The Left must reject the relativism at the heart of the Rotherham scandal

Al Razi from Ex-Muslims Forum points out that the Rotherham scandal must force the hand of the British Left to reject cultural and moral relativism

Al Razi from Ex-Muslims Forum points out that the Rotherham scandal must force the hand of the British Left to reject cultural and moral relativism 

The report over child abuse in Rotherham is horrific. Amongst the many things we must learn from it is that a certain type of communal identity politics multiculturalism that inhibits addressing social problems must be opposed by the Left. The details are shocking:

“Jahangir Akhtar, the former deputy leader of the council, is accused in the report of naivety and potentially “ignoring a politically inconvenient truth” by insisting there was not a deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls. Police told the inquiry that some influential Pakistani councillors in Rotherham acted as barriers to communication on grooming issues.”

The report found:

“There was too much reliance by agencies on traditional community leaders such as elected members and imams as being the primary conduit of communication with the Pakistani-heritage community.”

“In 2010 the Rotherham Advertiser reported on how the council spent £300,000 a year on its ‘diversity team’.”

Whilst this kind of expenditure may be good intentioned, we must ask if ideological multiculturalism as a political, social policy leads to a situation in which a cover up of uncomfortable issues becomes inevitable. When this happens, suffering and abuse occurs, and rather than dealing boldly with it, what results is a pattern of denial, obfuscation and continuance.

Multiculturalism concerned exclusively with communal religious identity politics, pursued as a social policy, is deeply reactionary and leads to the oppression of women who feel its effect most acutely. It dehumanises us all, because it asserts that we are not individuals, but members of religious or ethnic groups who must be dealt with according to the mediated authority of ‘community leaders’. It creates inhibitions from confronting social attitudes that must be addressed urgently, and in doing so, it allows social problems to flourish.

In this case, it led to 1400 girls being sexually abused for a prolonged period of time, because of a warped sensibility of identity politics and multiculturalism.

The logic of communal religious identity politics leads to worsened social cohesion. By covering up problems they fester, and when they come to light eventually, institutions are corrupted and trust in wider society damaged.

Amartya Sen, the Nobel prize winning economist, discussed how reactionary and damaging British forms of multiculturalism as a social policy have been, thus:

“I am not opposed to multiculturalism … But I am opposed to the way it has been interpreted. There are two basically distinct approaches to multiculturalism. One concentrates on the promotion of diversity as a value in itself. The other focuses on the freedom of reasoning and decision-making, and celebrates cultural diversity to the extent that it is freely chosen. The way that British authorities have interpreted multiculturalism has very much undermined individual freedom. A British Muslim is not asked to act within the civil society or the political arena but as a Muslim. His British identity has to be mediated by his community.”

A further danger is that this kind of policy and practise leads to a counter-reaction, and the far-right begins to mimic the rhetoric and ‘logic’ of communalist identity politics. It therefore separates people, rather than uniting us as a society.

But it is in the realm of women’s rights that multiculturalism, of the communalist identity politics variety, is most reactionary as a force for oppressiveness. In the past this has mainly been because of issues like honour / shame violence, oppression, and forced marriage. In the case of Rotherham it meant that girls being abused in a systematic way had their suffering prolonged because of the inverted priorities and instincts within civicl institutions.

In 2008 Pragna Patel of the Southall Black Sisters wrote about the catastrophic effects of communal religious identity politics on women’s rights, and the need for the Left to defend the secular space. Six years on, we are still engaged in this struggle.

“The result is a shift from a ‘multicultural’ to a ‘multi-faith’ society: one in which civil society is actively encouraged to organise around exclusive religious identities, and religious bodies are encouraged to take over spaces once occupied by progressive secular groups and, indeed, by a secular welfare state.

In the process, a complex web of social, political and cultural processes are reduced by both state and community leaders into purely religious values, while concepts of human rights, equality and discrimination are turned on their head.

The problem with the state accommodation of religion – even so called moderate religious leaderships – is that they work against and not for equality and justice.”

