Harrogate Agenda, 27/08/2014  

As a Roman Catholic boy who grew up in the deepest part of Jewish Orthodox Stamford Hill in North London, and the only gentile in our street, I got to see quite a bit about how integration works (and doesn't work) in practice.

My mental construct was further fortified by being English in a Catholic school dominated by Irish immigrants, and then living in the area long enough to see the Jamaicans moving in on the fringes, forming their own communities.

Not content with that experience of seeing how immigrant communities interact with their hosts, I then moved via certain way stations in Yorkshire – and a year living in the Middle East - to my present address in Bradford, where I have lived for over thirty years, observing the immigrant community there – much of it Kashmiri, from the northwest reaches of the Indian sub-continent.

On top of that, I am a political researcher – with a particular speciality in politico-military affairs, and wrote a book on the 2003 British occupation of southern Iraq. I then went on to research the background to the Afghani war, studying not only the politics, but the tribal and religious background.

None of that makes me an expert in a fiendishly complex subject, but it certainly gives me a different perspective on issues such as the Rotherham sex-slave scandal, and one that very much differs from that element of the commentariat, who would attribute the affair to  Islam.

As to the role of religion in such matters, I have pondered at great length on this, and have come up with some observations which would suggest to me that the causal factors are far more complex and subtle than most would allow, which possibly make religion only an incidental and relatively minor factor.

In the first instance, it is probably no coincidence that the men involved in the Rotherham incident, and many of the other similar incidents reported, were Pakistani, many of them actually Kashmiri.

In this, there is an important but often understated cultural heritage, based on the fact that these men come from tribal societies, and not just "tribes" in the sense of a grouping of people.  The particular tribal style here is nomadic, which confers a particular style of governance which differs substantially from the structure of "settled" tribes.

The relevance here is that the nomadic culture is more egalitarian, as opposed to the settled tribes. The settled tribes often adopt hierarchical structures, with powerful chiefs and councils of elders who exert a degree of control and discipline which carries over into immigrant communities. Those with nomadic origins lack this framework of community discipline and, as immigrants, find themselves without effective societal restraints.

There is also legacy of the Raj here, where the British colonial presence set white men as a superior caste, and their women – wives and daughters – as unattainable presences is a society where mixed marriage and even cohabitation was a social taboo. For Asian men in the home countries, therefore, sexual relations with white women were nothing more than an unattainable fantasy.

As immigrants into the UK, with weak societal constraints, such men nevertheless found that tribal traditions prohibited casual acquaintance with members of the opposite sex, in which context the sexual mores of "liberalised" white women provided an easier means of attaining sexual gratification.

When, as we see in these decaying northern towns, a breakdown of family values and structures, as the old industries fade away and any element of social cohesion fades away, the female children of dysfunction families become easy prey to Asian men, seeking to fulfil their own fantasies.

Into this potent mix, we then have the bizarre situation which made this affair possible. At the very time when they were most needed, the very mechanisms in the host country might have imposed discipline on immigrant communities, and protected the weak and vulnerable, were themselves coming under sustained attack.

Partly as an over-reaction to the institutionalised racism of the '50s and '60s, local authorities – and partly because "race relations" had become a lucrative industry, with Rotherham alone spending more than £300,000 a year on employing diversity officers, public services and the police came under enormous pressure not to discriminate against immigrant – and especially coloured – communities.  Behaviour that would not be tolerated amongst the indigenous population was thus given a free pass when perpetrated by Asians.

Into this, there was one final element which has scarcely been recognised at all – the inadequacy of official complaints systems and the inherent bias in the way complaints were treated.

As to police complaints, in the first instance, accusations of racial discrimination are given high priority, while general complaints – and those of failure to respond, are poorly handled, if at all.

The problem here is that complaints are handled internally, with the police investigating themselves. But the appeal system, in the event that the complainant is unsatisfied with the outcome, is surreal. The very same officers who carry out the initial investigations then review their own work, to find that everything they did was entirely satisfactorily.

For local authorities, formal complaints again are investigated internally, where my own personal experience has shown that illegal behaviour is ignored or glossed over and persistent complaints are met with a blank refusal to act or even to answer correspondence. That leaves only the local government ombudsman, staffed in the main by ex-local authority officials, who mostly back up their former colleagues, against whose judgements there is no appeal.

Therein, actually lies the heart of the problem. If, when a system goes off the rails, there is no mechanism for ordinary people to make their concerns heard, or get action to be taken, we end up with a situation where 1,400 vulnerable girls, over a period of 16 years, are sexually abused – and no single official is brought to book.

But in all this, I have managed to offer a level of analysis that has not factored Islam into the mix at any level. This is a religion which, for a variety of complex reasons, is particularly attractive to nomadic tribes, and for the same reason appeals to the dispossessed and rootless.

From my Bradford experience, on the other hand, we see the emergence of a cultured, educated and often professional Asian middle class, for whom fundamentalist Islam has no attractions.  And shining like beacons from this community are the women – intelligent, educated, liberated and independent, often holding down demanding jobs in medicine, the law or other professions.

For these women, the male-dominated tribal culture, where they are supposed to be obedient chattels, is an anathema to them. Some Asian men who – often with less developed nomadic backgrounds – are unable to deal with these emancipated women. It is these who turn to fundamentalist Islam, a losers' creed for inadequate men to are unable to deal with the demands of modernity.

A cultural offshoot that hates and fears its own women, and then gets its sexual gratification from abusing the women of another race, is a sterile creed that is going nowhere. It can destroy, it can cause endless misery, but it cannot build or create. Hence, fundamental Islam is the religion of losers. It is attractive to them because they were losers first, and can eke out justification for their actions in an ancient script. It is not the cause of their inadequacies. It is a symptom of them.

It survives and prospers, not because of its own inadequacies, but because of ours.

Richard North

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