin Lazarus is a freelance journalist based in London and Bristol. He tweets at @BLazarus1
Read more on: multiculturalism, multiculturalism in Britain, benjamin lazarus, Roger Scruton, Shafilea Ahmed, The murder of Shafilea Ahmed, honour killing, honour crimes, honour killing in Britain, Brian Barry, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Waldron, Jeremy Waldron's cultural cosmopolitanism, Charles Taylor, what is multiculturalism, why multiculturalism has failed, David Cameron multiculturalism, Iranian and Kurdish Women's Rights Organisation, forced marriage, and cultural relativism
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