All children WILL attend ‘cultural awareness’ course… or be branded racist!

I was gobsmacked to read a letter sent by a headteacher to the parents of children at her primary school. I understand that parents were subsequently notified that they should consider the letter retracted, almost certainly following local authority intervention and in the face of the backlash, but clearly one or more parents were outraged enough to go to the press and the damage was already done.

The news item is now available on the BBC news site.

The letter, dated 20/11/2013, read as follows:

Dear Parent/Carer
 
As part of the National Religious Education Curriculum together with the multicultural community in which we live, it is a statutory requirement for Primary School aged children to experience and learn about different cultures.
 
The workshop is at Staffordshire University and will give your child the opportunity to explore other religions. Children will be looking at religious artefacts similar to those that would be on display in a museum. They will not be partaking in any religious practices.
 
Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child’s education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career.
 
As such our expectations are that all children in years 4 and 6 attend school on Wednesday 27th November to take part in this trip.
 
All absences on this day will be investigated for their credibility and will only be sanctioned with a GP sick note.
 
If you would like to discuss this further please contact our RE Coordinator, Mrs Edmonds.

At first glance, I thought it fake, but it isn’t. It’s unbelievably bigoted, politicised, and small-minded. I almost wish my kids were at this school, because I’d actually relish the fight with the cretin responsible for this kind of political threat and they certainly would have been withdrawn from R.E. lessons with immediate effect.

Somehow, I managed to learn about other peoples’ religions as a child by mixing with them socially. I didn’t need to go into the details of how often and in which direction they genuflected, when they fasted, or what particular types of superstition their particular brand of religion promoted.

I certainly didn’t need to go on cultural awareness courses when I was at school in Keighley! I knew kids of various cultures/faiths in my social circles and we got along pretty well in our comprehensive, mixed school. Indeed, my first best friend was a Jehova’s Witness, and without the benefit of ‘cultural awareness’ lessons, I somehow managed to figure out by myself that his family didn’t celebrate birthdays or Christmas like we did, or that he didn’t sit in our school assemblies. I didn’t need to go on a special course to discover that and, rather unsurprisingly it didn’t affect my life at all.

Until the Salman Rushdie affair, things rattled along fairly easily. It was when I saw members the Muslim community make blatant death threats towards a man for what he had written that I realised something was wrong and that not all faith groups were the same.

We have since discovered in reputable opinion polls that a sizeable chunk of the Muslim community support stances which are blatantly counter to western values of freedom of speech. Please check that link – you may be surprised/horrified.

On that basis alone, and the fact that we are bombarded daily with at least one item of negative item of news connected with this community, be it alleged offence in the face of free speech, sexism, homophobia, veiling of women and children, honour killings, terrorism, demonstrations, anti-western propaganda, misogyny, imposition of Halal foodstuffs and slaughter practices, child grooming rings, etc., means we are all only too culturally aware of Islam. And as much as people may protest about the way such news is reported, try as they might, they can’t dispute that the events happened or to which faith the protagonists happened to subscribe.

If we must be subjected to ‘cultural awareness’, I’d rather like to see some more emphasis on Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Buddhists, and other faiths for a change: faiths which seem to fit perfectly comfortably into our society, because they accept our societal norms and don’t operate on the basis of trying to alter our societal norms to comply to their particular dogmas. But before we go there even, how about some cultural awareness lessons about our culture for everyone? As much as it’s been blatantly ignored and downtrodden, we have our own traditions, music, and other arts within England. I say England, because our friends in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland are perfectly happy and at ease with celebrating their cultures. I know of people my age who have heard English folk music and mistaken it for Irish folk music, which is very revealing.

I am happy to tolerate anyone’s beliefs/cultural practices up to the point where they attempt to restrict other people’s freedoms, claim special treatment at everyone else’s inconvenience or at the cost of tax payers, or preach apartheid or hatred rather than integration. It’s as simple as that.

Unfortunately, there remains a sizeable minority which is the problem, and this problem is exacerbated by idiots like this teacher attempting to force people to respect a religion which needs to do a little more respecting of its host culture first.

When we have a week or even a day pass without news about events triggered by the naive belief that it is fine to just import incompatible or counter-Enlightenment cultural practices into this country without any attempt to integrate these people, I’ll be a little more predisposed to engage with this community.

