Monday, February 4, 2008

A Report On 'Honor" Violence, Forced Marriage & Female Genital Mutilation In the UK

The Centre for Social Cohesion has released a report detailing the scope and genesis of violence in the UK associated with "honor" in Muslim and other communities. The report also documents the many barriers to ending this scourge in multicultural Britain.


The Centre for Social Cohesion has issued a 161 page report, "Crimes of the Community: Honor Based Violence In The UK." Highlights of the report include:

. . . [T]he media’s focus on honour killings and, to a lesser extent, forced marriages and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) has obscured the true scale of honour-based crime. Honour killings represent only the tip of the iceberg in terms of violence and abuse perpetrated against women in the name of honour.

This study shows that honour killings, domestic violence, forced marriage and FGM are not isolated practices but are instead part of a self-sustaining social system built on ideas of honour and cultural, ethnic and religious superiority. As a result of these ideas, every day around the UK women are being threatened with physical violence, rape, death, mutilation, abduction, drugging, false imprisonment, withdrawal from education and forced marriage by their own families. This is not a one-time problem of first-generation immigrants bringing practices from ‘back home’ to the UK. Instead honour violence is now, to all intents and purposes, an indigenous and self-perpetuating phenomenon which is carried out by third and fourth generation immigrants who have been raised and educated in the UK. . . .

Forced Marriage

The practice of forcing women into marriage through threats of violence is common . . . [A] forced marriage [is] “a marriage conducted without valid consent of one or both parties, where duress is a factor”. According to most definitions, a marriage becomes forced if any coercion, physical or psychological, used against either spouses in order to force them to consent. . . [T]he Home Office deals with an average of 300 cases of forced marriages every year, some of whom have involved girls as young as 13. However, women’s groups and police say the total number of cases of forced marriage is much higher. . .

Extreme violence is often used to force individuals into marriages which will produce social or material benefits for the family. Forcing a person into marriage does not necessarily require physical violence. Families (usually parents but in some cases members of the extended family) will often use psychological abuse, blackmail and threats of imprisonment to force their children to accept a marriage. In extreme cases, victims have been forcibly taken back to their native countries where more extreme violence may be used against them. . .

In many cases, forced marriages are carried out to prevent or limit the influence of ‘western’ ideas on children from traditional backgrounds who are brought up in the UK. . .

Many women who are being forced into marriage suffer from physical and emotional violence. In the period leading up to a forced marriage, young women are often withdrawn from school and can be imprisoned. This isolation from the outside world is often accompanied by physical violence and can lead to mental illness, self harm and suicide. . .

"Honor" Violence and Murder

Activists in the Arab community believe that honour-based domestic violence often occurs if a woman defies the authority of her husband, brother or parent. Mohamed Baleela, project worker at the Domestic Violence intervention Project in Hammersmith in West London, says:

Domestic violence is a huge problem. I’d say 60 per cent of Arab families suffer from domestic violence. The main problem is the lack of awareness within the community on the violence and its affects. It is a huge stigma because it is associated with shame. An Arabic-speaking woman would not want to be seen as breaking up her family. Community leaders and imams see keeping the family together as much more important.

. . . Most victims of honour killings reported in the UK are Muslim women from South Asia who are below the age of thirty. As in other forms of honour-based violence, the majority of killings are carried out either by close family members or husbands. A typical victim of such honour killings was Samaira Nazir, a 25- year old woman of Pakistani origin. Nazir, a businesswoman and university graduate whom friend described as “strong-willed”, was summoned to the family home in April 2005 after rejecting husbands proposed by her family and having a relationship with an Afghan asylum seeker. When she refused to stop dating him, her brother (Azhar Nazir, a 30 year-old businessman), her father and her 17-year old cousin, stabbed her 17 times and slashed her throat. . .

Most honour-killings committed by South Asians are planned in advance by one or more members of the victims’ family. The pre-meditated nature of such attacks helps distinguish such murders from more spontaneous ‘crimes of passion’ which are common in many other communities. . .

Female Genital Mutilation

Although FGM predates Islam by thousands of years, for centuries it has been regarded by many Muslims across the Middle East as an essential religious practice perhaps because one of its main aims has been to control the sexuality of women – which has also been a theme of much Islamic scholarship. . .

