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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gun crime and single parent families, yet again

(an answer to Shuggy's comment on my last post on this topic)

1. Heroic assumptions

You accuse me of not understanding Chris Dillow's methodology. Believe me, I do. The real problem is that you haven't noticed that he's talking out of his bottom.

Let's examine his 'heroic assumptions':-

1. All gun crime is committed by males. Nothing very heroic about that, is there?

2. All gun crime is committed by males who grew up in single parent households. Still not particularly heroic. In my last post I made my own assumption that it is 80%, and as I said that may well be conservative, given the overwhelming concentration of gun crime in communities where single parent families are the norm.

3. 11,084 crimes involving firearms in 2005-6 represent 11,084 criminals. Well clearly this is heroic in the sense that there will have been a lot of individuals who were responsible for more than one of the crimes. On the other hand...

(a) many of the incidents will have involved more than one person


(b) there is massive underreporting of gun crime because victims are too scared to go to the police.

4. Now for the really fatal flaw in Chris's methodology (Danny Finkelstein was indeed on the right track, as Chris acknowledged by ignoring the point). He is taking the number of males in the 16-24 age group - a range of nine years - and comparing the number of crimes committed in one year. So we are not taking account of individuals in this category who had committed gun crimes before 2005-6 but didn't during that year - e.g. because they spent the year in custody. Nor those who didn't commit gun crimes in 2005-6 but have done or will do subsequently.

So let's make some new assumptions. Let's assume that the number of individuals who committed a gun crime for the first time in 2005-6 is just a quarter of the number of reported crimes: 2,771 (since there were 2,365 convictions for indictable firearms offences in 2005 - see table 2.12 here, which unfortunately doesn't say how many were first offences - and since the proportion of offences resulting in a conviction is plainly abysmally low, I don't think this is unreasonable). Let's assume that 80% of them were males who grew up in single parent households: 2,217. Chris estimates 560,000 16-24 year-old men who grew up in lone-mother households. Divide that by 9 so that we're comparing a year's worth with a year's worth: 62,222.
2,217 is 3.56% of 62,222. You may still feel that that is insignificant and you are free to question my assumptions, but Chris's argument for setting 2% as an absolute ceiling lies in ruins, I think.

2. Hoist by his own petard

Chris estimates that 16% of the 16-24 year-olds grew up in lone-mother households. Coincidentally, the Unicef report (table 1.1) estimates that approximately 16% of children in the UK live in relative poverty. So if he has proved that single parent families are an insignificant factor in gun crime, he has also proved that poverty is an insignificant factor in gun crime. I rest my case, m'lud.

3. The evidence

If you choose to believe that, when researchers sit down to design a study of the impact on children of single parent families, it never occurs to them to adjust for income level, the best I can do is to refer you to the Unicef report. And remind you that its author is the founder of the New Internationalist - not exactly a Times-reading blimp, one would suppose. From page 23:

'The use of data on the proportion of children living in single-parent families and stepfamilies as an indicator of wellbeing may seem unfair and insensitive. Plenty of children in two-parent families are damaged by their parents’ relationships; plenty of children in single-parent and stepfamilies are growing up secure and happy. Nor can the terms ‘single-parent families’ and ‘stepfamilies’ do justice to the many different kinds of family unit that have become common in recent decades. But at the statistical level there is evidence to associate growing up in single-parent families and stepfamilies with greater risk to well-being – including a greater risk of dropping out of school, of leaving home early, of poorer health, of low skills, and of low pay. Furthermore such risks appear to persist even when the substantial effect of increased poverty levels in single-parent and stepfamilies have been taken into account [...]'

One senses that if Peter Adamson could find some way of rubbishing this research, he would. But evidently he can't.

Shuggy junior destined for a life of crime? No, of course not. Some reasons why not: 1. Dad's a teacher. 2. He doesn't live in Peckham and won't go to school there. 3. Dad is responsible and caring and spends plenty of time with him. 4. He will have lots of friends from stable families, maybe grandparents, aunts, uncles in stable relationships (the absence of this is what I was trying to get at by talking about a 'multiplier effect'.