I am all too aware of Islam and what its effects are in practice. I know that there are plenty of good Muslims too, because they are often in agreement with me and I with them over these kinds of issues and in these kind of discussions. There are indeed plenty of Muslims who are embarrassed and angry with parts of their own community and its indigenous apologists. The irony here is that many Muslims will not appreciate the efforts of this woman to force her political agenda on others with threats. Many Muslims are at pains to explain that they don’t need special treatment, that they don’t need Halal everything, that they don’t need protection of the ‘veil’, that they support free speech, that they are just fine with Christmas being called Christmas, and that, even if they are against it, that they understand western military action in Muslim countries is NOT a crusade against Islam (they remember our role defending Bosnian Muslims against Serbian Christians for a start) – although according to the polls linked to above, a large minority don’t think like that.

I don’t consider moderate Muslims to be the enemy. I don’t even consider the hard-line Islamists an immediate threat per se, and at least they have the clarity of thought and honesty to openly state their intentions to destroy democracy and supplant it with theocracy, as per their interpretation of the Quran.

It is often stated that not all Muslims are extremists. Well of course they aren’t, but you would be deliberately self-delusional to fail to spot the common factor in terrorism in the last decade. It is not Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs, or Hindus which make the headlines every day.

No, I reserve true contempt for the multi-culti, ignorant, yoghurt-weaving apologist cretins like the woman responsible for this threatening letter, and those who can’t distinguish between criticism/dislike of something and hatred – who carelessly toss out the slur ‘racist’ (thereby Orwellianly devaluing its true meaning) and, adopting an angry, shouty, self-satisfied, smug stance, labelling anyone to the right of Marx a fascist.

They are the ones who cause resentment, misunderstandings, and who drive more impressionable people into the arms of the extreme right. They also, more cynically, achieve their objective by attempting to supplant ordinary decent people’s capacity for rational thought with received, politically correct opinion. Even a party like UKIP, whilst politically on the right, is actually really sincerely considered by otherwise intelligent people as racist! The fact that it has a membership, supporters, and even high level people of various ethnicities seems to put paid to any such claims, and its clear lack of any policies based around race, but apparently not, if received opinion is anything to go by. You can disagree with their politics, of course, but accusations of racism are false and frankly, pathetic. Of course, it serves the other parties to attempt to shame any UKIP supporters by branding them as such.

Anyway, what am I proposing here? That we should be dismissive of other cultures and traditions? No. Merely that we stop supporting the wrong people in the communities. Muslims are not demanding Halal food, cancellation of Christmas, or that the veil be worn at all times and in all places. If the PC likes of this headmistress made the effort to talk to the moderate Muslims, she would know this.

Children don’t need to attend cultural awareness courses. If we allow them to integrate, they get to know about each others cultures/belief systems quite naturally. Encouraging people not to integrate causes ghettoisation of communities and leads to tensions. So, to save people all the heartache and effort of organising special cultural awareness courses, I’ve written my own.

It’s OK to call out behaviour in other cultures you wouldn’t tolerate in your own. Use your brain. If something doesn’t seem right judged by modern western values, there’s a good chance that it isn’t right.

And branding children as racist for failing to endorse your own particular brand of cultural Marxism where the children aren’t even the decision-makers is right up there with things that aren’t right.

 

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Politically Incorrect Cultural Awareness

The world comprises and comprised historically many cultures and religions. Cultures are often, but not always, influenced by religious practices or local traditions. A culture comprises societal norms, behaviours, manners, traditions, the arts, and cuisine. When cultural practices come face to face, misunderstandings may arise and cause potential conflict.

In the best interests of people, and to prevent enmity, it is beholden on a person from a different culture moving to a new culture to adapt to their host’s culture. Such attempts to integrate with the host culture are likely to result in a more speedy welcome and minimise any problems. An unwillingness to integrate, dismissal of a host culture, or non-compliance with its norms is likely to be met with resentment, mutual dislike, segregation, and intolerance. In most cultures historically, such deliberate segregation and unwillingness to integrate met with outright hostility and violence.

