A Review of the Louise Casey Review (4) – The Deformation of Islam and Minority Rights

caseyreviewtitle

The interrogation and assault on Muslims and their faith is uniquely focussed, with most of the distinctly colonialist, alienation rhetoric directed towards orthodox Islam.  This is ironic given that the Review claims social interaction is good because it results in “a better understanding of differences”.[1] Further “mutual respect” (a quality which Muslims fair better than their Christian peers in the context of faiths according to the Review) is also considered by Casey as a value “integral to a cohesive nation”.[2]  Yet Casey then speaks of a “growing concern” about a “divergence of attitudes and values among minority communities”, which she then categorises as “extremist” and “regressive”.[3] Surely, if there is conviction in the value of respecting differences, “divergence of attitudes and values” should not be problem? Not so. Whilst demanding respect of for “quintessentially British” things like queueing and the Queen, Casey weaponises the alternate beliefs of Muslims in order to render the Muslim minority an alien community.

The Attack on Islam under the Guise of Integration

The review uses “attitudes” to determine the level of integration, and then proceeds to dedicate an entire section specifically to Muslims called “Attitudes of Muslims”.  There is no such section for Jews, Christians, Sikhs, and Hindus etc., exemplifying Muslim minority discrimination. Falsely comparing attitudes with the “rest of society” instead of other religions, the Review argues in a totalitarian fashion that differences in attitudes “could be pushing communities further apart,” implying the demand for the homogenization of thought. Differences exist between every individual and indeed, liberals would argue is a facet protected in a liberal democracy. Increasingly, however, these liberal ideas seem to crumble in the context of Muslims.

In this section the infamous poll interpreted through neocon Trevor Phillips’ anti-Muslim documentary, “What British Muslims Really Think”, is then cited. The problems with the types of (leading) questions and interpretation of the statistics however, have been covered on this blog. Suffice to say, it makes an ardent attempt at painting Muslims who choose to adhere to Islam as outcastes from society with a propensity toward “extremist actions” (undefined in the Review) and “violence” (decontextualized in the Review). This anti-Islam spin is used to highlight that the following factors gives rise to “divergence”: 

  • cultural and religious influences; 
  • demographic and economic factors (for example, age and earnings); 
  • growing identification with the plight of Muslims internationally and a sense of grievance or disagreement with ‘Western’ and/or British foreign policy in Muslim countries; 
  • grievances stemming from disadvantage, discrimination and racial and religious hostility, including a growing sense of Islamophobia; 
  • uncertainty about identity and the compatibility of Muslim life and British values; and 
  • the influence of extremist organisations who promote a grievance narrative

In other words, political dissent, negative feelings, religious beliefs, and even highlighting Muslim minority discrimination and persecution – smeared as being promoted by “extremists” – are pathologised into indicators of divergence, which imply a lack of social cohesion, and therefore, a vulnerability to “extremism”, and consequently, according to the flawed PREVENT Strategy, terrorism (I will cover Casey’s content on PREVENT in a later blog). The totalitarian implication is, distinctiveness of thought and religious and cultural diversity and heritage is a threat to the state. This line of thought has serious minority rights implications which will discussed further below.

Coercing Muslim Women to Work

Against the backdrop of associating Islam with violence, the liberal white knight moves towards saving Muslim women from themselves and their faith.  Whilst completely ignoring the plight of Jewish women (not a single mention is made in this section) Casey tells us that economic inactivity remains “unusually high”, that there are “very significant” and “worrying” concerns amongst – yes – Pakistani and Bangladeshi women.[4]  “Cultural and religious factors” are given with polling data demonstrating that more Muslims think husbands should do work whilst women stay at home and that the family suffers if the mother words, as compared to Christians and people of non-faith.[5]

This blanket Orientalised imposition upon Islam and Muslims is problematic in that it assumes that such views and arrangements are without rationale and therefore “regressive”. From within the Islamic paradigm, the financially stability is afforded to women from a number of different sources, including the dower, customary trousseau, and the compulsory income from the husband for the upkeep (shelter, food and clothing concordant to her lifestyle), with the accumulated wealth exclusively hers for savings, spending on herself or augmenting through business. From a financial perspective limited to the couple, the power balance in terms of unassailable rights and entitlement is manifestly tilted in favour of the wife. It is true that Islam places greater emphasis on the cultivation of the family, given it is the bedrock of a stable, healthy society. Given all the data and studies referenced by Casey, it is startling, though perhaps convenient for Casey’s “progressive” sensibilities, that the studies demonstrating the negative impact on children as a result of maternal employment are ignored (on care programme arrangements and negative impact on social-behavioural index, here, and here). Though there are studies which also show the net impact is neutral or positive there is still a risk of some negative impact, like obesity, poor diets, and sedentary lifestyles. Given the importance of secure mother-child attachment (per the attachment theory), for many Muslims this is a risk not worth gambling. As Dr. Denise Cummins summarises in Psychology Today,

“Perhaps the wealth of research conducted so far on childcare can be best summarized this way: Young children need to play and explore in an environment where they feel safe and loved. For infants, this ideally means caregivers to whom they feel they belong.