So I don't believe there's any need for defensiveness on your part. Who's a perfect parent? I'm not expecting to be one, I assure you. In any case, though, whether there is a problem and whether anybody feels got at when the problem is discussed are obviously two entirely separate questions. And since the first is a matter of life and death in Peckham, the second really does have to take second place. As Mr Adamson acknowledges, sometimes facts are unfair and insensitive beasts.

The headline, the facts

Business as usual at the Indie, i.e. 'never let the facts get in the way of a good headline'...

'Half of Palestinians in West Bank and Gaza malnourished '

Or if you want to be picky, 34% are at risk of malnutrition and a further 12% are at risk of being at risk.

Grim enough in itself, of course. So a quick reminder of those 'ongoing political conditions'. Palestinian living standards nosedived during the terror campaign euphemistically described as the Second Intifada, and again following Hamas' election victory. I didn't need the UN or the Independent to tell me that hunger results from biting the hand that feeds you. If you want to buy food from your neighbours, don't force them to build a fence to stop you murdering their kids.

There always seems to be enough cash to buy guns and rockets, doesn't there?

Join the dots

Neo-Nazis hobnobbing with Islamists who in turn have links with the far left: david t of Harry's Place joins the dots and comes up with a very unattractive picture.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Blogroll latest

Thanks to Mick Hartley for links to a couple of fine pieces by one David Thompson. If you liked this recent post of mine you'll love these.

The Front Line

Martyrs in the war that isn't happening. Tragic.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Gun crime and single parent families: more debate

(continuing Grumpy v. Shuggy from my last post and his comment. He quotes me in italics, his comments are in normal type, mine on his are now in italics in square brackets. Any questions?)

[Thanks for rising to the bait, Shuggy. You'll doubtless not be surprised to learn that I'm not ready to throw in the towel just yet...]

Where to begin?

The point as I take it about the drug laws is not necessarily that they have a huge positive impact on the control of gun crime, but that liberalization would simply be irrelevant.

Do you have any argument or evidence to back this up? I think you'll find that many police officers involved in the front-line in the 'war against drugs' (bit of a PR blunder to be seen to wage war on inanimate objects and lose, don'tcha think?) would agree with my analysis. [No, I have no evidence whatsoever, just a hunch based on certain fundamental assumptions about human nature that if people involved in serious crime see opportunities dwindling in their chosen branch of criminality, they're more likely to move on to a different one than to turn into model citizens. Do you have any evidence to convince me that I'm wrong?] But this is, as you say, a side-issue - so let's move on...

What you're overlooking is that gun crime is just the tip of an iceberg of alienation and underachievement, and yes, pretty much all of it does correlate more or less strongly with single parent families, as not even the leftie Unicef researchers can deny.

I'm not overlooking anything. I probably shouldn't speak for him but my understanding of it is neither Chris Dillow nor myself deny that there are social problems associated with the rise of single-parent families but I'm not happy with this idea that one can with a declaration that gun-crime is the 'tip of an iceberg' conflate a whole load of social problems that are not necessarily related to each other. This is merely to insist that one thing is not another thing: gun-crime is gun-crime; underachievement is underachievement. While I have no doubt that these are related, they are two distinct social phenomenon and I think this is something you have overlooked.

You say, "I take the point that the total amount of gun crime is small in proportion to the number of single parent families." I'm not sure you've taken the point at all. Can I encourage you to re-read Chris's two posts on this topic? It's not just that the proportion is small - it is statistically insignificant. As he said, "So, at least 98% of men from single-mother households don't become gun criminals. It would be odd to say that x causes y when over 98% of xs don't cause y." Someone made the analogous point that while the proportion of those breaking their legs through skiing is statistically small, there can be no doubt that skiing is a cause of broken legs. But the proportion is so small it holds that skiing is still a reasonable thing to do. So it is with single-parenthood and gun-crime. There may be other reasons why it is a bad idea but that is a different matter.

