Friday, 8 January 2016

The Nightmare of Cologne: Denialism and Bigotry are not the only choices we have.



Writing this article will be like walking through a minefield because this is a very sensitive issue. As it touches on sexual violence, multiculturalism, immigration and integration, which are not easy subjects to talk about.

Let me make one thing VERY clear from the start: I am not interested in spreading propaganda or spreading hatred and bigotry towards people. Nor am I interested in endorsing far-right narratives about immigrants, muslims or whatever group they wish to persecute. However, I believe we must have a serious and scrupulous discussion about this, as for too long now this issue has been swept under the rug, deflected and dodged. We cannot remain silent on this.

What happened?

In Cologne, there were reports of shocking sexual assaults taking place during the New Years celebrations prompting 90 legal complaints by women to the police. Dozens of young women in Cologne were groped: and in one case raped, by hundreds of men described in testimonies as having a “a North African or Arabic” appearance.

The attackers are believed to have organized themselves into gangs then stalked, molested and eventually mug women as they were enjoying New Years celebrations. The accounts of these assaults seem very reminiscent of the sexual molestation -with the intent to intimidate women- that went on in Tahir Square during protests that brought down President Mubarak and Morsi respectively in Egypt in 2011 and 2013.

Similar attacks were reported in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart on the same night. In a seperate incident a gang rape of two teenage girls in the southern German town of Weil am Rhein on New Year's Eve is believed to have occured. Police have arrested four Syrians, aged between 14 and 21, as suspects.

Shocked German authorities called these assaults "unprecedented in nature" saying "hundreds of young men appeared to have participated".

 Who did it?

The identification through testimony of the attackers in Cologne as "North African or Arab men" will inevitably raise the question of whether they were refugees from Syria and Iraq or recent migrants from North Africa. As of now, we are not sure all the attackers were recent migrants into Europe, but it is clear that at least some will be if we go by suspects currently detained by German authorities.

German police initially claimed there was no evidence that asylum seekers were involved in the violence, only for it to emerge that they had in fact detained several (mainly from Syria) on the night.

This does not mean there have not been cases of sexual assault committed by migrants in Germany, never mind in other European countries and amongst refugee women also. We are seeing a growing number of anecdotal cases where this is happening. I stole my anecdotes from this piece.

In November a club in Bavaria started turning refugees away after a string of complaints of sexual harassment from female clients.

In Baden-W├╝rttemberg at least one hospital has hired guards to protect nurses who feel intimidated by the refugees they treat.

The Woman’s Council in Hesse claimed in an open letter to the state parliament in September that they have substantial evidence of sexual abuse, including forced prostitution, in refugee shelters.

In August a regional paper in North Rhine-Westphalia also reported police covering up a serious sexual crime. After hearing about the rape of a 13-year-old girl by a refugee, the paper enquired with police as to what crimes they knew of in the refugee shelters.

There have been other reported cases in Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Norway, Finland  and within refugee camps and shelters. This is a full blown European problem.

Why?

It is true refugees and migrants are no more likely to commit sex crimes or any other crimes than the local population. Sexual harrassment on the street is obviously not exclusive to Arabs and Muslims. In recent years India (last I checked it was a Hindu majority state) has had huge problems with sexual violence. However, there are certain truths that must be stated. This by no means discredits my previous points but it gives a more nuanced picture of this crisis. That is what is often missing from these debates- nuance.

One plausible reason why there is this sex crime phenomenon among migrants is because of a gender imbalance in favour of males among the migrants and refugees. According to the International Organization of Migration 66.26 percent of adult migrants registered through Italy and Greece over the past year were male. Many are young, unmarried, military aged males. Some are fleeing being coerced to join militias in Iraq and Syria, some have come from refugee camps in Turkey and hope to bring family members with them and others are simply fleeing the dangers of war.

Politico had a great article explaining why having such a massive gender imbalance is a problem. It argues a skewed gender imbalance in favour of males can lead to an increase in violence. It references the research of Valerie Hudson in her book which focused on China's surplus male population which found an imbalanced sex ratio can lead to more violence, crime, rape and danger for women.

"There are also clearly negative effects for women in male-dominated populations. Crimes such as rape and sexual harassment become more common in highly masculinized societies, and women’s ability to move about freely and without fear within society is curtailed. In addition, demand for prostitution soars; that would create a deeply ironic outcome for Sweden, which invented the path-breaking Swedish abolitionist approach to prostitution."

