Wednesday, March 26, 2008

cohesion with nutty ban, collusion with oppression

CAVETE - contains discussion of and links to material concerning female genital mutilation

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) wants to ban religious schools. At the same time, they want imams, rabbis and priests to offer religious instruction in all state schools. Being able to hold both these positions simultaneously seems indicative of having had a tad too much therapy.

The key to trying to understand their position appears to be the concept of community cohesion. The government describes this as comprising:
  1. a common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities;
    the valuing of diversity;
  2. similar life opportunities for all and;
  3. strong and positive relationships are being developed between people from different backgrounds and circumstances in the workplace, in the school and within neighbourhoods.

A worthy vision, produced by politicians who live aloof from the communities they represent, and can therefore afflict their worthy visions on those communities with impunity.

Roll up your sleeves and we'll go through them.

Number one: I fail to see how a common vision and a sense of belonging for all communities go along with the valuing of diversity, opposites separated solely by a semicolon and the grateful smiles with which the often racist competitors for the Safer and Stronger Communities Fund's largesse tick their paymaster's boxes. For example, a preacher with the UK Islamic Mission, which has been praised by Tony Blair, paraded his inclusive, democratic credentials, not knowing he was being clandestinely recorded for a documentary:

Another speaker says Muslims cannot accept the rule of non-Muslims. 'You cannot accept the rule of the kaffir [non-Muslim],' a preacher, Dr Ijaz Mian, tells a meeting held within the mosque. 'We have to rule ourselves and we have to rule the others.'

This is a minority occupation, of course. Terrorism is a minority pastime almost by definition. In a military band event in Glasgow in 1997, I remember a minority of the Indian contingent and a minority of the Pakistani contingent taunting each other. It was a decade before they became nuclear powers, so luckily all they had to lob was insults. I'm a peaceful Christian chap (except when Minora puts on her thump-thump-thump music), and most Christians are, I would hope, peaceful; but I am totally in favour of the British and responsible American (ie excluding regulars at Irish bars in New York) campaign to curtail the murderous pleasures of the minority of inhabitants of Northern Ireland who were Christian terrorists. Which is a case in point: if it's taken from 1798 until the present time to persuade the gangsters of that obscure corner of Europe that peace is more fun than paranoia, how does the Labour Government expect to see much of the world's conflicts solved in microcosm within this small island?

Multiculturalism also touches the draughty old fen. While Captain Malcolm Farrow of the Flag Institute commented on the relaxation of restrictions on flying the Union Jack by saying that "Any nation that doesn't fly the national flag from its government buildings every day of the week needs its head examined," Jenny Bailey, mayor of neighbouring Cantabrigia, stated it was a "nice idea...but we have such a diverse country that lots of people would have different opinions on this". Thus British patriotism is reduced to an "opinion", which is presumably floating in a sea of opinions - but will soon sink under the weight of the firmly-held beliefs of those groups who attach to their patriotism more value than that of a mere lifestyle choice. Ms Bailey is not alone in making the error that the recipients of multiculturalism are themselves multiculturalists.

Number two: similar life-opportunities for all.

What does this mean? The opportunity to have a life? Don't even get me started on that one! There's enough potential in that phrase to fuel a jeremiad of bloggers, keep daytime TV presenters in clover for a career, and inspire the celebrity chef of your choice to open a restaurant employing telegenic underachievers.

So, if we have to focus down, let's look at something I've chewed over before: sexual health.

According to the Department of Health publication Recommended Standards for Sexual Health Services,

The recommended standards for sexual health services are presented as a means for service improvement to support more people to enjoy healthy and happy sex lives.

So far so soporific. But what, for instance, about women and girls who have been subjected to the egregious practice of female genital mutilation? I hate to say it, but this awful assault on the person, dignity and future of girls is practiced in Great Britain:

During the past three or four decades ethnic groups who practise female genital mutilation have immigrated to Britain, mainly as refugees. The main groups are from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, and the Yemen. It has been estimated that in their own countries over 80 per cent of women have had the operation...which is invariably infibulation. There is evidence that the operation is being performed illegally in medically qualified or unqualified practitioners and that children are being sent abroad for a "holiday" to have it done. In Britain the procedure is usually performed between the ages of 7 and 9 years.

In a couple where one party has been subjected to this infamous amputation of innocence, how does the Department of Health intend to "support people to enjoy healthy and happy sex lives"? Or do men's assurances of their partners' rapturous joy resulting from being thus violated suffice - ie do women's rights stop at the poles of the liberal-socialist axis?

On to the third one, about strong and positive relationships between people from differerent backgrounds in workplaces and neighbourhoods. And schools. Which is where the NUT comes back in - they (still) want to ban religious schools. I find this rather puzzling: Minora knows more about Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam than many people twice her age because she learns about them in the Christian school she attends.

At her school, and at Minima's, I have not met any teacher who was not of the good, solid, head-on-shoulders, feet-on-the-ground type. Teachers seem to have got rid of the eejits by the same method that has been employed by the UN, the NHS, Social Services and Sadie McGlumphur's Tartan Emporium - by kicking them upwards to get them out of their hair. This is how whole industries come to be managed by the asinine, the effete and the incompetent.

Perhaps the answer, if there is one, lies - paradoxically - in the NUT's other whipping-boy. They appear to think that the subliminal message to pupils in talks by forces personnel is "Join the Army and we will send you to bomb, shoot and possibly torture fellow human beings in other countries." Strange - I didn't think we had any barracks in Tibet.

Whatever the NUT's views on faith-schools, social cohesion and multiculturalism, the solution to their problems of prosecuting illegal wars in the middle east will be as simple to them as it will be bitterly ironic. Vote the Labour Government out at the next election. Alternatively, relocate to a country where they need not be troubled by crusty old right-wingers: I hear North Korea's quite sunny at this time of year.

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