[I've re-read Chris's posts. Still not impressed.

1. Obviously if a phenomenon has more than one cause you don't expect to find a 100% correlation with any one of them. That doesn't mean you can arbitrarily ignore the ones you find uncongenial.

2. You think 2% is insignificant? It might not deter you from skiing, but broken legs usually heal. How would you feel about being prescribed a drug that had a 2% chance of killing you? Most smokers live to a ripe old age. Is smoking therefore safe? Most drink drivers get home in one piece. And so on.

3. Another way at looking at the stats is that if one in six males in the 16-24 age group grew up in single mother households and if 80% of gun crime is committed by males in this category (which could well be a conservative estimate,), an individual member of this category is at least 25 times more likely to commit gun crime than a male in the same age group who grew up in a two parent household. And that's before we factor in the next two points. Insignificant?

4. You haven't acknowledged my point about the multiplier effect of whole communities where single parenthood has become the norm.

5. Chris lumps all single parent families together. But UK gun crime evidently correlates most strongly, by far, with single parenthood in its most toxic form, i.e. where the father plays no role whatsoever beyond the provision of semen.

6. Re complex causality: it seems to me entirely logical to suggest that family breakdown promotes gun crime both directly (absence of positive male role model) and indirectly via underachievement (no job, plenty of time to hang out with the gang). And I hope we can agree that underachievement is a bad thing in its own right.]

Doesn't international comparison illustrate the nonsense of all this? You might take the case of the United States as reinforcing your argument as they have a much higher gun crime rate than we do - and they also have a higher rate of family breakdown. But the level of gun deaths in the US is so much higher that the UK that family structure cannot account for the difference. Then there's the case of Italy which has a higher level of gun crime than the UK but whose family structure is more stable. Or you could take Denmark which has roughly the same proportion of children living in single parent families as we do but which records lower levels of crime across the board, not just gun crime. Do we really have to factor in the Middle East before you acknowledge, at the very least, that there maybe one or two other variables you have failed to take into account?

[OK, let's do international comparisons...

1. US: strong correlation, surely, with communities where family breakdown has been entrenched for much longer than anywhere in the UK. Clearly there are other factors involved - in case I haven't made the point clearly enough, I'm not seeking to deny that.

2. Italy: family structures are indeed more stable, and Italy duly came out top in the Unicef report in terms of children's experience of family life. That in itself is a correlation worth taking seriously, is it not?

Agreed, Italian gun crime can't be associated with single parent families. But it does strongly confirm the role of cultural norms and the family. As opposed to purely economic causation: Sicily is poor, but not uniquely so by European standards. Clearly some Sicilian patriarchs provide very strong but negative role models. But the disappearing fathers of Peckham can never be anything other than negative role models.

3. Denmark: I plead ignorance, but it seems I may not be alone. In the Unicef report the section on single parent families notes (p. 23) that little research has been done outside the US and UK. As with the US you've only demonstrated that there are other factors affecting overall crime levels, which I'm not disputing. Would Danish crime levels be even lower if there were fewer single parent families? We'll have to wait until the Danes do some research.]

Then there's this - It has to be possible to discuss all this without being accused of stigmatising those who are single parents more through misfortune than by choice.

We live in a society where contraception is freely available. Those who elect to create single parent families have exercised their power to choose. It is, of course, their children who are truly powerless.

Contradictory set here, no?

[Contradictory in what way? You've maybe misunderstood the distinction drawn in the first quote, which is between single parent families created as a result of the breakdown of what was intended to be a permanent relationship, and those created deliberately. And then I say that in the latter case a choice has been exercised. Where's the problem?]