It is important to take this into account when dealing with the migrant and refugee crisis.
There is also a cultural dimension to this sadly.  Many of the men come from The Middle East and North Africa which are not exactly known for their exemplary treatment of women. I know this sounds like a racist thing for me to say, but it is absolutely true. 

In many of these countries arcane and backward ideas about women and sexuality are widespread. Women's bodies are shamed, women are taught as girls to revile their sexuality and to feel guilty if a man is "seduced" by their "fitna". This then leads to men feeling  they have the total right to sexually harass any woman who is not in a burqa or the "correct hijab" or anything that does not meet the "modesty" standard. They are all asking for it. Hell! even women in burqas get harrassed so women never get a break from this oppression. Sexual harrassment for women in the Middle East and North Africa is so much a part of daily life that, for example, the Cairo metro is gender segregated in a reactionary measure to try to address this.

While a cultural element does undoubtedly exist, one has to be careful of not exaggerating it to the point of evoking old stereotypes of dark-skinned, foreign men out to prey on white women. This struggle will not be won by sinking down to racism and collective punishment. Like I said before a nuanced understanding is what we need, not propaganda.

The responses

What I found particularly unhelpful was when the mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker was asked by journalists what women could do to protect themselves better from this. She said. “There’s always the possibility of keeping a certain distance of more than an arm’s length"and that she would soon be issuing a “code of conduct” for women “so that such things do not happen to them.”

Yeah...I intend to molest and mug a women, but shit! She’s an arm’s length away from me! therefore I can't do anything. Reker's comments reeks of utter stupidity. She is essentially saying "German women watch you behavior, dress modestly, dont look cheery and keep quiet". I can't believe I have to say this in 2016 but women are not to blame in any way for sexual assaults they expierience. The blame LIES exclusively WITH the creeps who violate a woman's bodily integrity and no one else.

This is the same backward and medieval mentality used to excuse sexual harassment of women all around the world whether in Egypt, Nigeria or India.




There are two responses one often sees in reaction to events like this, both are unhelpful and feed off each other.

The knee jerk reaction from immigration skeptics was "I told you so, you PC Liberals were wrong", therefore we should "shut the borders", as  "they cannot adapt to a civilised society".

Pegida and their likes will definitely be more mobilised as they have announced a protest on the 9th January where they will to spread their alarmism, bigotry and their Eurabia conspiracy theories which is very scary.



As you can see Pat Condell with his terrible shirts jumped with glee to "prove us all wrong" about "third world muslim men" invading Europe through sex Jihad of western women.

On the other hand, the extreme left wing spasm was "we do it too", "we are no better", embodied in articles such as this. This piece basically argues "white people also commit sex crimes", which is true. No one is saying the west is perfect when it comes to sexual harrassment but all of a sudden it is a problem if you point out sexual harrassment done by someone of a different culture.

This wasn't the only absurd reaction.



 Laurie Penny I am afraid to say does have a whisk of a point here. Of course, anti muslim bigots like PEGIDA will faux concern for women so that they can exploit this in order to attack muslims. However, it is dangerous to imply that anyone who explores the plausible cultural phenomena behind sex crimes done by muslim immigrants is automatically a bigot.

Conspiracy theories like this certainly do not help. This is pure denialism and a refusal to face up to reality. A very common trope among the left these days.

Then we have this from The Independent which instead of blaming the specific people responsible for the crime, it blames all men and says to point out the "difference" is to play into the far right narrative. The problem is not about race. While gender is part of the problem there is also a cultural one. Cultures can have specific ideas within them that are harmful and can be changed for the better. It is not "racist" or "bigoted" to point that out as the slimy writer implies.

This piece in the Guardian by Gaby Hinsliff was marginally better than the various tepid responses from Liberals but still it veered into apologetics.

Again, we have this refusal to give the attackers any sense of autonomy and free will. Gaby is arguing these attacks happened as a result of German women being materially better off than their attackers. In fact many of the refugees have I Phones and the latest Samsung devices, even if they did not have them that is not excuse or an "explanation" for their action. There are many people around the world who are much poorer than the refugees from the Middle East who are capable of moral restraint. This is moral bankruptcy.

Maajid Nawaz's take in the Daily Beast was so much better. His argument is we should take a level headed, sensible approach to this grounded in data and facts which does not stigmatize all refugees but also doesn't pretend there is not a problem. For example, creating citizenship and employment courses to help these refugees integrate better into European societies.

