An imaginary “scandal”

Theodore Darlymple in The New Criterion:

A literary agent contacted Rahila Khan by post and asked to represent her. Until then, Miss Khan had refused to meet in person anyone with whom she dealt, or even to send a photograph of herself: but she agreed to meet the agent who wanted to represent her. The agent was surprised to discover that Miss Khan was actually the Reverend Toby Forward, a Church of England vicar. The vicar’s understanding of the tragic world of Muslim girls living in British slums, caught between two cultures and belonging fully to neither, possessing little power to determine their own fates, seems to be accurate. Indeed, he explores this world with considerable subtlety as well as sympathy.

The girls are vastly superior, morally and intellectually, to their white counterparts. Their problem is precisely the opposite of that of the white youths: far from nihilism, it is the belief in a code of ethics and conduct so rigid that it makes no allowances for the fact that the girls have grown up and must live in a country with a very different culture from that of the country in which their parents grew up.

I am certain that he is right that we can enter into the experience of other people. I confirm this each time I ask a Muslim patient who is resisting a forced marriage whether her mother has yet thrown herself to the ground and claimed to be dying of a heart attack brought on by disobedience. However miserable my patient may be, she laughs: for this is precisely what her mother has done, and it comes as a great relief to her that someone understands.

More here.