Let me close with this:

'Insofar as it focuses upon single parents, the stupid party therefore acts like a bully, attacking the vulnerable whilst cringing towards power'. I don't hold any brief for the Tories (I've never voted for them either), but this is just emotional manipulation.

I can only reiterate my support for what Chris wrote here. The stupid party did indeed show themselves to be a bully with their back to basics campaign - and recent evidence would suggest they haven't changed. They had, and have, nothing to say against those who hold real power in our society, preferring instead the usual targets - those who failed to get on their bikes; the mythical 'trendy teachers'; those whose unemployment was a price worth paying to reduce inflation; immigrants and 'bogus asylum seekers; those who were ruining society with their reckless breeding... I believe I hate them for this. I certainly feel emotional about this but is it really the case that I hold the power to 'manipulate' anyone? I think not.

[Again, no brief for the Tories, and I'm not going to be diverted into any of the other issues in your catalogue of Tory crimes, but you seem here to be virtually declaring as a matter of principle that you are not interested in any evidence that poor people's problems are partially of their own making. I've suggested that people who elect to create single parent families may be exercising a rather significant degree of power to harm their children (with the implication that those who have it in their power to influence them should try to dissuade rather than persuade or acquiesce); your response is that this is not 'real power'. What, precisely, is unreal about it?

There have been some signs in the media reaction to the Peckham killings that we're moving on a bit from the kneejerk dismissal by 'progressive' opinion of any problem that the Tories talk about. I welcome that; the alternative is, after all, pretty stupid.]

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Gun crime and single parent families: a challenge

(in response to this post)

Dear Shuggy,

All through Britain's liberal media over the past couple of days a rhythmic chinking of pennies dropping has been heard. It's disappointing to see as perceptive a blogger as you stuck in the ostrich position.

To take a side issue first. The point as I take it about the drug laws is not necessarily that they have a huge positive impact on the control of gun crime, but that liberalization would simply be irrelevant. If the bottom falls out of the drug market because smackheads can get their stuff from the local corner shop, the gang members are not going to magically turn into model citizens. There's always prostitution. Or protection rackets. Or whatever.

And now the main issue. I take the point that the total amount of gun crime is small in proportion to the number of single parent families. What you're overlooking is that gun crime is just the tip of an iceberg of alienation and underachievement, and yes, pretty much all of it does correlate more or less strongly with single parent families, as not even the leftie Unicef researchers can deny. You're also missing the critical mass that is reached when boys start forming peer groups in which hardly anybody has a male role model whom they see on alternate Saturdays, let alone one they live with.

It has to be possible to discuss all this without being accused of stigmatising those who are single parents more through misfortune than by choice. For clearly we're talking about 'families' being started in circumstances where there isn't even a theoretical possibility of Dad sticking around. For boys it's even worse than no role model at all - they're well aware that they are not products of parthenogenesis, so the example they have been set is that of the man as someone who buggers off because he doesn't give a toss.

I could trade anecdotes about children from hell based on my experience of living on a council estate for ten years, but actually there isn't any point. Trying to refute statistics with anecdotal evidence is the last refuge of people whose ideological comfort blankets are wearing thin. Of course nobody is saying that all boys from single parent families turn into thugs, nor that only those boys do so, nor that single parent families are the sole cause of gun crime. But we have to be prepared to look at all the causes, not just the ones that give us an ideological buzz. I realize the single parenthood issue touches a lot of raw nerves on a personal level, but the issue's too important to allow that to get in the way. We're talking about the squandering of young lives that started with as much promise as yours or mine. The liberal establishment has betrayed them with politically correct self-censorship for long enough.

Chris Dillow is an economist, apparently. He reckons the causes of gun crime are economic. Now there's a surprise. I'd say his take is at least as one-sided as an exclusive focus on single parents.

Collapse in the demand for unskilled work? Well, who says that's all these kids are good for? Plenty of them ought to be going on to university - instead, they get caught up in the gangs.