Number of girls under 15 who were estimated to have undergone or be at risk: 98,376

Number of women in UK who have undergone some form of FGM: 65,000

Barriers to Change

Many immigrants have made ideas of honour and female chastity one of the core parts of their individual and collective identities. While honour-based violence is perhaps the most dramatic way in which concepts of female behaviour are enforced, communities have also erected a range of barriers which aim to control and condition women from an early age.

The practice of bringing wives and husbands into the UK from traditional and conservative parts of the world is probably the largest cause of the perpetuation of traditional attitudes and thereby of honour-based violence. . . .

The development of mono-cultural and mono-ethnic ghettos in parts of many British cities plays a key role in perpetuating traditional attitudes and slowing down the spread of ‘western’ ideas such as sexual equality.

Just as many communities tacitly endorse honour-based violence, so many of the same communities also see the growth of mono-cultural ghettos as a positive development which will allow them to better preserve their values and traditions from outside interference and influence. Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s national lead on honour-based violence, says:

“There are areas in some northern towns you can go to which are road-after-road, street-after-street of villages transplanted directly from South Asia where everyone knows everybody else’s business; everyone knows everyone’s secrets. . . They haven’t really understood what being British is about – and they don’t want to. In some northern towns there are real horror stories – from places like Blackburn where people say that you might as well be in rural Kashmir for all the way that women are seen and treated.”

Islamist Groups

Many Islamist groups encourage violence against women by promoting traditional ideas of honour as well as modern Islamist ideas which say that the health of a Muslim society is dependent on the chastity and sexual fidelity of its females. . .

Gina Khan, a woman’s rights activist, who had to flee her home town of Birmingham after recieveng threats from Islamists, believes that the problem lies with specific a interpretation of Islam. She says:

“Wahhabi teachings are being pumped into people’s homes through Islamic TV stations and radio and people are falling for it. The Jihadi ideology which is being taught oppresses women and if they managed to create an Islamic state the first thing they would do is to reverse the rights of women.”

Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on honour based violence who also works on terrorism cases, says:

“If you had a map of the UK showing the location of Islamist groups – or terrorist cells – and you had another map showing the incidence of honour-based violence and you overlaid them you would find that they were a mirror; they would be almost identical. It could be that this is simply because this is where South Asians live or it could be something else – it could suggest that there is a strong link between these two attitudes.”

. . . In some cases, campaigns by Islamists have successfully silenced women who speak out against religiously-justified violence against women. Gina Khan, a woman of Pakistani origin living in Birmingham at the time, was the target of a campaign of intimidation against her and her children after she publicly denounced local Islamists’ teachings on women. As a result she was forced to halt her campaigning and flee with her children to another part of the UK where she now lives in hiding. She says:

“It was horrible, the first I heard of it was when my daughter came home one night and started telling me that there are a lot of nasty men out there who are talking about us to other people and who also said a few things to her. Then the local imam would show up and ask if I wanted to send my daughters to a madrasa. He came a few times, but how did he know where I was living, I was surrounded by two white neighbours and didn’t mix much with the community. Then I started getting silent phone calls with the odd deep breathing. Then one night, middle of the night a brick came crashing in through the sitting room window while we were sleeping. After a while I decided that it was not safe anymore and I had to leave.”

Religious Leaders

Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, an imam of Palestinian origin, educated in Saudi Arabia, who sits on the UK Islamic Sharia Council and is also its spokesman. When asked about forced marriage, al-Haddad says:

“Forced marriage is a media exaggeration, designed to criticise Muslims and demonise them in this current climate of fear and Islamophobia. There are forced marriages and forced relations in every society and we need to look at the scale of the problem because I believe in a ‘western’ non-Muslim society there are a lot of forced relationships and domestic violence. There is also the case of rape and forced sex within ‘western’ culture; also date rape and the list is endless. Again, domestic violence is always shown by the media to be a problem associated with Muslim women; it’s not.”

. . .Some of those experienced in tackling honour-based violence say the concept of dealing with groups through ‘community leaders’ should be rejected entirely. Philip Balmforth, vulnerable persons’ officer (Asian women) for the Bradford Police, says:

“There is no such thing as a ‘community leader’. People should not use such words as community leader. I could take you down any street in Bradford and we can find two or three people in any street who say that they are the community leaders. It is all self-appointed; no one has actually voted or elected them. I refer to such people within the Asian community as influential rather than call them community leaders. Because if we call them leaders then that just helps them stay on the top of a pedestal.”