An additional consideration for Muslim women are the systemic problems with the work place.  The façade of modernity depicts the contemporary office work place as some sort of utopic ascent to freedom. According to TUC, more than half (52%) of women, and nearly two-thirds (63%) of women aged 18-24 years old, said they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Compounding this are studies which show that women in their thirties and forties in Britain are 70% more likely to suffer work-related stress (see also here).

Casey’s drive to get women to work further castes a condescending shadow on women who do choose to give more time to their families. Are the dividends gained from focussing on the home somehow lesser in value than compassionless economic considerations of the neoliberal labour market? Are women who work in offices superior to women who prefer to look after the home?

Having said this, taking into account the paramountcy of the family home, Muslim women where [6]appropriately possible can and are engaging in their own businesses and work, either for themselves, their homes or assisting the family business. This point is elucidated well in a particularly scathing post by Manchester Councillor Rab Nawaz, which exposes the woeful ignorance of Casey (for instance, Casey highlights a Sikh symbol in the context of Islam):

“If Louise had bothered to visit some of the shops on Beresford Road, she would have realised that they are being run by Muslim women and very successful businesses they are too.

Religion as a Catalyst and Oriental Domination

Casey states that “serious harms” are suffered due to “cultural and religious catalysts”, like FGM, forced marriage and honour-based crimes. Placing aside the fact that “honour-based crimes” occurs amongst the white population and, typically, Casey fails to investigate this, these stated practices are prohibited from the Islamic perspective.  Yet Casey lazily and clandestinely conflates what are culture-based practices with Islam. In discussing religious and cultural catalysts contributing to “abuse and unequal treatment”, Casey does, for instance, highlight posters being put up instructing women to only walk on one side of the road.  However, she fails to delve deeper into the details of these practices and avoids stating that these behaviours have occurred in Britain within the Jewish minority.

This identity-sanitisation in the context of the Jewish minority is not afforded to Muslims. Everything, including well-established orthodox Islamic viewpoints, is game.  The Oriental domination of Islamic views continues, where paradigmatically liberal, and completely subjective, fluctuating criteria of “harm” is imposed on epistemologically Muslim practices which rationally prioritise alternate considerations. Thus, her notion of “harm” triggered by “religious catalysts” is later extended to include orthodox Islamic practices.

She states,

“Mosques and Islamic organisations offering regressive advice about the behaviours expected of Muslim women and girls – including not being allowed to travel more than 48 miles from home without their husband or male chaperone, or not being able to wear jeans – despite noted Islamic theologians dismissing such advice as inappropriate.

These are orthodox Islamic views both on travel arrangements and guides to wearing clothes outside.  However, the question is, how are these particular theological rulings connected to domestic violence, honour killing and other clearly Islamically prohibited acts? Indeed, how do they constitute “harm”? From the Islamic perspective, the travel arrangements, for instance, are there to facilitate protection from harm.  Muslim women are a direct target for anti-Muslim attacks. In the recent most case, two white suspects are being sought after a young Muslim woman was dragged by her headscarf in the middle of busy shopping district – no one came to here aid.  Surveys show that women generally feel more unsafe to walk alone, particularly after dark, than men. Another survey corroborated this and showed that more women felt unsafe whilst using London public transport. End Violence Against Women Coalition co-chairwoman Marai Larasi said,

“They confirm what many women already know – that thousands of us are worried about our safety if we choose to travel alone.

The normalisation of the far-right in Britain, and indeed the Casey Review’s legitimisation of far-right narratives, which even targets traditional forms of attire, means that for Muslims, traveling has become even more unsafe.

Yet another smokescreen “harm” is segregation. Casey asserts that segregation in independent Muslim and Orthodox Jewish faith schools is abuse.  The question of course remains, how? If both sexes are benefiting from education, in what way does this result in harm?  Does the Orientalist, colonialist lens of Casey regard Eton College as perpetuating abuse and unequal treatment of women? Of pertinence is the fact this nonsensical position was rejected by Mr Justice Jay, who ruled last month that Ofsted were wrong to penalise an Islamic faith school for holding the “erroneous view” that segregation of boys and girls amounted to unlawful discrimination.