The taboos that this form of communalist identity politics engender lead to the perpetuation of reactionary attitudes and effects. The damage it can do to our social fabric, trust, and individual freedoms is an attack on everything that the Left should be defending.

The time has come for the British Left to actively defend the secular space and oppose the assumptions and practise of reactionary communalist identity politics as a social policy, and truly cosmopolitan values that reject cultural and moral relativism must be central to our movement.

Al Razi is a member of the Ex-Muslims Forum

Like this article? Left Foot Forward relies on support from readers to sustain our progressive journalism. Can you become a supporter for £5 a month?

60 Responses to “The Left must reject the relativism at the heart of the Rotherham scandal”

  1. Reconstruct

    There may be no-one ‘above the law’, but it’s pretty clear that there’s a whole strata of white working class youth who are ‘below the law’.

    Those who turned a blind eye need to be prosecuted as accessories before and after multiple child rapes. Only when individuals are held accountable for their aiding and abetting crimes like this – over decades – will the truth sink in.

  2. Reconstruct

    Seriously, you blame de-funding for these decades of mass child-rape?

    Seriously, you think the institutions which turned a blind eye for so long to this grotesque crime-wave should be given more public money?

    The only public money I’d be prepared to spend on them are fees for prosecution lawyers and subsequently jailers.

  3. Reconstruct

    As someone said, they were ‘below the law.’ The shame is crucifying.

  4. GO

    Sure – I’m not saying that sort of argument is never made, just that (as far as I know) it’s not been made in relation to cases of white British girls being sexually exploited by men of Pakistani heritage. And plainly “the idea that children have fewer rights if they’re born into cultures which give them fewer rights” is not relevant here, as it plausibly is in the cases of FGM and forced marriages, since the victims in this case were not born into such a culture. If you were going to make a relativist argument for tolerating this behaviour, it would have to be based not on the victims having *fewer* rights than white Western girls (they *were* white Western girls), but on the perpetrators having *more* rights than white Western men. And as far as I know, no-one has tried to make such an argument.

  5. CEMB_forum

    due to formatting errors some links are not working with this article, so I’ll post them here in the comments.

    The reference to £300,000 spent a year on a ‘diversity team’ is here:

    The link to the interview with Amartya Sen is here:

    And the New Statesman article by Pragna Patel is here:

  6. Lydia Robinson

    Tell this to the apologists at the Guardian.

  7. guest

    and do you think a little bit of lip service from a muslim labourite is going to take the heat of his fellow muslims and labour supporters…….naahhh….this is hopefully going to lead to the destruction of the labour party and its anti white pro multi cultural mantra.we the majority will now hopefully be pushed over into taking action along the line of when the drug pusher was shot by the police or when the muslims rioted in oldham.we need to punish the whole muslim community for their and collusion of the rapes.and dont start mouthing off about muslim girls were groomed aswell…wont wash…just lies to lessen the horror…and dont say it wasn’t islam…it was and the imans in the mosques told the groomers it was ok to rape little non muslim girls..but back to labour and their part in colluding..denying and destroying evidence..will we ever see anyone punished,i doubt it…the police have said sorry..but certain officers and cheifs in that organisation need investigating and removing from their posts…same for all council employees involved in the cover up/denial….all in all it proves my utter hatred for the muslims and labour traitors was/is not wasted…UKIP are an ok choice……the NAZIS would be better….

  8. Rod McLaughlin

    This is a brave article. But surely it’s a hopeless task, asking the left to reject one of its basic principles, just because it helped paedo rape gangs. The Guardian, UAF, the SWP etc. are in full denial mode. Surely “left foot forward” isn’t able to overcome this. For example, you have to admit that the English Defence League got something right, while the left tried to stop them.

  9. DatBus

    The left is starting to break through some of the denial but I guess this is encouraging, a little. I think it’s far too little too late though.

  10. shaunthebrummie

    never trust or believe a Muslim or ex Muslim……

Leave a Reply