I hesitate to link to the Daily Mail, but this is interesting.
Islamic extremists are fuelling the spread of “honour” based violence against women in Britain, the country’s most senior Muslim prosecutor has warned…”When you talk to women who are victims of this type of behaviour you often find that they will say that their husbands or fathers have been radicalised in the way that they think about women,” he said. “They will use Islam as a justification for telling women how to behave and for punishing them. There is no religious justification for forcing your children to marry or harming them because they behave in a particular way, but there are people out there who are using their faith as a reason to do this. In the past, they might have said ‘do this because I’m your dad’, but when they are radicalised it is making them feel more confident about the way they behave towards the women in their family. It is allowing the man to say ‘my religion says you must behave this way’ and it puts a lot of extra pressure on the women in their families and can make them feel that they should toe the line because it is about faith and their culture.”
The bit about feeling more confident is especially interesting. Plausible, and interesting, and depressing. It’s not good if people feel more confident about bullying and oppressing other people. We don’t want people to feel more confident about that, we want them to feel timid and hesitant and doubtful and uneasy; we want them to feel so hesitant and uneasy that they end up not doing it. Confidence is usually framed as a good thing, but of course it isn’t necessarily; it depends. ‘Confidence’ is another of those words and concepts, like loyalty and courage and tolerance and even freedom, that are not unqualified goods but tend to be deployed as if they are.
Nazir Afzal is saying something quite significant there, I think, which would repay a lot of thought and investigation. Religion and probably some kinds of politics and certainly ideology do work to make people ‘feel more confident about the way they behave towards’ various others – and that can be a very good thing, or it can be a horrible nightmare. There’s a lot of the nightmare around right now.