What was quite worrying about the Cologne case was how reluctant authorities were to give out information. This sparked accusations of a cover up done by the police which has lead to the Cologne police chief announcing his resignation.

Even the German public broadcaster, ZDF, on Wednesday apologised for delays in reporting on the wave of sexual assaults and for deciding to postpone a news segment until Tuesday.

This discrepancy will inevitably be noticed by right wing media outlets who will use it to feed their narrative that the mainstream media and the multicultural Liberals are liars who are not interested in protecting European citizens but rather in appeasing the "Islamic invasion of Europe" that will destroy western civilisation.

We are right to fear the far-right who will exploit this for their own despicable agenda. If you follow the faces of the "Counter-Jihad" movement like Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Tommy Robinson or Pat Condell on Twitter you will notice they had a field day with this story

In saying that, I do not think the response should be that we are held hostage by what the far-right may or may not do and just ignore the problem or not say anything about it in order to maintain the PC, so called "multi-cultural" status quo. I certainly do not think there should be any censorship under any circumstance. We should know the truth even if it is uncomfortable to us.

Germany is now at a stage where we want to be so sensitive that they will arrest people for hate speech against migrants. You can arrest as many people as you want for saying things you don't like but it is not going make the sex attacks done by Arabs magically dissappear. This enforcement of political correctness using state coercion will backfire as it will just breed defiance; because you cannot punish people for simply having opinions.

Silence and suppression will only embolden racists, fascists and anti-immigrant/refugee propagandists. Their legitimacy only comes from the fact that they claim to "speak the truth" on the supposedly rapid "Islamization of the west". As with all propaganda there are certain grains of truth to what they say and if Pat Condell or Anne Marie Waters is the only person you hear speaking on this then do not be surprised if considerable numbers of people sympathise with them even if it is only a little bit with their views.

What is to be done?

I don't have all the answers but I am skeptical the anti-immigrant response of "keep out the muslims" will actually do anything. It doesn't solve the problem, it just transports it somewhere else. It essentially says you can rape or harass "your women over there" and amongst "your people" but just dont bring it to "our women over here". Of course, I am not suggesting we take all of them in, as that is impractical. But it is also wrong to have a "shut the borders" policy, not only is it impractical, it is plainly immoral as it punishes those who desperately need refuge from war, fascism, theocracy and anarchy.

We must firstly, affirm without excuse or exception the right of women to their bodily integrity and their right to public safety. Secondly, confront and refute these backward, medieval ideas about women, honour and shame that lies under these crimes. Thirdly, urgently address integration, citizenship and social cohesion. Until we do that, then this problem will fester which will lead to more racism, more hostility towards migrants and refugees and the bolstering of reactionary forces within Europe.

In Norway which has went through similar problems is now offering newly arrived migrants classes on sexual violence. You may think this isn't perfect but it is certainly better than silence. I would suggest we make them compulsory for all refugees and migrants. In addition, we should have comprehensive citizenship and integration programs for these people to improve social cohesion.

I would also propose that we should prioritise families in particular women and children in order to achieve a gender equilibrium like Canada has done with its own refugee policy. This to me is a fair and balanced policy as we are able to help the very vulnerable fleeing the Middle East, not have an absolutist rejectionist stance but keep things under control.

We must be sensible, level headed and calm without giving in to populism and demagoguery . Denialism and bigotry are not the only choices we have.

10 comments:

  1. Have a look at comments by asylum advocates, They all recognise this as a disaster.

    Where's that voice?

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  2. "I don't have all the answers but I am skeptical the anti-immigrant response of "keep out the muslims" will actually do anything. It doesn't solve the problem, it just transports it somewhere else."

    So you think you have God like powers to reform other cultures?

    It's as if your plan for making Tahir square safe for women is to send everyone in Egypt to Germany, then beef up police responses in Germany.

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    1. Women don't get raped in Tahrir square because in Egypt women adapt to the culture BY NEVER GOING OUT.

      Your nutcase idea that you can "solve" the problem of Arab attitudes toward women, is that in Germany women will have to adapt the way Egyptian women have adapted and give up their freedom.

      What gives you the right to import a problem and pretend you can solve it?