And what economic reason is there for the massive educational gap between black boys and girls? 'Awful education'? Why isn't it awful for the girls too? Racist teachers? It's still an article of faith among many in the race relations industry that white teachers practise a fiendlishly subtle form of racism which, whilst it allows black girls to thrive and Chinese and Indian kids to outperform their white peers, uniquely blights the prospects of black boys. You're a teacher: do you take this seriously?

What about 'the high aspirations encouraged by capitalism and celebrity culture'? Nicely all- embracing, that one: 'it's the system, innit, man?' Really, the only connection between capitalism and celebrity culture is that the former (unlike socialism) is rather good at giving us what we tell it we want. We get the culture we deserve - God help us. And exactly the same argument applies as Chris raises against the single parent family connection: we all, more or less, consume celebrity culture, and most of us know we're never going to be celebs, but we don't all work off our frustration by shooting people.

Finally, you quote this from Chris Dillow: 'Insofar as it focuses upon single parents, the stupid party therefore acts like a bully, attacking the vulnerable whilst cringing towards power'. I don't hold any brief for the Tories (I've never voted for them either), but this is just emotional manipulation. Vulnerable does not equal powerless. We live in a society where contraception is freely available. Those who elect to create single parent families have exercised their power to choose. It is, of course, their children who are truly powerless.

Best wishes,


Thursday, February 15, 2007

British Jews, British Muslims and love's obligations

1. Discourse analysis, or 'How many fingers, Winston?'

I've only been away four and a half years, but in that time somebody's stolen my country...

'A supply teacher has been sacked from a secondary school following complaints from Muslim pupils. Andrew McLuskey was sacked from Bayliss Court Secondary School in Slough after a Religious Education lesson discussing the pros and cons of religion. Pupils at the predominantly Muslim school claimed Mr McLuskey said most suicide bombers were Muslim… The school authorities denied they were being heavy-handed and said their first priority was pupils’ welfare. ‘I don’t think it’s important what I think,’ said the school’s deputy head teacher Ray Hinds. ‘It’s what the pupils think that were in the classroom at the time. And they were very upset.’ '

Well, maybe the school was doing no more than recognizing its pupils' precocious talent in the field of discourse analysis...

'"Anti-fundamentalist images provide racists with a legitimising discourse against Muslims," as [Pnina] Werbner [professor of social anthropology at Keele University] puts it, which is used by "intellectual elites as well as 'real' violent racists"'

(from an article to which I shall return)

Melanie Phillips, via whom the above BBC report comes, is therapeutic in such cases. So, last week, was the Sunday Times' Minette Marrin. In her previous effort Minette disappointed me by making a brief excursion into Grauniadia: as part of the very necessary ritual commination of homophobia, she seemed to suggest that there is nothing particularly special for children about having one parent of each sex. But she's forgiven, for here she speaks from the heart and speaks for Grumpy:

'How can one not feel a furious, frustrated rage at the betrayal of our civilisation and our safety?'

2. Four Defend the MCB

How indeed, yet of course some people manage it with ease. If there is rage, its targets are very different. Melanie quotes a letter to the Guardian whose four signatories are appalled at the Muslim Council of Britain being likened to the British National Party.

What an unholy alliance this quartet represents. The shamelessness of Concentration Camp Ken is already established, and it is no longer remotely surprising to find him leaping to the defence of the MCB in the very week in which they were once again absent from Holocaust Memorial Day. Sadiq Khan MP is no doubt sedulously representing the interests of his constituents. Or at least some of them. Brendan Barber says he is General Secretary of the TUC, and I have no reason to doubt him. It is one of the enduring legacies of the Thatcher years, and not one of the worst, that nobody these days needs to know who the General Secretary of the TUC is. Not unless you're into pub quizes. And then there's Cristina Odone. Well, I really have tried very hard to give her the benefit of the doubt over the years, as I always have a soft spot for left-footers, but now it must be said: not, I mean, that she shares Ken's cynicism, but that she is living proof that you don't need brains to succeed in journalism.