Casey continues this discriminatory, condescending approach to Islam and even Muslim intention in a section titled “Regressive attitudes”. Thus, Muslims increase their religiosity, not because of the most obvious reason which is devotion towards their Lord, but because of “fractured identities”;[7] Muslim women adopt the veil because of pressure, thus removing their agency,[8] and Islamic spousal rights[9] which focus on equitable equality and are positive in their construction (i.e. to facilitate others) as opposed European construction of rights (being narcissistically negative and asserted against an entity) from which emanates liberal conceptions of equality, are “regressive”; a leaflet prohibiting the attendance of a musical event due to its sinful nature is characterised as “literalist” (they are well-established, deductive legal positions); and the topic of Shariah courts and polygyny regurgitate familiar arguments made by far-right Christian neoconservative and Assad-apologist Caroline Cox (which I have commented upon here). In short, Daily Mail propaganda is re-packaged and delivered under the guise of social cohesion and labelled “regressive”.

And of course, the now familiar theme of Muslim minority discrimination continues with the scrutiny in the whole section, bar one paragraph, being dedicated to Islam and Muslims.

Suspicion of Muslims “Common Sense”?

In one particularly worrying paragraph,[10] Casey effectively regards being suspicious of Muslims because they choose to wear the jilbab and niqab “common sense”.  She quotes London Mayor Sadiq Khan who stated during his mayoral campaign,

What you see now are people born and raised here who are choosing to wear the jilbab or niqab. There is a question to be asked about what is going on in those homes.

She calls this demonising view “common sense” before accepting that it is not shared by everyone.[11] It is interesting to note who does share this view.  Michael Gove in his anti-Muslim book Celsius 7/7 effectively argues that those who champion the right to “fundamentalist fashion” – a reference to the jilbab – should not “complain that Muslim identity is viewed through the prism of the War on Terror and refracted by perceptions of religious extremism.”

For Casey, and Gove, if a Muslim chooses to wear traditional attire, then she should accept the consequence: being discriminatorily treated like a pariah, and subjected to the interrogation of the private spheres of her home.

Deformation of Islam

Practically all aspects relevant to the daily lives of Muslims are patronisingly characterised as “regressive” and “extremist” in one shape or form.  This culturalist assault on Islam, serving a distinct purpose, reveals its true purpose.  In Casey’s own words:

“The idea of a modern British understanding of Islam is also advanced by Dilwar Hussein, founder of New Horizons in British Islam, who argues that the Qur’an should be interpreted for modern times and modern values. Past attempts to contextualise Islam in Britain have been fraught with difficulty and have not made sufficient progress but we think there is strong merit in these being pursued with more vigour by Muslim leaders and communities.

Unsurprisingly, beneath the rather thin veneer of “integration” lies an insidious assimilation project coercing the deformation of Islam. In doing so, by Casey’s own logic, she adopts the far-right narrative on Islam and effectively categorises more than half the British public as far-right extremists. She states that “Islamist” and far right groups advocate the message that Islam and the West are incompatible.[12] Yet the above analysis shows that she believes orthodox Islam is not only incompatible with her totalitarian, nationalist vision of Britain, but also needs changing. Furthermore, Casey cites a YouGov poll on religion which shows that 55% of British adults agreed that there is a fundamental clash between Islam and the values of British society.[13] Given Casey’s aggressiveness in challenging “extremism”, these statistics should have been apoplectic for her, however, as expected they does not convulse any integration or social cohesion “concerns” from Casey.

Recalling Professor Bonilla-Silva’s words, that colour-blind racism “means whites can express their resentment toward minorities; criticize their morality, and work ethic”, Casey’s focus on Muslims, their practices and their morality oozes colour-blind racism. The Review itself cites studies which associate a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment to “a perceived or symbolic threat of conflict between Muslim and British/Western culture” and “fear and anxiety”.[14] Through the affirmation of irrational suspicion of Muslim dresses and mosques which is simply not applied to other minorities, compounded further by her frivolous attacks on Islamic beliefs and practices, Casey effectively endorses the rise of anti-Muslim sentiment. The Casey Review represent the next, incredibly totalitarian step towards officially cultivating political Islamophobia.

The putrid combination of calling for a deformation of Islam and coaxing political Islamophobia sends a clear message to Muslims: we don’t want to see Islam, we don’t want strong Muslim communities, and we don’t want Muslims to practice their faith so publicly.

