Thursday, June 8th, 2017
Our democracy, civil liberties and human rights are under attack by homegrown British extremists.
This is not something I have just observed as a response to the recent attacks in Manchester and London. No, it has been the case since I was eight years old and learnt my parents promised me to a man I had never met, and further found on my journey for almost 25 years in the fight against honour crimes and forced marriage. Extremism has been festering in our communities for decades. It remains the case that many professionals fear to share their views openly and honestly afraid of treading on cultural toes, which translates as looking the other way. This sadly gives the perpetrators of extremist views more power. Dame Louise Casey’s Rotherham report showed that fear of being labeled a racist has become so widespread that it has prevented society from challenging the deeply rooted views that fly in the face of our values and democracy. As Karma Nirvana (the human rights charity I set up in 1993) nears its 25th year, I recall the struggle to have my voice, and the voices of the thousands of victims we work with heard. I remember the difficulty in being taken seriously by both my community and well-meaning liberals who frequently accused me of exaggerating a problem, stirring up racial tensions and attacking multicultural Britain. Fast forward, and here we are today in the fight against terrorism. The parallels to fighting honour abuse and forced marriage are stark. The perpetrator’s of terrorism like honour-based abuse, systematically organise themselves to prevent young people (often British citizens) from embracing our core values. Conditioning starts early and as a result swathes of our youth are being groomed to serve an ideology that presents our country, our democracy and our pluralism as the enemy. Enough is enough; we must hold people to account including those that wish to scrap the government’s counter-extremism Prevent policy. We must support our professionals properly and give them the confidence to report what they find without fear. I am tired of explaining how ‘cultural acceptance does not mean accepting the unacceptable’. It is not right that I, a proud British Asian woman can say things on these issues that my white counterparts cannot for fear of being accused as racist. Let us start collectively asking the uncomfortable questions both in our communities and in government and together we can challenge the so-called ‘culture’ and ‘traditions’ used to justify extreme behaviour in all its forms.