In many cases, however, government policy – at both a local and national level – remains based around working through such ‘community leaders’ rather than directly with individual members of immigrant communities. . .

Muslims In Official Positions Supporting Honor Crimes

Almost all refuges dealing with Asian women report on the existence of informal networks which exist to track down and punish – with death if necessary – women who are perceived as bringing shame on their family and community. In many cases, women fleeing domestic violence or forced marriages have been deliberately returned to their homes or betrayed to their families by policemen, councillors and civil servants of immigrant origin. . .

In other instances, women have been tracked down through family members working in Job Centres accessing their National Insurance (NI) data which indicate where they are collecting their benefits. The Asha Project in Streatham recorded one case when
an 18-year old Pakistani Muslim woman was almost abducted from a Job Centre as she went to sign-on after her relatives accessed confidential National Insurance information.

. . . Diana Nammi, the director of IKWRO, says similar situations occur . . . in North London:

“We have a case where we moved a girl from eight refuges and still her husband found her – even though she had changed her identity. He found her through her National Insurance number. There are people in the council and in government offices who help communities find girls who have gone missing. Leaking confidential information from state organisations is quite common.”

. . . In some cases, the Islamic Sharia Council has disclosed the location of women to their husbands after being approached by refuges to grant the women a divorce. Grace Busuttil, the manager of the North Kirlees Refuge near Leeds, says:

“We’ve had an application for divorce go through the Sharia Council which led to the husband finding the wife. He had no idea where she was until he contacted the Sharia Council. Then a week later he knew exactly where she was.”

. . . This study has not found any instances of prosecutions being brought against those who have leaked or accessed confidential information which has then been used to commit honour-based violence against women. . .

Muslim women are often unable to escape domestic violence or abusive partners because imams are unwilling to allow them to initiate divorces. Islamic marriages are sometimes carried out in mosques in addition to – or instead of – a civil marriage. Although they have no legal standing in the UK, these Islamic marriages are seen as virtually obligatory for Muslims. . .

Organisations like the Islamic Sharia Council, the largest of several ‘Sharia Courts’ set up to standardise Muslim marriages in the UK, theoretically permit women to initiate divorce proceedings on the grounds of domestic violence. In practice, however, this is rarely the case. . .

The Muslim Council of Britain & Wrong Government Partners / Advisors

The British government and police largely seek to deal with minorities through intermediaries who, they believe, can manage the community on behalf of the state. In many cases this policy has strengthened the influence of elderly and conservative men who are likely to support traditional ideas of honour and patriarchy – and who are reluctant to condemn violence against women.

In dealing with the Muslim community, the government has often worked through the Muslim Council of Britain which describes itself as the “largest umbrella body of Muslim groups in the UK”. The MCB has sought to block legislation aimed at ending honour-based violence. Almost all women’s groups interviewed for this report say that the MCB has done little or nothing to end honour-based violence against women.

In particular, the MCB has sought to block attempts to criminalise forced marriage, arguing that “a new law on forced marriages will have the real risk of being seen to target ethnic minorities”. Partly as a result of the MCB’s pressure, the government halted its plans to criminalise forced marriage and made it a civil offence instead. This reflects what many see as the organisation’s lack of interest in women’s issues. Nazir Afzal, the Crown Prosecution Service’s lead on honour-based violence, says:

“The MCB pretty much don’t want to get involved. They’ve made it abundantly clear that they believe that the Islamic community has other priorities. They’d rather talk about Islamophobia or anti-terrorism laws instead – they say that these are the things that matter to the Muslim community. In fact, the biggest fear that Muslim women have is not Islamophobia or anti-terrorism laws; it’s the violence that they face from their own families.”

Failure of Government & Muslims In Government

Many women’s groups say branches of local government are unwilling to involve themselves in ‘minority issues’ for a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of knowledge of the problem to a politically correct reluctance to intervene in minority affairs for fear of accusations of racism or ‘Islamophobia’.

