The racism of the respectable


To be a racist in Britain, you do not need to cover yourself in tattoos and join a neo-Nazi party. You can wear well-made shirts, open at the neck, appreciate fine wines and vote Left at election time.

Odd though it may seem to older readers, the Crown Prosecution Service now regards itself as a liberal organ of the state. This week it is making a great play of its success in deterring violence against women. Its lawyers brought 91,000 domestic violence prosecutions last year and secured 67,000 convictions. As I have mentioned in this space before, many criminologists believe that the willingness, not just of prosecutors and the police but of wider society, to take violence against women and children seriously explains the welcome fall in homicide rate. But officialdom’s concern for abused women is strictly colour coded. The CPS will defend women’s rights, but only the rights of white women. Girls with black or brown skins can go hang — or, rather go have their genitalia cut to pieces.

In a report for BBC Newsnight , Sue Lloyd Roberts investigated what euphemists call ‘female circumcision’. I have sympathy with the German court which said that male circumcision was an assault on boys unable to give informed consent, that no rabbi or imam parroting the dictates of Judaism or Islam could excuse. But the female and male versions of ‘circumcision’ are not comparable. Twenty thousand British girls, mainly the daughters of immigrants from Africa, are at risk of what the World Health Organisation calls Type III ‘infibulation’. Their mothers or grandmothers, or maybe an iman or some other variety of priest or ‘traditional healer’ cut off the inner and outer labia and clitoris with scissors or a knife. They tie together the girl’s legs for a month so that the labial tissue bonds. It forms a wall of flesh and skin across the vulva, leaving only a hole the size of a matchstick. Sexual intercourse and childbirth, and the passage of urine and menstrual blood become incredibly painful.

Beyond continuing a barbaric tradition, and one should never underestimate the appeal of doing what has always been done, FGM ensures that women remain the property of men. The bridegroom can be certain his bride is a virgin, and have some confidence that she will not sleep around, because the second object of the exercise is to reduce the woman’s libido.

Written By: Nick Cohen
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  1. Excellent article. Nick Cohen has rightly targeted the thinly veiled hypocrisy and double standards at work in the non-application of the law on fgm.

    Something that I think has been spotlit here in the past; sadly to no apparent effect.

  2. Spot on Mr Cohen! It’s not just FGM though, in Britain there are far too many people turning a blind eye to Muslims breaking the law in general out of fear of being racist. And as a lefty myself, I can’t stand to hear other lefties say that we have to tolerate this out of respect for multiculturalism. The fact that some of these people would destroy multiculturalism overnight given half the chance seems to be irrelevant

  3. True indeed. How many Hindu temples in the west (UK, US, Europe) have female priests? Or how many Hindu temples in the west (UK, US, Europe) have people of lower caste origin as priests? These are essential questions that have to be asked by the society. These are not racist questions at all. If we want to live in an egalitarian society, we need to mock these misogynistic and racist(casteist) practices.

  4. I’m assuming that if the UK began to prosecute these cases, the parents would be reluctant to bring their girls in for medical help. Since infections and other complications must be very common, this could lead to the death of the girls. 
    I’m not sure what the solution is, but it needs to be well thought. To start, we need more  public awareness and more outrage. I think most people assume this is a small issue in another part of the world. Even if that was the case, it deserves the attention of the Western media.

  5.  Multiculturalism became a buzzword for them, they never thought about it and what it actually means. It’s a lot like religion in that way.

  6. I was circumcised, and I admit, it was done in the Jewish tradition. I was held down, had my penis cut (at least by someone who had done it a zillion times before), and then while I allowed to sleep, everyone celebrated with coffee and cake. I confess, I don’t harbor any ill will towards anyone, nor do my three sons, who had it done to them (but I didn’t look down) and now wonder whoinhell really thought of this and why? But we did have great dessert and coffee after.

  7. Relativism is not racist. Racism is a conviction that there are races of humans, and that some of these races are better than others in all significant respects and as groups. Relativism does not allow for actual convictions. It’s a layer of intellectual sludge that prevents the examination of one’s own beliefs or other peoples’. 

    In practice racism is a thin veil over instinctual tribalism based on appearance. However, there are other ways this can manifest. It’s misleading to lump it all together as racism. Racism has a particular set of stories associated with it. If the impulse comes from another set of stories, it needs a different name, perhaps one that collects it together with racism, xenophobia and so on.

    Don’t confuse multiculturalism with relativism, either. That’s (at its best) about blending and development of cultures, often in a direction differing from the west, sometimes in a way that feeds back to the country of origin, sometimes in fundamental contradiction to western convention– this is not necessarily bad. Only through irrational nationalism could one conclude one’s culture is flawless or superior in every respect when compared to every part of all others.

