Friday, 12 August 2016

Great news - there are 45% more Muslim women in work today than in 2011! Oh, hang on...apparently this is a "bad news" story

I remember arriving for work at BBC Persian's temporary Central London headquarters one day about six years' ago. I was working for them as a consultant at the time. There had been some sort of security scare - probably threats against the new channel's staff by Islamic radicals. Whatever the reason, security had been beefed up since my last visit, which seemed sensible. What struck me as slightly surprising was that the two new guards (unlike their predecessors) were heavily-bearded Muslims - I'm talking full Moeen Ali. I was joined in the lift by another BBC Persian employee, who was also sporting a beard, but a distinctly non-religious, proto-hipster number. "Feeling safer now?" I asked, indicating the two new guards. "No, not at all," he replied. "I'm sure they're okay, but...that's a strange choice."

The new guards turned out to be friendly and efficient and presumably not involved in a demonic plot to blow up a BBC building full of what any hate-filled Jihadist would have regarded as filthy apostates who deserved to die (i.e. charming, educated, good-humoured Muslims who didn't tend to regard all Westerners as their enemies, and, apart from some recent arrivals with language difficulties, would have easily slotted into any BBC production team). Nevertheless, I experienced a mild frisson of alarm every time I arrived at reception from then on, and a vague sense of relief every time I left the building for the day. I expect that would be the normal reaction of most people who don't read the Guardian, don't despise their own cultural heritage, and don't assume that an instinct for self-preservation automatically counts as racism (or, in this case, culturalism).

Having on the whole thoroughly enjoyed working with Muslims - Arabs, Iranians and Afghans - I welcome stories which suggest that Muslims here and in other western countries are successfully integrating into the local culture and economy (to be honest, some of them seem pretty damned pre-integrated - I was astonished by the amount of booze my Iranian colleagues managed to pack away when we all trooped off to a trendy local hostelry one evening to celebrate a producer's birthday).  So I was disappointed to read an item in yesterday's Telegraph about an MPs' report which concluded that Muslim women are the most economically disadvantaged group in Britain, and that employer prejudice is the main reason for high rates of unemployment amongst those actually seeking work: 65% of working-age Muslim women aren't economically active, compared to 27% of all women of working age. The unemployment rate among Muslim women seeking work is 16%, compared to a national figure of 5%.

Inevitably, because they're politicians and are therefore afflicted with an almost messianic mission to interfere in every aspect of our lives, ministers said they knew there "there is much more to do" and the government assures us it's committed to making Britain "work for everyone". But, hang on - what's this? According to BBC News, the number of Muslim women in work has increased by almost half in the last five years. If this is how you want to measure national success, it's a case of trebles all round, surely! Even if many of these women have been employed in the public sector (the number of hijabs on display in London NHS hospitals among patients and staff is impressive, if you like that sort of thing), it still seems to indicate an extraordinary willingness on the part of British employers to give Muslim women who want to work - and are allowed by their families - the opportunity to do so. You'd think MPs, journalists, the BBC and multiculti enthusiasts everywhere would be patting British businesses on the back for their heartening lack of prejudice - but, no: businesses are always wicked; white people are racist; indigenous Britons are a byword for prejudice.

I suspect that what really alarms our politicians, media folk and academics is the huge number of economically inactive, hijab-wearing, stay-at-home Muslim women, 22% of whom (according to the 2011 census) speak little or no English, and an untold percentage of whom will be forbidden from taking a job by their husbands or parents. Personally, I've got no problem whatsoever with non-working mothers, as long as hubby is bringing home the bacon (or whatever the halal equivalent is) and the taxpayer isn't funding their lifestyle choice. In fact (whisper it softly) I rather approve: I can think of at least one prominent ethnic community whose children's prospects would be exponentially improved by a traditional mix of working fathers and stay-at-home mums. But I realise this sort of arrangement is no longer generally approved of, because we all have to be out there wage-slaving like dervishes in order to keep government coffers full of ready cash to be passed on to politicians' pet victim groups here and around the globe.

Increased tax yields aren't the only reason our elites want Muslim women out there working their fingers to the bone. I suspect they (probably correctly) feel that there would be a better chance of getting more Muslims to accept British culture and British values if more women were forced to rub shoulders with the cheery and friendly indigenous population away from the controlling males in their life: in turn, their children might feel less inclined to hop on a plane to Syria or spend their time seething with anger on websites preaching Jihad. But the problem is that those same elites who now want immigrants to behave like everybody else have spent the last two decades stuffing multiculturalism down the national craw, lecturing the rest of us that expecting immigrants to adopt our ways would be culturally insensitive. Instead of blaming themselves or the immigrants, the politico/media/academic elite find it much easier to blame white British business folk, who are not in any way culpable for the the apparent reluctance of a very large section of the Muslim community to go native in any way.

The point of my security guard anecdote at the top is this: if my reaction was typical (and I suspect it was/is) then I wouldn't be in the least surprised to discover that employers were reluctant to hire Muslims whose clothes or facial hair suggest they are devout. If they were women, I'd worry that they'd disappear for good if they gave birth, or that their husbands or parents would suddenly decide they were becoming too Westernised and order them to give up work, or that they'd be on the hunt for examples of racism in the workplace, or that they'd be bringing in lawyers every time someone muttered "Jesus!", or that some imam was telling them that their co-workers were dirty kuffirs who deserved to die. But given the huge increase in the number of female Muslim employees over the past five years, it seems that our British employers are better than that.  Credit where it's due.

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