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    2. Islam as written in Koran, Hadith and Sira is a totalitarian supremacist and imperialistic ideology which is worse than Nazism. Until Europe recognizing that the root of rapes anb terroism is Islam ITSELF, it will continue suffering the consequences of allowing this Muslims invasion. Read Koran, Hadith and Sira (www.cspipublishing.com/pdfs/ATwoHourKoran.pdf) to understand that Islam wants to subjugate all non-Muslims, and thus does not belong to any society that respects liberty justice and human rights of ALL individuals.

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  3. There are a minority of liberals in the Middle East. They should have easy access to the West along with persecuted religious minorities, most of whom function on a more civilized level than the average Muslim.

    In the ME, create a no-fly zone, eventually to become a safe haven and keep the rest of them there.

    Immigrants from anywhere should be on probation and allowed no citizenship for the first two generations. If they show signs of being undesirable they should be deported. Immigrants should be considered undesirable if they have more than 3 kids and they should be taxed for the third one.

    Cultures are not equal. Immigrants from barbaric parts of the world should be taught that Western civil society is superior. They should be indoctrinated as they enter the country.

    Only 1/4 of the World's population is Muslim. There are millions of Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists and Christians, who would like to ease the West's labor shortage, Draw from those groups.

    Instead of wallowing in culturally relativist pewk, go on the offensive and support progressive movements in the Muslim world. Sending billions of dollars to the Saudis and Qataris in return for oil has played a major role in funding radical Islam throughout the world. We always should have had a clean-energy revolution that would have allowed us to align with morally less backward forces.

    An independant Kurdistan, a possible independant Druzistan and other such phenomena should be on the table.

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  4. I would argue that the problem is going to get worse before it gets better. The fact that mainstream politicians acknowledge the failure of ideological multiculturalism gives great credence to the notion that the West is not competent enough to assimilate immigrants from cultures with different historical memories. We have had decades of segregation setting into the consciousness of public discourse, with identity politics being prized above all. I just don't see how more immigrants are going to help this reality at all.

    What we do know is that we will see more damage from the immigration than not. It is a matter of course that we will see both increased toleration for barbarism and truly far-right responses to this barbarism. This seems to be unavoidable in the current political landscape.

    Another, even more crucial point is that the West seems to be unable to show people a narrative of historical citizenship that does not embolden people to hate the people who have given us the freedoms that we cherish today. We Westerners have adopted an ungrateful position of whiney attitudes toward our own history that does not seem to be subject to rectification any time soon. When we cannot tell a proud story of ourselves, how are we supposed to educate newcomers to be proud of becoming part of the society from which they sought to benefit? How are we supposed to promote liberalism when we hear how often our liberalism is based upon hypocrisy and lies?

    These are my thoughts. Excellent piece, by the way.

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  5. Very good piece, one of the best comments on the issue that i've seen (though as you point out, many aren't very good).

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  6. I was a refugee in the 90s, spent most of my childhood in a refugee camp.
    The right wing parties that seem to care about women issues only when immigrants are involved actually disgusts me. They never promoted ANY sort of legislation that facilitates women (and more in general victims of any gender) to report the violence they have experienced. While statistics suggest that immigrants from certain countries are more likely to be rapist, we should remember that the majority of rapes are committed by European citizens and, if they really wanted to tackle the problem, they would show their indignation all the rest of the year.
    On the other hand, the political left has shown all its weaknesses during this episode: its response has been ONLY a response to the racist/xenophobic rhetoric of their opponents, instead of proposing a nuanced analysis of this event. Pretending that immigrants and refugee do not rape would be ridiculous: in my refugee camp so many have raped, coerced women into prostitution etc. Pretending that in some cultures, generally speaking, violence against women is not always condemned would be ridiculous as well: my birth culture would be an example of that. So I think it is important to give an answer to these issues without being hostages of the racist propaganda proposed by certain people, otherwise nothing will ever be done. At the same time we address the issue regarding these individuals who committed these horrible crimes, we should address the issues regarding our society so that we can fight violence against women on a united front (putting more effort in certain directions if needed).

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  7. Good article, articulating the problem and critiquing the response from left and right. Only thing is that vocal critics of Islam can be on a continuum of considered criticism, ie Spencer to reactionary fascism ie Pergida. To lump all critique into "right wing, Eurabia conspiracy theorists" (AKA Islamophobes) avoids the discussion you are promoting. Islam is an issue here. No one is accusing Syrian Christian Arab migrants that I have heard.

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