    Relativism originated as a tool of empire… . It did not come out of the left– it is something parts of the left (and libertarian right) have been suckered into accepting. Nor is it integral to leftist thinking. It’s largely independent of it and could be removed with little impact. We’d all do better without it, except in the very mildest form (i.e. that it’s important to be aware that you have your own, possibly near imperceptible, irrational beliefs that originate from your culture).

    I think the myth of PC has a lot to answer for. I don’t mean that PC doesn’t exist at all, or even that OTT PC doesn’t exist. I mean that there is a mythical version of PC created by the creative writers at places like the Mail (and Spectator, in a different way) that people feel they must adhere to, or be subject to punishment. They see real PC being enforced (no goosing female colleagues, no calling the Indian guy “Ali” unless that’s his name or he asks you to, etc) and develop the idea that they are living in some kind of Big Brother state (CCTV aside) which will punish them for thinking anything negative about any member of an ethnic minority or woman.

    This paranoid and contemptuous view leads to overcompensation and excessive caution rather than the engagement that would create a more realistic view. Something similar happens with the “Health and Safety” boogie man: the actions of the Mail reading head-teacher who in an attempt at satire set up his class with goggles and gloves to play conkers have been described as a real example, for instance. People then excuse their own cotton-wadding of kids as something imposed externally. God wanted it so, health and safety wanted it so, PC wanted it so. What’s the difference?

  8. Vote Left (sic) at an election, Mr Cohen?


    His fellow liberals may disappoint him; particularly given his support for recent middle eastern wars but I fail to see how “Vote Left” is justified.

    The mutilation of young girls is, of course, disgusting.


  9. So are you saying there are no left wing candidates, or that voting for any such is unconscionable?

  10.  ” But the female and male versions of ‘circumcision’ are not comparable. “

    An understatement that some people can not get their heads around.

  11.  Nevertheless male circumcision should also be regarded a crime. Its is unwarranted mutilation. Those who perform it should be prosecuted as well as the responsible parents.  

  12. I watched the edition of Newsnight and it was indeed disgusting to see how our invertebrate politicians make all kinds of pathetic excuses for their lack of backbone.The Tory Minister Lynne Featherstone machinegunned her own feet when she said that as the Tories had only been in power for 2 years so she was not to blame.What she could not answer was the fact that this barbaric practice has been against the law in the U.K.since 1985 when the Tories were in power! In 27 years there has not been ONE prosecution let alone a conviction.Surely we all remmeber the recent cases of ‘baby P’ and Victoria Climbie: children who were basically beaten to death because social workers were too timid to do anything.Of course we were told that lots of new initiatives and training had taken place to ensure nothing like that would happen again.IF ANYONE IS SUSPECTED OF ABUSING THEIR CHILDREN IN THIS WAY GO AND KICK THEIR FUCKING FRONT DOOR DOWN THE SAME WAY YOU WOULD IF YOU THOUGHT THEY HAD 10 QUIDS WORTH OF DRUGS! GET SOME FUCKING BACKBONE AND CONSIDER THE HUMAN RIGHTS OF THE CHILDREN!

  13.  Perhaps the UK could take France’s lead. Cynically, I think this is political. Don’t Muslims own more than half of Britain at this point?

  14. “…too many people turning a blind eye to Muslims breaking the law in general out of fear of being racist.”

    When the assholes prove that Asshole is a race, then they can call their critics racist.

  15. Don’t boys and girls have to undergo health screening before school?

    That should straiten this out and quick.

  16. The definition of the word
    “racism” has become way too broad in recent years, to the point where
    it has become meaningless, and, even worse, counterproductive.

    Laughing at Africans, insisting
    that they all have wide, flat noses, thick lips and watermelon smiles, and
    should be ridiculed for it, is manifestly, for want of a better word, racist.

    On the other hand. insulting, Somalis, and other Africans, who would slice the labia of
    young girls, with slithers of broken glass or rusty razor blade, and stitch up
    what remains, all without anaesthetic, as being primitive, superstitious animals,
    is not racist. Insulting, or ridiculing, Muslim beliefs as being backward, misogynistic,
    violent and wrong, is not racist; however, targeting brown people for being
    brown is.

    Of course, beliefs and cultural practices are often
    inseparable from the people themselves, so non-racial insult and ridicule can
    go too far, and become just as ugly; however, this should be properly labelled
    as gross intolerance.

