Eilis O'Hanlon: If migrants want a welcome in Europe, try gratitude not groping
The right of women to walk unmolested matters more than that of migrants not to be criticised, writes Eilis O'Hanlon
One small three letter word has come to dominate debate in the media since disturbing news began to emerge of mass sexual assaults on hundreds of young women by migrants and asylum seekers in Cologne on New Year's Eve.
It's been on the lips of self-styled progressives everywhere. You know, the sort of people who'd be marching in the streets demanding action if the perpetrators had been white, working-class football fans on their way home from the pub or privately-educated male students in the Fellows' Square at Trinity College. That word, predictably, is "but".
"What happened was terrible... but what about the sexual abuse of women by men in our society too? The experience of those women was awful... but we mustn't let it be exploited by the far right. It shouldn't have happened… but let's not talk about it in case our words are misunderstood or misused. Sssh, someone might be listening."
The "far right" is now a term applied, with insulting looseness, to anyone who dares to have qualms about the impact of mass immigration from the Islamic world into Europe, and it's deliberately used to shut down and shout down not only dissent but inconvenient facts as well.
When it became clear that Cologne was not an isolated incident, and that the same thing had happened at a rock festival in Sweden last summer, the police chief in Stockholm openly declared: "Sometimes we do not dare to say how things really are because we believe it will play into the hands of the Sweden Democrats." In other words, they refuse to make bogeymen out of young Muslim men who surround, grope and rob young Swedish women, in order that they can make bogeymen and bogeywomen out of anyone in their society who refuses to sign up to a fiction that all is hunky dory. Don't demonise asylum seekers, the underlying message seems to say. Demonise right wingers instead.
This should have been one instance where the moral relativists could have taken a day off from excusing the inexcusable and just admitted that what had happened was intolerable and had to stop. That the right of women to walk unmolested was greater and more important than the right of Muslims not be made feel under scrutiny for deplorable aspects of their culture. Instead they started working overtime to make those who were fearful of the future feel that they were the problem.
One German woman who went public with her account of being groped by migrants that night was immediately attacked on social media for being a "racist" and "right winger". A video revealing her full name and attacking her story was viewed 250,000 times and even shared on Facebook by a radical Islamic preacher in Germany before she noticed it was being circulated. She got threatening calls at work, and now feels understandably frightened that she might be the target of reprisals. Instead of rallying to her defence, there was manufactured outrage about a cartoon in the latest issue of Charlie Hebdo which shows the three-year-old boy who was washed up on a Turkish beach after drowning as he and his family fled Syria as a teenager under the caption: "What would have happened to little Aylan when he grew up? He'd have groped women's arses in Germany."
It's horrible, feeble, provocative stuff. A cartoon has still never groped or killed anyone.
It's about priorities. Those on the left make theirs dispiritingly clear. These people simply cannot be trusted in the fight to defend European enlightenment values from attack. Of course women, younger ones especially, have always faced the threat of sexual harassment and violence, and of course that should be tackled; doing so, however, means understanding what's going on, and it is criminally irresponsible not to admit that the spectacle of large numbers of feral men surrounding women in public places, groping their breasts, putting their hands inside their clothing and inside their victims, is scary and new.
In the Arab world it's called "tarrahush" and it probably first came to wider attention in the west when CBS reporter Lara Logan was subjected to the experience whilst reporting from Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Refusing to see what happened in Cologne as a new phenomenon which needs new responses, rather than subsuming the problem into one of violence against women generally, is the inevitable outcome of a culture of complaint which, for decades, has decried western society as irredeemably sexist and patriarchal, refusing to accept and celebrate huge progress when it's been made. Once you've done down your own society to that extent, it's impossible to protect it when it encounters something worse. Even the concept of "worse" is controversial.
In order to defend their own culture, they would need to admit that it's objectively better than certain other cultures, and this directly clashes with a paralysing moral relativism which tells them that they shouldn't judge other people, other cultures, because they're all equally valid.
Except the "far right", naturally, who must be vilified.
If it was conservative Christians who had a problem with our freedoms, rather than Muslims, there'd be no talk of compromise. They'd be told to shut up and get used to it. The only reason no one says that to Muslim migrants is because we're afraid to cause offence. It makes us hesitant even to acknowledge that Islamic countries make up 16 of the 20 worst places on the planet to be a woman, or that more than 90pc of Moroccans and Tunisians (the nationality of a majority of those arrested in Cologne) think that a wife should always obey her husband, an idea both laughable and repugnant to us.
Those figures come from The Economist whose leader last week makes an important point that requiring asylum seekers and migrants to obey the law is only the start.
If integration is to work, they must also respect, accept and finally come to embrace European values of tolerance and sexual equality. The door has to stay open to those fleeing war and poverty, but the culture to which they flee has no obligation to change in response, certainly not when being this way is what makes us attractive as a refuge. Some gratitude, rather than groping, should be the first step.