Because the point about the MCB is very simple. The anti-Semitic and extremist leanings of its leaders are a matter of public record. Let's recall again that they have boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day. The unqualified claim that they are 'opposed to racism' is thus one that can only be swallowed with the help of a good swig of Livingstonian casuistry. So, two possibilities: either they do not speak for the majority of British Muslims, in which case nobody should be talking to them, and Muslims need to get themselves some representative representatives as a matter of urgency. Or they do speak for the majority of British Muslims, in which case we have a problem which no amount of huffing and puffing from Concentration Camp Ken and friends can obscure.

If you don't like the BNP analogy, Cristina, compare the MCB to an umbrella organization in which the BNP (like the MCB a perfectly legal organization, be it noted, and representative of the not insignificant number of people who vote for it), the National Front and various people who think Combat 18 are cool rub shoulders companionably with the Tory Party. Would you be firing off letters to the Grauniad insisting that such a body 'must be engaged with by decision-makers'? Nope, didn't think so.

3. The New Jews?

The Famous Four, or Famous One and Friends, would doubtless agree with Maleiha Malik, a speaker at Ken's Clash of Civilisations conference, now also writing in the Grauniad, that Muslims are the new Jews. Well, sorry to harp on so boringly, but you might hope that the new Jews would have enough empathy with the old ones to turn out for Holocaust Memorial Day. And anyway, by a neat coincidence the Community Security Trust published its report into anti-Semitic incidents last year the day before Ms Malik's article appeared, and the 31% increase over 2005 tends to suggest that the new Jews are, errm, the Jews. The new Jew-baiters look a bit different from the old ones, though...

'Physical descriptions of incident perpetrators (using the 'IC1-6' system) were provided in 205 of the 594 incidents reported to the CST. Of these,
- 96 were White (47 per cent),
- 4 East European (two per cent),
- 28 Black (14 per cent),- 60 Asian (29 per cent),
- 1 Far Eastern (one per cent) and
- 16 Arab (8 per cent).'

- from Harry's Place, where it is also noted that 92.1% of the population of England and Wales is white.

Ms Malik's piece offers a fine case study in the abuse of historical analogy:-

'All this happened a hundred years ago to Jewish migrants seeking asylum in Britain. The political movements with which they were closely associated were anarchism and later Bolshevism. As in the case of contemporary political violence, or even the radical Islamism supported by a minority of British Muslims, anarchism and Bolshevism only commanded minority support among the Jewish community. But shared countries of origin and a common ethnic and religious background were enough to create a racialised discourse whenever there were anarchist outrages in London in the early 20th century.'

Yes, and what happened after that? As time passed it became obvious that the anarchist menace really wasn't that much of a big deal. People stopped being scared. Less fear, less fuel for anti-Semitism. Result: the vast majority of Jewish immigrants who wanted to integrate into British society, whilst they may have faced some tough challenges (Mosley etc.), ultimately found no insuperable barriers to their doing so.

Let's look a little closer at that 'anarchist menace'. The analogy with present-day Islamism breaks down at just about every possible point. For a start, to state the obvious, anarchism was not any kind of offshoot of Judaism. Jews may have been disproportionately represented among the anarchists, but by no means all anarchists were Jews. And those who were were not likely to be religious Jews.

And then there are fundamental differences in both the scale and the nature of the violence. Says Ms Malik, 'In Europe [anarchist violence] claimed hundreds of lives'. Phewee! How many hundreds? Maybe about as many as are claimed by a couple of weeks' worth of insurgent bombings in Iraq? Maybe 10% or even 20% of the toll from 9/11?

She goes on to tell us that these lives 'including those of several heads of government'. Well, precisely. And particularly the heads of repressive authoritarian regimes like those of Russia and Spain (some info from Wikipedia). Yes, those were the days when lefties thought that the legitimate use of violence was in the overthrow of tyrants - my, don't times change. Anarchist exponents of 'propaganda of the deed' were very often scrupulous about avoiding any risk to the innocent - a phenomenon explored by Albert Camus in his play 'The Just'. To draw more than the loosest parallel with last Saturday's carnage in Baghdad - or with Madrid, or with Bali, or... - is fairly obscene.

