The Middle East and North Africa’s rape culture

True story, as related to me by an impeccable source: Some years ago my close friend and her husband travelled to Morocco as part of an organized tour. One day, browsing in the marketplace, it happened that all the other tour members were shopping inside various stores and my friend’s husband took a bathroom break, leaving my friend temporarily alone in the street.

“Like magic,” as she put it, she was surrounded by young Arab men. Forming a circle around her, they pointed at her and yelled unintelligible, but clearly hostile words, while some of them pulled out their penises and wagged them at her, laughing at her fear and disgust. Fortunately, within moments, my friend’s husband came running up, shouting at the men. Instantly, again “like magic,” the Arab men simply melted away and disappeared into the crowds.

I think of this sobering, clearly culturally-rooted moment, from time to time, and especially when I read of incidents in Europe and Scandinavia in which western women have been subject to similar indignities and much worse in the most casual and public manner by immigrant men from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). And I naturally thought of it once again when news surfaced of the sexually-themed intimidation, gropings and outright attacks on about 100 German women in Cologne on New Year’s eve by an estimated mob of 1000 men described by victims and witnesses as men of MENA origin (see here for revolting details you may not have read in the mainstream press.).

Similar attacks have occurred in Hamburg and Stuttgart and Düsseldorf, and even, reportedly, “in front of the Brandenburg gate” in Berlin, where a tourist reported being sexually assaulted by a group of “three to five men” and two women reported being sexually assaulted by men from Pakistan and Iraq. In Hamburg, it was reported that groups of men of “southern or Arab appearance” between the ages of 20 and 40 had sexually assaulted “dozens” of women. In Düsseldorf, at least 11 sexual assaults in the city centre by “North African” men were reported, with a police source commenting, “The nature of the offenses…is comparable [to] Cologne.”

As a number of commentators have observed, the second most salient fact in these shocking incidents was the reticence of law enforcement to report them. On New Year’s Day the police reported the night’s festivities had been tranquil with a “jolly atmosphere.” Then women came forward in increasing numbers to report the crimes, and foreign news sources and on-line discussion forced their hand.

The instinct by law enforcement leadership to suppress or obscure the incidents can in logic relate only to the most glaring feature of the incident: that such previously unheard-of public and aggressive misogyny is an imported phenomenon. That’s bad enough. Worse was the instinct by politicians to blame the victims: Cologne’s Mayor Henriette Reker not only compounded the police error by stating that “under no circumstances” should the crimes be attributed to asylum seekers (even though 22 asylum seekers are amongst the suspects), she suggested to women that they adopt a “code of conduct” to assure their safety, to include staying “an arm’s length” away from male strangers to mitigate the risk of assault.

There is more than one cultural clash going on here.

The obvious clash is occurring between a society in which hard-fought for gender equality is so well entrenched it is taken for granted as a universal phenomenon (imagine a university president suggesting women on campus stop going to parties and stop drinking to excess as a “code of conduct”), and a society, as my opening anecdote illustrated, in which misogyny and sexual aggression against unprotected women is common social currency. In two words, what is common to MENA (except Israel) and Pakistan, amongst other Muslim countries, is “rape culture.” As National Post columnist Robyn Urback succinctly put it this week in an excellent column on the phenomenon, “when women get attacked in public, among witnesses, to shrugs or indifference from authorities: that’s rape culture.”

The other pertinent cultural clash going on here is the clash between those witnesses to imported rape culture who are willing to state the obvious and those in our progressive media and political elites, anguished at the thought of appearing racist or Islamophobic, who are not only unwilling to state the obvious, but are tying themselves into knots in order to deflect others from stating the obvious. Not just in Germany, but in Britain and many other European and Scandinavian countries that have experienced high rates of immigration from Muslim countries. Who can forget the horror story of the Rotherham underage sex-trafficking racket run by Pakistani men that went on for years because law enforcement and social services felt paralyzed to interfere, for fear not only of appearing racist, but for the realistic fear of being professionally penalized for appearing racist.

For another example, in the last 40 years, coincident with Sweden’s commitment to multiculturalism and massive immigration from Islamic countries, rapes in that country have increased by 1,472%. It is forbidden in Sweden to mention race or ethnic origin in police reports, and few have the courage to say in public what everyone knows: that the dramatic escalation bespeaks an imported rape culture. Michael Hess, a local politician from the Sweden Democratic Party, who lived for many years in Muslim countries, did have the courage and paid a price. He stated publicly: “There is a strong connection between rapes in Sweden and the number of immigrants from MENA-countries [Middle East and North Africa.” For this Michael Hess was charged with “denigration of ethnic groups,” a crime in Sweden, which led to a suspended jail sentence and fine.

Since Germany is now welcoming the greatest number of migrants – they will spend an estimated $18.3 billion on asylum seekers in 2016 – we should expect to see more of both clashes: more sexually predatory behaviour by men from MENA, and more fancy footwork by authorities in denying any connection between unprecedented public and brutal misogyny and any special cultural group.

But it may be that rape culture turns out to be just one, and arguably not the worst, of the imported problems accompanying Germany’s million asylum seekers this year. According to a document expressing the concerns of four major security agencies in Germany: “We are importing Islamic extremism, Arab anti-Semitism, national and ethnic conflicts of other peoples as well as a different societal and legal understanding.” The security experts fear the integration of migrants “is no longer possible” because so many cluster together in “parallel societies,” and according to one senior level security official, “The high influx of people from all parts of the world will lead to instability in our land.” He added: “We are producing extremists through immigration. Mainstream civil society is radicalizing because the majority don’t want migration and they are being forced by the political elite.”

Willed blindness in media and political elites is never a good policy, even if it keeps a temporary lid on social tensions and maintains the superficial illusion of an orderly society handling mere blips in an otherwise normal process of assimilation. The incidents in Cologne were not a freak or random occurrence, and this particular migratory in-flow is unlike any other mass immigration movement in western history. Women maintaining a distance of “arm’s length” between themselves and male strangers will not change attitudes to women that have been entrenched in MENA culture for millennia, and there is no point – worse, no honour – in pretending that what happened in Cologne, Stuttgart, Düsseldorf, Rotherham and elsewhere is the equivalent of a campus frat keg hook-up gone sour.

George Orwell said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.” In the case of MENA’s rape culture, we cannot have a restatement of the obvious unless we have a “statement” to restate. And so an acknowledgement of what the Cologne New Year’s story really means, alongside an announcement of a plan to deal with it, by those with the privilege to lead, inform and provide security to the German people, would be a welcome opening to a general reversal of policy: from lies to truth-telling and from utopianism to realism on the culture file.

Barbara Kay is a governor of the Prince Arthur Herald and a columnist for the National Post.

The Prince Arthur Herald
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