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Friday 3 August 2012

Arranged Marriage? It’s The Muslims!

[Update at end of post]

The parents of seventeen year old Shafilea Ahmed have today been convicted of her murder nine years ago. Mr Justice Roderick Evans told Iftikhar and Farzana Ahmed that there was only one sentence he could pass, and that sentence was life imprisonment, which is mandatory for murder cases. The pair must serve a minimum of 25 years each.

This case raises a number of questions: the attempt by parents to maintain the culture of where they themselves were born and raised, in defiance of that predominating in the place to where they moved, the concept of arranged or forced marriages, and the yet more disturbing idea of “honour killings”, which last the senior Policeman involved said was instead “a clear case of murder”.

But what the usual suspects in the Fourth Estate will instead be homing in on – indeed, the process has already started – is to go on yet another Muslim bashing spree. But arranged marriage is not confined to followers of The Prophet: it can also be found among Hindu, Christianity and Judaism. Forced marriage is also not confined to one religion, but has often involved the British Pakistani community.

There are, of course, many in that community who do not subscribe to the idea of forced marriage, and many Muslims do not have relations in Pakistan, but this will not cause the pundits to so much as pause for breath: already, good Catholic Cristina Odone has leapt into print at the Maily Telegraph, and she has taken out the broadest smearing brush available to her.

When Muslim parents kill a beautiful 17-year-old out of religious conviction, I feel intolerant” she begins. Or perhaps that should read “more intolerant than usual”. And in case you aren’t getting her drift, she continues “Can religion really lead a mother and father to kill their own child? It is clear that in the Ahmeds' case, this was so”. Yes, all Muslims kill their daughters if they step out of line.

And Ms Odone goes on: “But it is also a very serious indictment of an intolerant immigrant culture. When Muslim parents hate their host culture so much that they will kill a child who seems to embrace it, then they are guilty of intolerance – the kind that non-Muslims are wary of showing, lest they be branded racist, or bigoted”. So those writing the why-oh-why copy are not intolerant – the Muslims are.

Don’t get me wrong here: “honour killing”, as the Policeman said, is indeed “a clear case of murder”. Forced marriage, now illegal in the UK, is wrong. But, as with the Heywood grooming case, what involves a small number of Muslims is being used as a stick to beat all followers of The Prophet. Goodness only knows what kind of venom is going to spew from Mad Mel once she sharpens her pen.

That kind of behaviour does not help matters. And that’s not good enough.

[UPDATE 4 August 1000 hours: to no surprise at all, the Cristina Odone post at Telegraph blogs has had comments closed and those that had been posted removed. Not for nothing do I characterise it as a "comments sewer".

Meanwhile, a rather more thoughtful piece can be read at the New Statesman site, authored by Sunny Hundal, and I commend it to anyone wanting a more grounded and reasoned approach to the subjects of forced marriage and so-called "honour killing"]

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