And this gives us a clue as to why the anarchist scare in Britain was a nine days' wonder - as it certainly was. Ms Malik cites as a case of anarchist violence in Britain 'the bombing of Greenwich Observatory in 1894'. Erudite stuff, huh? Bet you didn't know the Greenwich Observatory was bombed in 1894 either. Happily, however, you and I have access to Google and can consequently become as well-informed as Ms Malik in no time at all. And then we will know what she felt it was unnecessary to tell us, viz. that this curious 'outrage' produced just one casualty - the bomber. He was a Frenchman by the name of Martial Bourdin, and if Ms Malik thinks he was Jewish (as we're invited to infer from her allusion to the incident) I'd like to know what her source is.

And, as far as Britain was concerned, that was just about as bad as it got. Why? During this period Jews were fleeing to Britain from the Russian Empire. They'd experienced a system where the Tsar's word was law and pogroms went unpunished, and now they were living under one where the laws were made by people who could get voted out, and where policemen had to obey them. I don't want to get too misty-eyed, but I think it's fair to say as a generalization that they noticed the difference, and that - o, most underpractised of virtues in our victim-whine, entitlement culture! - they were grateful.

To recap on Ms Malik's historical analogy:-
  1. Then: radical movements with leanings towards violence, but no terrorist murders of British civilians.

    Now: terrorists have already killed dozens of innocent British civilians; attacks foiled by the security forces could have claimed hundreds more lives.

  2. Then: no connection between anarchism and Judaism. Most Jews not anarchists; many anarchists not Jewish.

    Now: violence committed exclusively by Muslims claiming to be acting in the name of their faith.

  3. Then (according to Ms Malik): association of anarchist violence with Jews produces 'racialised discourse'.

    Now: overwhelming consensus in media, politics, education etc. that it is unfair to scapegoat the Muslim community as a whole for the behaviour of a minority. Widespread attempts to go beyond this by branding the plain statement of fact in point 2 as 'racialised discourse', and suppressing it e.g. by sacking teachers (or disciplining students for satirical contributions to college magazines).
I reckon 3 out of 10 would be a generous mark.

But it is vital not to forget that there are indeed British Muslims who are like those Jewish immigrants of a century ago. People who got a chance to begin a new life in another country and would never, however imperfect that country's hospitality, think it right to repay it with bombs. And children of those first generation immigrants who are British and proud of it. There is a terrible danger of their becoming invisible, ignored both by both Right and Left, by those who fear that all Muslims are potential anti-Western jihadis and those who hope that they are. It's often a thankless business being a moderate - think of Northern Ireland, with Sinn Fein and the DUP poised to divide the spoils at Stormont between them.

And yet these are precisely the people who, to borrow the Famous Four's phrase, 'must be engaged with by decision-makers'. Not the apologists for terror (and let's not dignify them with the title 'radicals'), who should be dealt with in the ways outlined by Minette Marrin. Not two-faced 'community leaders' whose moderation is barely skin-deep, who should be denied the credibility they haven't deserved.

4. The Circle of Love

Archbishop John Sentamu of York says that our approach to would-be bombers should be one of ‘drawing a large enough circle of love which includes them and us’. It is a laudable Christian sentiment, even if the words in which it is expressed are, I must admit, disappointingly banal coming from so eminent a speaker. However, because we also wish to include patriotic Muslim soldiers threatened with decapitation in our circle of love (do we not, Dr Sentamu?), the love which we extend to the aspiring decapitators must be decidedly of the tough variety. And in fact I must after all make so bold as to correct the Archbishop: Love cannot ‘draw circles’ around people willy-nilly, it can only extend an invitation which the other is free to accept or reject.

