Female genital mutilation: UK institutions not to blame

When it comes to female genital mutilation, blaming anything or anyone other than the culture that practices it, is an extraordinary and cowardly blame-shifting exercise. This concerns Islam, and we must say so

How best to put an end to FGM in Britain?
Vincent Cooper
On 7 July 2014 21:43

That great parliamentarian Keith Vaz, who, as Chairman of the Home Affairs Committee seeks to maintain moral standards in British public life, has been speaking out on a great moral issue: female genital mutilation – or FGM – in Britain.

Mr Vaz said: “FGM is an ongoing national scandal which is likely to have resulted in the preventable mutilation of thousands of girls to whom the state owed a duty of care.”

We can all agree that FGM is barbaric and certainly should not be happening in 21st century Britain. But who is to blame?

In what sense is FGM a national scandal rather than a culturally-specific scandal? After all, FGM is confined to a particular cultural group, yet that fact was concealed by calling it a national scandal.

Mr Vaz went on: “Successive governments, politicians, the police, health, education and social care sectors should all share responsibility for the failure in recent years to respond adequately to the growing prevalence of FGM in the UK.”

That is an extraordinary blame-shifting claim. Notice that for Mr Vaz virtually every social institution in Britain is to blame for FGM, but not the actual people who perpetrate FGM or the culture that encourages it.

To call FGM a national scandal and to blame governments, the police and the educational and health institutions is tantamount to blaming wider British society for the barbaric and savage practice of a particular group; the “we are all to blame” syndrome.  

Of course, blaming society rather than the offender is a routine defence tactic in liberal, culturally-sensitive Britain. Nevertheless, many British people will be surprised and angry that they are effectively being criticised by the Home Affairs Committee for not doing enough to stop an offence of which they know little or nothing – an offence, in fact, that did not exist in Britain before recent waves of immigration and multiculturalism.

And it is the subject of immigration and multiculturalism that takes us to the heart of the problem of FGM in Britain today – a touchy subject that the Home Affairs Committee in its political correctness simply ignored.

FGM in Britain is carried out almost entirely within Muslim communities. Obviously, not all Muslims practise it (many Muslim schools now actively condemn it), but those who do are usually Muslim. That makes FGM a particularly difficult problem for liberal Britain to deal with.

For decades now, Britain has pursued a policy of multiculturalism in relation to all immigrants, treating their beliefs and practices with extreme deference. At the same time, British values and culture have been systematically sneered at and denigrated.

An example of this cultural deference is official attitudes to FGM. Although FGM has been a criminal offence in Britain since 1985, only recently has there been any attempt to apply the law.

It may well be, as Keith Vaz and his Committee say, that police, social and health care personnel are guilty of “misplaced concern for cultural sensitivities” in their failure to tackle the problem of FGM in Britain.

Yet to hear politicians condemn the police and others for their “misplaced” cultural sensitivities towards minority cultures is an insult to public intelligence. The politicians, including Keith Vaz and his Committee, are just as guilty.

The British political class has for years backed off facing up to the truth about FGM in Britain. It has backed off precisely because it was concerned about offending Muslim sensitivities. It’s an old story, and it’s a story that’s still running.

For example, BBC One’s News at Ten managed to discuss the Committee’s findings on FGM without once mentioning the words ‘Islam’ or ‘Muslim’. The BBC report was all about the failures of the British state to protect vulnerable women, although oddly enough the women shown on the BBC news had suffered FGM in Sierra Leone.  

Keith Vaz and his Home Affairs Committee may believe they have finally taken a stand on a long standing taboo subject. They haven’t. What they have done is point the finger at the police and others who find themselves constrained by a political correctness that stems from politicians.

If Keith Vaz and his Committee meant business about tackling FGM they would stop attacking the police and turn their attention to the cultures that practise it. Such cultures must be told there is no place in Britain for support of FGM.

Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to The Commentator

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