    The conflation of the, never excusable, racism with, occasionally
    justifiable, cultural insensitivity, coupled with the concept of cultural
    relativism, both stymies those who would protect the vulnerable and protects
    those who would mask their racist agendas behind milder forms of protest.

    Incoherent rant, over.

  17. Superb article from Nick Cohen – well said that man ! – here is a link to part 1 of the BBC Newsnight mini-documentary ;… – successive governments of both Labour and Conservative (and coalition) have ignored this child abuse in a most cowardly and craven fashion, every so often one of the few journalists with the integrity to ride above the pc morass their profession is in covers the issue and there is public interest in this…..but then it is skillfully kicked into the long grass and the child torture goes on….. what is to be done to force politicians.police,social services etc to do the job the taxpayers pays them to do ?
    Commander Simon Foy’s weasel words were the most supine and nonsensical I’ve heard in ages…your’e head of the Child Protection Unit – do your bloody job and protect children without fear nor favour !

  18.  Sorry for the delay in replying, Person

    No left wing candidates – or at least very few.


  19. Here’s the problem: If you arrest everyone associated with this barbaric practice, you’ll end up with 100,000+ new prisoners you need to find jail cells for, and 100,000+ new orphans you need to find homes for. And if you do decide to suddenly pay attention to this, you will also notice several other issues that which you had been blissfully ignoring up until then, several of which come with similar numbers attached.

    The former is not a simple problem. Bringing it up is not racism. And failing to recognise it, or pretending it doesn’t exist, is not a sign of great intelligence.

    Traditionally, when we encounter a group of people who are inhuman towards another group, and are completely unwilling to change their ways, we either wait for them to change slowly, or we beat civilisation into them until they learn to say, “Please sir, can I have some more,” and mean it.

    We’ve tried the first one, and it hasn’t worked so far. Given that appropiet jail sentences seems impractical, perhaps it’s time we try some varient on the latter option.

  20. As I’ve said many times the Muslim culture presents satirical writers with enough material to make endless TV shows demeaning their culture of barbarism and hopefully imparting shame.
    It is the politically correct a-holes who prevent this and so much so that they themselves should be part of the ridicule.
    Islamophobia is an absurd word; there is a confusion of hate with scorn.

  21. No prosecutions for mutilations we know are happening is a horrible moral blot for Britain. MP’s need to hear our dismay and demand justice for women and girls.
    Nick wrote well. He only shouldn’t have banged the ‘you can’t compare’ drum. On this he’s ignorant. Mutilation is mutilation and affects all genders. Some boys fare far worse than some girls and that misses the core, moral point. No child, whatever gender, should have knives taken to genitals without therapeutic need. An idea so simple and yet so conditional to some people: just how much mutilation IS acceptable to us? Nick has no idea of just how harmed potentially milliions of boys and men are from their mutilations around the world.
    When we segregate children’s fundamental rights into ‘boy’ and ‘girl’ and claim that only ‘girls” bodies should be protected from mutilation- that’s sexism. Akin to ‘rights segregation’. Shame he does’nt pick up on that.

  22.  Yeah, but how would you feel if they cut your whole penis off.  That is closer to what they are doing to these girls.  I disagree with male circumcision for the same reasons I disagree with female circumcision but the two are not comparable in pain or trauma inflicted.

  23. Multiculturalism is entirely….100%….to blame for these scandals.  The minute you start arguing that every sordid, poxy, mysoginistic little culture is ‘equal’ to fine liberal values… effectively demolish the entire basis for the existence of fine liberal values ! I am not hopeful that the morons in power will grasp this before it is too late.

  24. This is why! They’re afraid of being thought of as holding your views: i.e. racist.

    It appears France has set up a framework to prevent FGM and to investigate and prosecute violations. It’s been integrated into their child protection, law enforcement and health care systems for children and women. Rather than cynically claiming “teh moolems are tekin ovah!1!” and shrugging when children are torured and mutilated, they have been working to protect the very people who suffer most from misogynistic practices, however and wherever they originated.

  25. Just because you and your kids are accepting of this, does not mean it’s not a violation of a child’s right to bodily integrity (and right to choose his/her religion). As to the former: you only have to replace “circumcise” with “slice off a piece of a child’s genitalia for no medical reason and then have a party to celebrate the child’s permanent scarring” or replace “genitalia” with “ears” or “nose” or “eyelids” to see how hideous this practice is!


    Of course, beliefs and cultural practices are often inseparable from the people themselves.

    I’m not sure what you meant by this.  Dogmas, traditions and ceremonies are certainly used by some politicians (particularly priesthoods) to corral people into a pen they call a culture.  However, we make it more difficult for ourselves if we play the political game by their rules.