In Derby, members of women’s groups have asked schools to put up posters produced by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office warning of the threat of forced marriages. All the schools refused – even though they had put up other posters warning of the dangers of drugs and alcohol. . .

Several women’s groups say that many South Asians working in local government and the police service abuse their positions to defend traditional practices and to block attempts to halt honour-based violence.

In many northern towns where immigrant communities are tight-knit and conservative, some women’s refuges say that South Asian women are often afraid to seek help because they know that many Asians working in local government and in private firms believe that women who break traditional taboos deserve to be punished. John Paton, manager of the Lancashire Family Mediation Service which is based in Preston, says:

“One issue we have come up against is the issue of confidentiality. It’s extremely difficult for an Asian woman to go to a community worker or an agency where she knows that there are potentially people there who will report back to her family what she has said. This goes on to the extent that there is a solicitor’s in Blackburn that has no Asians [working there] and as a result of this it receives a very disproportionate amount of business from Asian women. In particular, this solicitors is involved in getting a lot of court injunctions to prevent husbands from seeing their wives. This is contrary to the doctrine which says that agencies should recruit more people from ethnic minorities because Asians want to talk to other Asians – to people who are like themselves. In this particular case it acts against the very interests of the people they are trying to help because it actually may deter Asian women from using these services.”

Zalkha Ahmed, director of Apna Haq, a women’s support group in the North of England, says some translators working for social services have deliberately blocked government attempts to help South Asian women who are fleeing violence and abuse:

“We have also had translators who would lie to the social services when women go to seek help. The translators would not reveal the extent of the story, and try to play down the extent that honour had to play in the problem to try and portray a positive image of the community.”

Ena Mercy, director of the Pennines Domestic Violence group which is based in Huddersfield, home to a large Pakistani and Sikh population, says some councillors there have sought to block the activities of women’s groups:

“You get councillors who try to exercise control. You get Asian councillors trying to stop our meetings from happening. Other councillors – white councillors – are afraid of upsetting the Asian councillors and the other community leaders. They’re afraid of being called racist or whatever.”

Similar incidents reportedly occur in Bradford. . .

Several women’s groups, particularly in the Midlands and northern England, say they are often reluctant to go to the police with women who have ran away to escape violence because they cannot trust Asian police officers. Zalikha Ahmed, director of the Apna Haq refuge, says:

“We have to be careful with them especially the Asian ones. We don’t visit the station when certain Asian officers are on because some of them are perpetrators, and one of them on record said that he would not arrest someone who used force on his wife. Some of them would just expose us for what we do.”

Another worker in a women’s group in the North, who requested anonymity for safety reasons, said:

“We had instances when a [Asian] chief inspector offered his help to a family by tracking a girl down – we were appalled.”

According to some women’s groups such problems appear to be practically common in the West Midlands police force. Shahien Taj, director of the Henna Foundation, a women’s group in Cardiff, says:

There have been cases of runaways and women being re-housed where members of the police department have passed on their information to the Asian community network which then tracked down the women. This can also be applied to community leaders and councillors.

Recently I had a case in Birmingham where a woman was dumped outside a shop at seven pm with her three children. I made calls to a community leader asking for help and he said it was the wrong time of the week and day [Sunday]. A police officer said ‘why don’t you let me deal with the case?’ and the woman said she can’t trust the police – because nine times she had run away and nine times the police just returned her to her family where she got abused. On all these occasions the police told the husband where she was, and sent her back to them.”

. . . Judges have also passed sentences which seem to indicate that in some cases violence against women by immigrants is acceptable on cultural or religious grounds. For example, in September 2003, Judge Neil Denison sentenced Abdulla Yones to 14 years for murdering his daughter Heshu rather than the recommended 20 years. Denison said that 16-year old Heshu had “provoked” her father by having a Christian boyfriend. In his concluding remarks, he said:

This is, on any view, a tragic story arising out of irreconcilable cultural differences between traditional Kurdish values and the values of western society.

I thing the Judge's concluding remarks sums up all of the evil and ills of multiculturalism. It does for me anyway. There is much more in the report. You can download it here.

1 comment:

Debbie said...

Thanks for the link to this. If we have this going on in the US, and I assume we do, we are already headed down a tragic path.

Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah

Right Truth