The dog that didn’t bark

The parents of Shafilea Ahmed have been convicted of her murder. There is much admirable refusal to excuse them because that’s “their culture.” All very well, but something is missing. Their “culture” is condemned; tradition and values and traditional values are declared non-exempt from competing values and from the law…but something is missing.

Consider what the judge said, according to the BBC.

On sentencing, Mr Justice Evans told the couple: “A desire that she understood and appreciated the cultural heritage from which she came is perfectly understandable, but an expectation that she live in a sealed cultural environment separate from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.”

Consider what the Guardian editorial said.

The police wisely refused to call Shafilea’s murder an “honour” killing. There can be no exonerating circumstance, no licence granted to those who claim cultural protection for brutality. Domestic violence and child sex abuse happen across cultures and ethnicities. But that only makes it all the more important that those charged with spotting it, supporting its victims and tackling its perpetrators, have the ability to understand what they are seeing and how to respond to it, wherever it is found.

Cultural heritage, cultural environment, culture of the country. Cultural protection, cultures and ethnicities.

It’s all culture. Not a word about religion. It’s as if the two were completely distinct, and as if religion had no influence on culture, nor any power to amplify and entrench and protect it from criticism.

Here’s a news flash for the Beeb and the Graun: culture without religion is a lot easier to shed and adapt and improve than culture with religion. “Culture” that’s indistinguishable from religion is a whole lot more difficult to escape. That’s just all the more true when organs of “culture” such as the BBC and the Guardian pretend it’s out of the picture altogether.


  1. says

    A very good point. I was reading the articles on the conviction, and wondering what was wrong. There’s something missing, I thought, and now I know. Why did I miss that? I’m always going on about religion, and didn’t notice that religion hadn’t been mentioned, only cultural sensitivity and Britain’s colonial past. The dog that didn’t bark, indeed!

  2. says

    For now, I’m just glad that they didn’t allow so-called respect for so-called culture to excuse or mitigate the heinousness of the crime, and surprised and pleased that they didn’t bring in the idea of honour (as if murder of your daughter for failure to obey you can ever be seen as honourable).

    It’s like those poor Olympic runners from Oman and such places, some of whom are covered to wrist and ankle and have headscarves leaving only their faces showing (though some are much less encumbered); for now, I’m just glad they’re there.

    Journey blah miles blah single step

  3. says

    There’s sort of a mutual non-aggression pact going on, isn’t there? I’m assuming Islam here, but it doesn’t much matter, because it is important to not judge, never judge a religion based on the activities of its believers or the cultures in which the religion thrives. That way, you also never have to turn the mirror on your own religion or that of your friends and neighbors.

  4. Albert Bakker says

    Well I did not miss it. For me it’s a non issue or rather I don’t care whether, they brutally tortured and murdered their own child for reasons of culture, religion, a complicated mixture of the two or whether it was some other reason. The fact stands and the fact is what counts, because she was denied the right to live by her own parents. I can’t even begin to imagine and I don’t really want to. I only care for these sorry excuses for human beings to rot behind bars and never, ever to be allowed out again. Since this scum is truly incapable of ever to come to some rudimentary realization of the enormity of their crime I hope they rather soon stop wasting precious oxygen.

  5. supernorbert says

    It’s so true.
    If male circumcision would be a cultural practice, it wouldn’t be allowed to circumcise babies…

  6. Steve Bowen says

    I have a feeling this is going to explode soon over here. There is, at the moment, a reluctance to admit that the increase in sexual assault, and child sex trafficking being seen in the north of England is all in places like Manchester and Salford, places that have significant Islamic contingents. I refuse to believe that just being of a particular ethnicity makes you a rapist, but I find it highly likely that being brought up in a patriarchal society that endorses a misgymistic religion makes it much more likely. Sooner or later, hopefully sooner, the obvious link will have to be made. We have to be concsious of casual racism but at some point must address the evil that is religion.

  7. says

    Yeah… “culture” is fair game for criticism, but “religion” is off-limits for the MSM.

    This is a great discussion topic in light of Rmoney’s remarks about the cultures of Palestine and Israel — both theocratic leaning states. The subtext was always obvious, and it wasn’t “racist”, as the Palestinian authority claimed. Rmoney is bigoted, yeah — against Muslims, not ethnic Palestinians.

    Fact is the priorities of both Israel and Palestine are warped out of all recognition by religion and the history of religious wars. Kinda like the priorities of Rmoney and the GOP are warped by Christianity.

    God, god sucks.

  8. Arnaud says

    Steve Bowen, sorry but this is bullshit. There are no valid statistical data proving that grooming fchildren for sex is more prevalent in Asian communities. There is, though, a disturbing pattern in the coverage of paedophilia cases are being reported by the press.
    Here is the Guardian:
    Apart from that, I agree that religion not being mentioned here is indeed weird. Well, not weird, I understand perfectly why. Let’s call it cowardly.