    One of the founding principles of liberalism – so fundamental that it is often overlooked – is that people can change their minds about what is important.  This is the triumph of liberal thought from the Enlightenment; People can be individuals and the State will function all the better for recognising that.

    Non-racial insult and ridicule can go too far, and become just as ugly; however, this should be properly labelled as gross intolerance.

    I don’t agree.  It is often imperative that we ridicule and insult – or the message that the thing being ridiculed is bad will not get through, and minds will remain unchanged.

    I wish that there were a volume knob on free speech: 1 to 10 on the scale of ridicule is okay, but 11 is too far.  History shows us that there is no such thing.  Attempts to limit free speech always end badly.  We are in the situation now where we do not have free speech – and therefore the truth about female genital mutilation is told only in small places, out of the public eye.

    Intolerance is societies’ motivation.  It may be coupled to dogma and be used drive change that is regressive – as with hate speech laws – or it may be coupled to liberal – democratic – debate and progressive.


  27. Political Correctness is a Marxist tool.

    Cultural Relativism is the  ultimate expression of poltical correctness.

    Even the well known socialist author George Orwell understood this, as we see in his celebrated book 1984 which included his astonishingly prescient essay on what he called newspeak.

    In 1984 I heard people saying that none of Orwell’s predictions came true by 1984.  I look at Newspeak, and I wonder …

  28. But what do we have to do to turn talk into action?

    I have spoken to local politicians in my area about female genital mutilation.  They express horror, but take it no further.

    How to explain their apparent reluctance to act?

    Although speech is increasingly limited in Britain, and that is part of the problem, I don’t think that it is the main problem in this instance.

    The main problem has to do with the semi-professional nature of modern politics.  Politicians see being in power as a stepping stone to either more power, or a well paid job elsewhere.

    In order to brush-up one’s C.V. (or Résumé) one needs positive stories to tell and, above all, one needs successes.

    Opposing female genital mutilation is, by its very nature, a nasty brutish subject that requires we get into cultural and medical details.  Both these subjects are minefields for  politicians.  Witness the difficulties over HPV, and national debates over ‘universal’ healthcare services.  Culture is no easier.  Where organised religions identify with a group they press for action when they think their turf is trespassed upon – the Sikhs of Birmingham in 2004 (Google: play Behzti) are now forgotten but that incident shows just how incendiary apparently innocent and benign commentary can be.

    The possibility of success seems restricted, the fight will be tough and hard work, and the post-win pickings are slim.

    Without the political will, and with plenty to do already, the police sit on their hands.  The last Labour government saddled them with a specific law – but no resources, and no political backup.  A great way to slope shoulders and apparently hand the problem to someone else – without actually doing anything.

    Schools are not set up to get involved – and in any case are centres of cultural relativism.

    A simple way to address this problem would be medical inspections of children, and training and support for doctors and young teenage girls (Did you know you can visit your Doctor without telling your Mother?).  That would cost money and politicians would probably have to assume that only a blanket service for all children would be acceptable to the small minorities involved – and their political allies.  Lots of money then …

    Nick Cohen’s piece will hopefully prick a few consciences – but the media need to get behind this in a far bigger way if we are to make any progress and sign up some politicians.


  29. All we can do is to keep reminding everyone about this running sore of an issue. Not to let it rest until action is being taken to put a stop to the practice. UK law may not be respected by many Muslims, but they do not like shame or humiliation. Try then to keep prodding and publicly accusing the guilty communities.

    The police seem to require a similar campaign of sharp reminders.Only thus can we hope to break down the aura of phony victimhood and fake sanctity that shields Muslim communities. Harsh criticism is in order, but still too few are willing to say it to the poor dears for fear of being called racist. It’s time to end that nonsense for good.

  30.  Except these people are Child Abusers. Once the public sees them that way, you will not be allowed to stop at ‘just a few well publicised cases’. Starting a witch hunt is a very real concern, especially when the witches are actually real this time – and have ‘cultural relatives’ who are important trading partners and/or have nuclear weapons.

    This is to say nothing of adding those 100,000 names to the child abuser registers, and then not getting any tax revenue from these people ever again, because no one will want to hire them.

    I’m not saying that it isn’t an important issue. It is. When I said beating I meant literally. With a big stick. Possibly something involving car batteries. At this level of crime I will quite happily endorse corporal punishment. But you can’t simply ignore the consiquences of acting. Or dismiss such concerns as racism, as Mr Cohen seems to have done.

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