British political scandals involving wives invariably revolve around politicians cheating but the latest controversy goes way beyond a middle-aged MP having an affair with his secretary.
New guidelines on income support welfare benefits from the U.K’s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) have de facto recognized polygamy.
The guidelines state: “Where there is a valid polygamous marriage the claimant and one spouse will be paid the couple rate … The amount payable for each additional spouse is presently ¬£33.65.”
Each additional spouse? In those three words, the British state adapts itself to a practice which, while by no means limited to Islam, either historically or contemporarily, is widely associated with countries where sharia or Islamic influenced law operate.
The families who benefit from the British state’s indulgence of an illegal practice are not, the reports say, creating their multi-wife units in the UK but are ‘importing’ their spouses from abroad. Nonetheless, many will wonder why it is so difficult for British authorities to simply state – “Sorry, in this country, you can only have one wife” and how bureaucrats in London managed to pen a phrase such as “valid polygamous marriage” without stopping to wonder what sort of precedent they were setting?
“UK legally recognises Islamic harems” declares Arabianbusiness.com putting its own twist on the story which London’s Daily Telegraph (like the conservative Daily Mail instead chose to use as a predictable scare story about the millions it may cost the taxpayer in welfare benefits.)
The papers cite government sources as admitting, there are now probably around 1,000 polygamous families in the UK and so the Tory press do the maths and get their benefits scare story but the real scare here is how, yet again, the British state is making exceptions for religious practices and how unwilling the authorities are to challenge reactionary practices within immigrant communities.
Because, headline-grabbing as polygamy is, it is by no means the most offensive import into British multiculturalism.
The Sunday Times reports on one particular horrific case of abuse and exploitation of a teenage girl from Pakistan, taking the story from a new report by the Centre for Social Cohesion entitled ‘Crimes of the Community.’
The report looks at forced marriages and the issue of so-called ‘honor killings’ and concludes that Britain is no longer suffering from first generation immigrants failing to update and modify their behavior warning that the problems are now “indigenous and self-perpetuating” and carried out by third and fourth-generation immigrants.
Tackling such crimes inside tightly-knit Muslim communities in the U.K will be a complex task for the police and one that would be helped by the clear and unequivocal opposition to barbaric behavior from community leaders. The message should be clear — when it comes to abuse, to rape, to kidnapping and to murder there are no exceptions to our laws and religion and culture offer no get-out clause. That shouldn’t really need to be said but the problem is that throughout the U.K exceptions are made for religion and Muslims are constantly demanding exceptions be made for them.
The Telegraph reports on the latest case:
“Muslim medical students are refusing to obey hygiene rules brought in to stop the spread of deadly superbugs, because they say it is against their religion.
Women training in several hospitals in England have raised objections to removing their arm coverings in theatre and to rolling up their sleeves when washing their hands, because it is regarded as immodest in Islam.”
Thankfully, the response of the medical professionals quoted by the paper shows rather more backbone than that of the validators of polygamy.
Dr. Mark Enright, professor of microbiology at Imperial College London, said: “To wash your hands properly, and reduce the risks of MRSA and C.difficile, you have to be able to wash the whole area around the wrist.
“I don’t think it would be right to make an exemption for people on any grounds. The policy of bare below the elbows has to be applied universally.”
No exemptions and universality — two concepts that if even just spoken of a little more would go a long way to changing the mood among those who are afraid of creeping communalism and worry about the willingness of the authorities to give ground to Islam and other religions.
The Mo-toons debate appeared to have brought this debate to a head but it clearly didn’t. The domination of the argument by, on the one side, left-wing multiculturalists who remain reluctant to offend an ‘oppressed minority’ and will accommodate and make exceptions, and the other side, the right-wing conspiracy theory, known as ‘Eurabia’, which claims that Europe has been ‘invaded’ as part of a Muslim plot to impose Sharia law and force non-Muslim Europeans into a servile state of dhimmitude, has done little to lead public opinion towards a sane response.
There has however been a critique in the U.K of the kind of multicultural politics which stresses differences over universalism, which involves diluting secularism to appease religious zealots and which practices a cultural relativism that justifies or at least minimizes sexism, racism and homophobia and apologia for terrorism. It is an argument that, in a British context, needs to come from the center-left, needs to be clearly separated from those on the right who enjoy to whip up hysteria about the welfare state and immigration and also those on the left whose cravenness gives credibility to the hackneyed cry about ‘political correctness’.
In the latter years of Tony Blair’s administration there was a momentum building on the center-left behind a pro-universalist position but it remains to be seen whether Gordon Brown’s government is capable of carrying that forward and making it clear that neither polygamy nor putting patients at risk on the basis of ‘modesty’ , let alone ‘honor killings’ will be acceptable in Britain.
“Jimmy Bradshaw” is the pseudonym of a popular British Social Democrat.