It goes without saying that this effort to integrate into one’s host culture should be made in all instances, and just as much in the case of westerners moving to other cultures. The choice is simple. If we don’t feel as though we are capable of integrating into a host culture, we should not go there. We do not have the right to expect a host culture to adapt to our demands, let alone for its people to attend awareness courses so that they can learn to accept our peculiarities.

While religion and culture are not the same thing, the religious influence on a culture is not to be underestimated. There are, and have been historically, a wide range of belief systems around the world. No one religion has any objective proof for its beliefs. They are based in faith, which, by definition, is believing something without any supporting evidence. Some faiths have spread through military conquest. That is certainly the case with Christianity and Islam.

Faiths often have many denominations within themselves, including conservative/orthodox denominations, which have a literal understanding of their scriptures and seek to comply to the letter of these or translations of them. Faiths also often have reforming denominations, which see these scriptures in an allegorical or historic context and are happy to separate religion from the affairs of state, using the former as guiding principles.

These scriptures in themselves are usually contradictory, so that each denomination can find sections of its scripture to justify its beliefs and can influence, in conjunction with its originating cultural practices, its behavioural practices.

It is quite common for converts or those new to a faith to be attracted to the conservative/orthodox/literal aspect of that faith. This is often because they are seeking meaning to their life and an uncompromising set of rules is something that helps them through well-defined, easy-to-follow rules. Indigenous converts may be attracted to these uncompromising rules in the face of a seemingly decadent society in which they feel they have failed. This is also because they read the scriptures without the benefit of centuries’ worth of study and soul-searching on the part of adherents to that faith, many of whom spent their whole lives wrestling with their religious texts, seeking to establish which parts were relevant to their contemporary situation and culture.

Certain cultural practices, such as those around the arts and cuisine, are fully compatible with modern, secular, post-Enlightenment democracy, and the western world’s move away from a society dominated by conservative Christian dogma to one of reforming, humanist beliefs, which have had an influence on the prevailing church’s role in most western liberal democracies. In this way, people have become more tolerant of others and western society has rejected practices which were formerly justified by conservative Christian dogma, such as slavery, sexism, maltreatment of children, and more recently, homophobia.

As a religion dominated by reformers and in the context of nations which in practice divide matters of state from those of religion, either explicitly, like France and the USA, or implicitly, like the UK, Christianity has been able, even in the face of opposition of large numbers of its adherents, to adapt and ‘catch up’ with public opinion. In recent years, we have seen this in the case of the ordination of women priests. True, the church may still struggle with the idea of same sex marriage, but even if some of its members oppose it, they don’t engage in violent street protests in opposition – they understand the segregation of matters of state from matters of belief.

Many proponents of ‘multiculturalism’ fail to grasp this, and in condemning other people’s lack of cultural awareness, ironically exhibit their own cultural and historical ignorance by naively assuming that people around the world share their same values. Such people appear to be blissfully unaware of their own histories and the political struggles over religion within their own culture, long-since settled by this de facto separation of church from state. They also seem oblivious to the clear, unequivocal pronouncement of those they support to wipe out western democracy and impose strict, religious laws.

Other cultural practices run counter to the prevailing host culture, and, in the case of the UK, range from minor differences in manners (e.g. saying please and thank you) to activities which are frowned upon or may be counter to local laws (e.g. spitting, littering, urinating and defecating in the street) to those which are illegal under our laws but perfectly legitimate under the laws of other cultures (e.g. underage sex, forced marriage, genital mutilation).

Historically, Britain’s empire stretched around the world and came into contact with a wide variety of cultural practices. At the time, guided by more traditionally conservative Christian values, the British empire sought to exploit its colonies in ways which would now be considered inhumane, through ruthless exploitation of local resources and people, cruelty, slavery (with the wilful collusion of locals in many cases, such as in the case of the African slave trade) and even mass slaughter. It justified its actions at the time by claiming that it was bringing Christianity and its cultural values to the conquered countries and thought to improve these countries through its cultural and religious imperialism, in the same way ancient Rome spread its culture and practices throughout its conquered territories under the Pax Romana.

Indeed, it can be argued that in both the case of ancient Rome and the British empire, there were some benefits brought to the local people in terms of technological and political advances, but judging the actions of our forefathers by today’s morals means that we can reflect on the wickedness of the worst excesses of empire and many of us feel rightfully ashamed of these events.