  9. Jean says

    Blaming religion is taboo and blaming Islam seems to be even more taboo either for fear of being labeled islamophobe or threatened with physical harm.

  10. says

    In using the words “….that she lived in a sealed cultural environment culture…” the judge made a ‘culture’ comparison in the one sentence with “…from the culture of the country in which she lived was unrealistic, destructive and cruel.” N’er a mention of religion at all. Exactly – the dog that didn’t bark.

  11. Arnaud says

    Indeed OB, Steve used the phrase “Islamic contingent”. And then talk about “the obvious link”. Erm… So I’ll rephrase : there is no valid statistical data proving that child sex trafficking is more prevalent among Muslims. There. The problem is that Steve Bowen is muddling the issue here, by conflicting so-called “honour killings” which is a real muslim problem, and sex assaults and child trafficking. Why when there is no evidence of a correlation? Erm again…

  12. says

    Thanks Arnaud!

    And I don’t know. I didn’t really follow the Rochdale case and I have no idea about the comparative statistics…except that the Rochdale case seems to be peculiar rather than typical.

  13. says

    “It’s all culture. Not a word about religion.”

    What the men of the family, clan, or tribe seek control of in a patrilineal society is reproductive power. Women for the tribe were considered a factory for making men. The honour killing is not a means to control sexual power or behaviour. What’s behind it is the issue of fertility, or reproductive power. There is a sense of Déjà Vu overpowering my mind.

    Jordan Islamist party argued that honour killings are one part of the Islamic code.

  14. Roger says

    Forced marriages also happen in sikh and hindu families in the UK- statistics for all three religions aren’t reliable- so in that respect it probably is ‘cultural’ as much as ‘religious’. It might also be worth emphasising the cultural rather than religious aspects for practical reasons- a version of islam that does not involve forced marriages is also likely to be less intolerant in other ways and it may be easier to persuade people to adapt their religious beliefs than to abandon them completely.

  15. John the Drunkard says

    Also worth noting that nasty ‘cultural’ tendencies like FGM, which doesn’t have much, if any koranic justification, are immunised against external challenge by becoming ‘religious.’

    Not unique to Islam, though current muslism examples are especially egregious. Note how often divorced clergymen here in the US preach against homosexuality. Guess which one Jesus forbade and which one he never mentioned?

    Its not just that religious exemption from criticism is toxic of itself. Religious exemption is claimed for mere tribalism with no justification. Not that sky fairies can justify much anyway.

  16. Dave says

    It is as much about class as anything else. There are plenty of UK families of South Asian descent who would never dream of constraining their daughters’ lives like this; they are usually people of urban, mercantile, “middle class” origins. Most of the people who end up persecuting their own children are, for better of or worse, one or two generations away from being peasants, and it is the patriarchal peasant culture which is largely to blame here.

  17. FredBloggs says

    I’ve had prolonged discussions with a (female) Muslim friend who states categorically that Islam per se doesn’t have unreasonable expectations of women (so, they are not expected to cover their heads for example)

    In some ways it doesn’t matter, because one of the aspects of Islam (and other religions) is that they defer judgement making to authority-figures.

    But really it doesn’t matter. 100 (plus) years of fighting for human rights (including women’s rights) should not play second fiddle to the rights of someone to transport their medieval cultural practices from one continent to another.

    Not all cultures are equal. A culture that allows individuals to determine their own life partners, and realise their potential based on their ability, is superior to one which doesn’t.

  18. dirigible says

    “Forced marriages also happen in sikh and hindu families in the UK- statistics for all three religions aren’t reliable- so in that respect it probably is ‘cultural’ as much as ‘religious’”

    Sikhism and Hinduism are also religions.

    The Beeb and the Graun *love* religion. It’s a powerful force for good, a key element in social cohesion, an irreducible component of people’s identities, and I don’t think I can write any more with a straight face.

  19. iknklast says

    “I’ve had prolonged discussions with a (female) Muslim friend who states categorically that Islam per se doesn’t have unreasonable expectations of women (so, they are not expected to cover their heads for example)”

    And I’ve had prolonged discussions with Christian friends that tell me lots of things that Christianity doesn’t do – which it actually does. I’ve had conversations with Catholics that claim the church doesn’t say the Eucharist is really the body and blood, but that it’s symbolic. I trust Islamic practitioners probably know their religion about as well as Christians (which is to say, they only know the way they practice it, and insist that is the correct way; everyone else is wrong). I think most of these people (unintentionally) enable the worst elements of their religion by giving the religion itself a pass.

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