Minority Rights Implications

Whilst urging respect for the notion of freedom and equality, the fact remains that the very constitution of the Casey Review runs roughshod over rights and in particular the rights of minorities, demonstrating the extreme hypocrisy of Casey, her appointer former Prime Minister David Cameron and neoconservatives who have happily contributed to the demonisation of the Muslim minority. Discrimination or state interference on the basis of religious beliefs and thought contravenes established international legal treaties and several articles.[15] Both Casey, a state official, and David Cameron have actively urged the interference with Islamic beliefs by officially adopting a position to encourage a deformation of Islam. Further, Casey, as exemplified above has attacked Islamic views held by Muslims as a matter of policy. This implies discriminatory treatment against adherents of orthodox Islam, thus potentially constituting “incitement to discrimination” as per Article 20(2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The concerted effort to erode the Muslim identity and coercively modify beliefs through the active integration/assimilation discourse also runs counter to international minority norms. Article 27 of the ICCPR states,

In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

Those monitories which wish to maintain their distinctiveness through the language, culture and religion and avoid assimilation were categorised by famous legist Jean Laponce as “minorities by will”.[16] They also tend to attract more state persecution.  It is for this reason that States should protect and encourage minority identity. Article 1(1) of the United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 47/135 reinforces Article 27 of the ICCPR in the following terms:

States shall protect the existence and the national or ethnic, cultural, religious and linguistic identity of minorities within their respective territories and shall encourage conditions for the promotion of that identity.

It is also worth briefly mentioning the recommendations made by the Sixth session of the Forum on Minority Issues (authorised by the UN Human Rights Commission).[17] It urges states to encourage “education which counters negative stereotypes and myths about faith groups” whilst “promoting plurality”. It further adds,

“States should ensure that anti-terrorism legislation and policies and their application do not lead to negative consequences for members of religious groups, in particular as a result of religious profiling…”

Casey’s discriminatory focus on the Muslim minority, coupled with stigmatisation based on religious beliefs and promotion of conspiracy theories regarding Muslims, is the anti-thesis of international minority norms.

Concluding Remarks

Social contact theories which underpin the Review’s draconian call to increase social integration have legitimacy in an ideal situation where one particular community is not subjected to a barrage of biased, negative media portrayals, policies of persecution like PREVENT, demagoguery by anti-Muslim politicians and racist “Reviews” authored by neocon civil servants perpetuating white supremacist, far-right narratives about Muslims. However, the reality is different. These aspects are played down, and highlighting policies of persecution is rendered constitutive and sui generis to the “Islamist grievance” narrative.  However, it is precisely the sort of propaganda, demagoguery and demonisation presented in the Casey Review which contravenes established minority rights norms.  If the ideas promoted in the Review are ignored or left unchallenged, no amount of reconfiguration of Muslim thought, practices and even buildings can avoid a frightful outcome. As Jahanghir Mohammed has eloquently stated in his brilliant piece on the Casey Review,

“The Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s are perhaps the model that some policy makers may desire. White Muslims, with Westernised names, dress codes and dietary habits and 60% inter-marriage rates between Muslims and Serbs, with 500 years of co-existence. Yet the Muslims were on the end of genocide fuelled by the rising tide of nationalism, anti-Muslim rhetoric and myths about Islamic extremism.

On the eve of the Nazi takeover, Jews had already undergone the Haskalah, or “Enlightenment”, and were completely assimilated into German society. The effect of assimilation had the opposite effect of what the Casey Review suggests.  It exasperated anti-Semitism and the hatred continued. Pertinently, it not avert the Final Solution.


References:

[1] Casey Review – https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/575973/The_Casey_Review_Report.pdf

Ibid. Para. 4.17

[2] Ibid. Para. 5.8

[3] Ibid p.63

[4] Ibid. Para. 1.51

[5] Ibid. Para. 6.48

[6] Ibid. Para. 7.17

[7] Ibid. Para.8.31

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid. Para.9.32

[10] Ibid. Para. 8.31

[11] Ibid. Para. 8.32

[12] Ibid. Para. 9.26

[13] Ibid. Para. 5.17

[14] Ibid. Para 9.9

[15] E.g. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art.2, Art.18, Art.19. These are treated as jus cogens norms of international law.

International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Art.18, Art.19, Art.20(2),

[16] J. A. Laponce, The Protection of Minorities, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1960, pp.12-13

[17] “Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities”, A/HRC/FMI/2013/3, 26–27, November 2013

 

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One thought on “A Review of the Louise Casey Review (4) – The Deformation of Islam and Minority Rights

  1. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “As Jahanghir Mohammed has eloquently stated in his brilliant piece on the Casey Review,

    “The Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s are perhaps the model that some policy makers may desire. White Muslims, with Westernised names, dress codes and dietary habits and 60% inter-marriage rates between Muslims and Serbs, with 500 years of co-existence. Yet the Muslims were on the end of genocide fuelled by the rising tide of nationalism, anti-Muslim rhetoric and myths about Islamic extremism.”

    On the eve of the Nazi takeover, Jews had already undergone the Haskalah, or “Enlightenment”, and were completely assimilated into German society. The effect of assimilation had the opposite effect of what the Casey Review suggests. It exasperated anti-Semitism and the hatred continued. Pertinently, it not avert the Final Solution.”

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