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Shafilea Ahmed and ‘Pakistan in Warrington’.

NOW THAT THE parents of 17-year-old Shafilea Ahmed have been convicted of her murder in an “honour” killing, various elements of the liberal-left have been at pains to deny that political correctness played any part in the circumstances leading up to the crime – and to implicate the rest of us in some kind of communal guilt.

Barbara Ellen in her Guardian column says of the failure of the police and social services to protect Shafilea, who was choked to death in front of her family for refusing to accept an arranged marriage, “This failure wasn’t about some misguided PC wish not to offend Islam, or anything else, it was about incompetence, pure and simple: the collapse of a system of care, leading to a young girl falling through the cracks.” However much truth there is in that statement, it misses the more basic point about immigration and integration, which is, why should people move from a country whose culture, religion and values they espouse to one which they know is profoundly at odds with everything they believe in? What system encourages them to do so and allows them to try to bring up their children, as Justice Evans said, “in Pakistan in Warrington”?

That’s a question people like Barbara Ellen don’t want asked because it goes against their PC dogma that all cultures are equal and the only culture to be criticised is the British one, or that of the west in general. Far easier to claim that anyone who questions immigration is one of what Ellen calls the “Go home if you don’t like it” [sic] brigade and doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously. But why shouldn’t somebody ask this question: “if you despise the values of this country so much why do you persist in living here?”

According to Ellen, that question can only come from people “who shy away from the ‘otherness’ of other cultures, as too different and difficult to fathom” and thereby contribute to the alienation which results in cases such as this. Actually, you don’t need any sophistication to know that murdering your own daughter is wrong and evil. Understanding doesn’t come into it. Barbara Ellen, of course, is smart enough to do the fathoming, so she’s not part of the problem.

THE REST OF us are, according to another voice. Professor Jacqueline Rose (also writing in the Guardian) delivers a lightweight lecture that does the rounds of psychology, male dominance, family discord and gender studies. “Missing in the court room,” she opines, “is the idea of fantasy, of how we all make our lives bearable by elaborating stories about ourselves.” She goes on to claim that for the murderous parents “lying was a way to survive.” A drama, if you wish, of ”the contortions of the inner world, the agonies of attachment and belonging”.

This is fantasy. The real agony endured was that of a poor girl who just wanted the same kind of life as those around her, the kind of life provided by western society. The Professor is indulging in the same PC handwashing as Barbara Ellen: “Recognising this complexity might also be a way of avoiding the most obvious cultural cliches that attach to the idea of ‘honour’ crimes.”  Again, we have the same patronising tone reserved for those too stupid to understand or cope with “complexity” or “otherness”, the same desperate effort to avoid “cultural” blame, because we must, above all things, avoid “using the case to stigmatise a minority community, or as proof that west is best.” Sorry, Professor, but, as Shafilea Ahmed would agree, in this case, as in many others, the west is best, and it’s a pity you don’t realise it.

That’s not enough, however, because the Professor Rose concludes: “Rather than attribute a crime like this to backwardness, we would do better to see how deeply it is woven into the fabric of migration and modernity in which all of us are implicated.”

So we’re the problem. Again. Not the culture that shaped the Ahmed parents, nor the religion that shaped that culture. No, in the deluded minds of the Roses and Ellens the blame lies with the very culture that gave them a home and the possibility of education and freedom for their children. I wonder if Jacqueline Rose considers herself to be implicated in this bizarre fabric of self-loathing, because it certainly doesn’t include me.

Michael Blackburn.

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