When we consider the behaviour of our forefathers in the contexts of their time, we are engaging in temporal relativism – i.e. conceding that our forefathers had different values, which may seem inhumane today, but in the context of their time, may have been perfectly normal. It would not occur to us to send a small child up a chimney or down a mine now, but was perfectly normal practice in Victorian society.

Some recognise that we can’t ever atone for the evils of our former empire, but on balance, we understand that the days of empire are passed, and that former colonies have become successful independent countries and have retained the positive aspects of empire (parliamentary democracy, railways, roads, telecoms, and education systems).

Britain has benefited historically from immigration and particularly as we have seen the aspirations of the indigenous population rise and an unwillingness on the part of sections of the indigenous population to undertake jobs which they consider beneath them. We have had waves of immigration from former colonies and in nearly all cases, these have met a need for skills and have offered the immigrant relatively well paid-work in a stable society. For many immigrants, coming to the UK was a literal lifeline.

Others remain ashamed of our past, to the extent that their view of western policy today is still coloured by it. For some, it is not enough to recognise transgressions of their forefathers, but these transgressions still mean that they must roundly condemn western culture in general, and in particular the actions of western governments. For such people, this is the default stance to be taken, and all efforts to promote other cultural views must be made, even when such cultures exhibit behaviours which are entirely contradictory to our cultural norms. Many suggest that cultural Marxism has been a powerful force in ordinary politics since the 1960s and has sought a deliberate undermining of western culture and a move towards world government.

That may be stretching a point too far, but it is more or less the norm for even well-educated people, often suffering with their own hand-wringing class guilt complexes, to hold opinions which have been advanced by extremist elements of immigrant cultures. The recent furore over the veil demonstrates this particularly well. The people who promote/defend the veil are conservative elements of the Muslim population and those on the political left, who do so to demonstrate their cultural sensitivity. At the same time, those who oppose it are liberals (in the true sense) and moderate Muslims. Moderate Muslims are left exacerbated by the conservative elements of their community.

Someone who wishes to gain cultural insight into how Muslim opinion has been hijacked by conservative elements could do worse than listen to the likes of Maajid Nawaz, a former extremist, now Liberal Democrat candidate, who has argued in favour of banning the veil in public places (i.e. places where a motorcycle helmet or balaclava would be inappropriate). He understands how anti-western narratives feed extremism, especially when such narratives originate in the West. He has to explain to audiences in Pakistan that the West is not embroiled in a crusade against Islam, because that is what they have been led to believe. That is what he had been led to believe, as a young, disaffected Muslim youth in Luton. That is what the extremist and conservative preachers tell the easily-influenced youths, and that is why, when apologists in our society see images of rampaging hordes of ill-informed protesters shouting ‘death to the West’, the self-loathers believe their grievances to be real rather than imagined, and their own prejudices about their own culture are reinforced.

Secular states are in the minority in the Islamic world. The people of many non-secular Islamic countries do not understand the separation of church and state in the West, of the freedom of press and its independence from government, or of the freedom of speech and the right to be critical and make fun of religion without legal consequences. They don’t understand it, because they don’t have those same luxuries, and so when hardline Islamist nutters travel to Pakistan and stir up hatred over things such as cartoons published in a Danish newspaper, their fellow nutters whip up hatred in anti-western sermons and riots against Danish embassies (along with any other western embassies) ensue. The rioters can’t even begin to understand the disconnect between an embassy and a newspaper – they have been brainwashed into believing that the West is bent on a crusade against Islam.

To those promoting multiculturalism, such as the use of Sharia law in matters of family and domestic disputes, I would ask the following question…
“What does Sharia law give you that the laws of our land don’t?”

If their answer is

“To resolve family disputes in the context of our community and according to our laws.”

Our answer should be

“But we are your community and we share the same law.”

To summarise, culture does not merely encompass arts and cuisine, but is far more extensive. Multiculturalism seeks to promote the coexistence of these cultures, irrespective of the flaws of each, rather than to facilitate integration of immigrants into our society.

Nobody is obliged to like another culture or its practices, but, where these cultural practices do not impinge upon or contradict our cultural and societal norms, they should be tolerated.