Responding to Dr Sentamu as Christian to Christian, I would say that it is important to recognize the point at which a realistic humility tips over into self-indulgent self-flagellation. In this life we will never be wrong when we accuse ourselves of having too little love, and yet it is no small love that we show simply by not seeking to kill those who would kill us, even if our emotions towards them are far from loving. But we are not showing young Islamists a greater love by confirming them in the belief that their entitlement to nurse grievances is proportionate to their willingness to embrace violence – on the contrary. For by doing so we deny them the truth, and thus fail in one of Love’s foremost obligations.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The obvious

Another 130 killed by a bomb in Baghdad. As I write, the BBC rates it less important than bird flu.

On Monday Jeff Weintraub headed a post 'Who has been murdering Iraqi civilians? - A reminder of the obvious'. For an immense number of people it is obvious that the answer is 'Bush and Blair'. Tonight I find myself without words with which to address them. But do please read Jeff's post.

LibMSMWatch: wrong kind of child killers

Four children among the 17 dead as Gaza fire fights rage

- headline in the Indie. Nothing quite as judgmental as 'Palestinian gunmen kill four children' - after all, they obviously didn't mean to kill children, it's just one of those things that can happen when you have a fire fight.

But at least the children are mentioned, which is more than can be said of the Grauniad's version, headed 'US bid to revive peace process falters on Gaza streets' (those Americans, can't do a darn thing right, can they?). Or of the Beeb's.

On past occasions the killing of even one Palestinian child has been a very emotive topic indeed. Today four are dead and they barely rate a mention. I wonder why.

Friday, February 02, 2007

How to get a hearing

'Then there are elements that don't fit easily into the cliches of either left or right. For example, the Policy Exchange report highlights the way in which young British Muslims react against the hedonistic, promiscuous, binge-drinking, value-lite culture they see among their contemporaries. "I decided to wear hijab because I didn't like the way that women are portrayed as sex objects" (Female, Muslim, 21, Oxford). "The bad thing, and I don't know how we can solve this, is that they [the British] don't really know what their values are. So when they are attacked they kind of seem to be making it up...' (Female, Muslim, 22, Leeds). These are voices worth listening to.'

- says Timothy Garton Ash (who by the paper's standards is a model of moderation and rationality) in the Grauniad.

Funny, isn't it, how conservative Christian 'voices' speaking out against exactly the same things never seem to be 'worth listening to'. The lesson is simple: if you want a liberal hearing for a conservative cultural critique, carry a rucksack that ticks audibly. Liberalism as moral inversion doesn't get much more shameless than this. How long before we start reading in the Grauniad that Muslim objections to homosexuality are 'worth listening to'?

I'm by no means a fan of that 'hedonistic, promiscuous, binge-drinking, value-lite culture', in fact it appals me, but I don't want it patrolled by religious police nicking anyone whose skirt length infringes the decency laws. And sooner any number of Saturday night orgies than one more 7/7. There is simply no common cause to be made with someone whose scale of evils is the inverse of ones own.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Prejudices on parade

'Counter-terrorism police in the West Midlands today foiled a suspected plot to kidnap and torture a British Muslim soldier before beheading him live on the internet, Iraqi-style.'

Read the rest and repeat after me: there is no clash of civilizations.

Oops, I've already drawn down on myself the ire of Damian of Manchester, who comments:-

'Shall we try not to leap to conclusions and let the facts become known or is that just a crazy idea?

'After that we should all feel free to parade our pathetic little prejduices and "gems of wisdom."

Until then, I can't help thinking that some of us may be jumping the gun a little'

Fair point. It is, after all, entirely possible that the plods have made the whole thing up in order to scare away any other young Muslims thinking of a career in the military. I look forward to hearing from Damian again when more facts have emerged and he has had time to work out exactly how it is All Our Fault.

OK, pathetic little prejudices duly paraded. Diiis-miss!