‘So, Minette Marrin – all cultures are equal, yes or no?” This was the challenge put to me live and rather scarily by a BBC World Service presenter a few years ago. ... “No,” I said firmly, but nervously, since I don’t like inviting contempt and anger any more than anyone else.Sorry, Ms. Marrin, but you just have, on the part of this reader. The rest of her column explains why.
"Many prominent multiculturalists, including the Commission for Racial Equality itself, have recently performed swift U-turns and the bien-pensant orthodoxy now is that multiculturalism has been a divisive failure. Integration is the new big thing," she writes. But,
There are still signs that many people are in the grip of the old orthodoxy; its hold on public institutions and the public mind seems to be remarkably persistent. A week ago The Sunday Times reported that some Muslim workers in Sainsbury’s [a U.K. grocery chain] are refusing to check out purchases of alcohol on the debatable ground that it’s against their religion. Whenever the sinful stuff is presented by a customer at the till, the Muslim expects an infidel colleague to hurry over and sully his or her hands with the transaction instead.So, it's another sign that Britain has systematically imported an incompatible culture? Oh, no. Perish the thought. "The point about this story is not the absurd demand, but that Sainsbury’s gave into it, quite unnecessarily, of its own free will. It wasn’t even being pressed to do so by any prominent Muslim figures."
And so on, in the same vein. The problem isn't with an intolerant religio-political group that demands the majority culture adjust itself to conform to Muslim ways; it's those companies, suffering from dhimmitudia nervosa. Sainsbury's hadn't received any demands from "prominent Muslim figures."
But that Commission for Racial Equality, which has supposedly hung a U-turn just before being reincarnated as the even more all-inclusive Commission for Equality and Human Rights, headed by -- who'd have guessed? -- the same witchfinder-in-chief, Trevor Phillips, departs (as The Spectator notes)
... with a threat that 15 government departments may be taken to court — at our expense, presumably — because they haven’t checked the precise ethnic origin of everyone who works for them. There is no suggestion that the departments have discriminated against British Caribbeans, or British Bangladeshis, or British Static Travellers (yes, there really is that wonderful category); merely that they haven’t yet asked everyone if they’re properly and nicely white or not. The crime is one of ‘non-compliance’. And along with that, the report churns out the usual stuff about how Britain is ever more segregated, socially and in the workplace, and that extremism ‘both political and religious’ is on the rise.The Commission recently turned its awe-inspiring moral force to urging that a book of 75-year-old comic strips be banned. The "equality watchdog" (a frightening term) accused one of the books of "making black people 'look like monkeys and talk like imbeciles'." That privilege, apparently, is reserved for the Commission.
But to get back to Marrin: she carefully avoids taking a position about what Sainsbury's should have done if those "prominent Muslim figures" had insisted that no Muslim clerk's fingers should touch a bottle of plonk. She continues the theme:
Surely the fault lies with Sainsbury’s, for cultural funk. And it lies with all those others who out of some strange abandonment of common sense – such as the government’s laissez-faire guidelines on wearing Muslim veils in schools last week – bottle out.It does not seem to occur to her that British institutions have bent backward so far to avoid offending that Muslims or their "prominent figures" don't need to say they're bothered. The dog has been conditioned to cringe at the mere sight of the man with the whip. If Sainsbury's, for instance, found its spine and told its Muslim clerks that the company believed in equality, even for infidel customers, who is to say that the imams wouldn't have kicked up a fuss, and the Commission on Racial Equality wouldn't have stepped in with its confession-encouraging instruments?
Think of the headmistress in Yorkshire who removed stories about pigs, including the Three Little Pigs, from her school in case they might offend her tiny Muslim pupils. Think of the councils that have banned Christmas, or hot cross buns, or the council worker who banned a flyer about a Christmas service from a council notice board but held a party to celebrate Eid. ...In many cases Muslims (or Jews or Hindus – or Cypriots no doubt) who are asked to comment say publicly that it was all quite unnecessary. They would not have been offended at all and nobody had bothered to ask them.
We can't know, but the important point is that Marrin, with her air of straight-ahead, good old English common sense, implies that it's all a storm in a teacup. No prominent Muslims have complained (only an unspecified number of unprominent ones), so no problem. She wants to have her Ramadan and eat during it too.
In her own "sophisticated" way, she is still pandering to Muslims. The problem is with institutions (presumably) still run largely by white British people, wicked types who flee when no man pursueth.
"No well mannered person wants to go about pronouncing that western civilisation, particularly the British variety, is better than others," Marrin writes. "But sometimes it is necessary to risk giving offence, to defend what matters. It may not cause offence; it might even command respect." Well, Ms. Marrin, my mother tried hard to raise me with good manners, but I guess she didn't entirely succeed, since I have been known to say (thankfully, out of range of the British Equality Police) that Western civilization is better than some others. Her false self-recommendation for bravery in the line of fire causes offense here on my patch, and commands no respect.
"Fear of offence is killing our culture"? Minette Marrin is part of the fear, and part of the killing.