This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

Comment

← The secret scandal of Britain's caste system

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Jos Gibbons

Cohen has said a lot of good stuff here, such as his exposing the recent anti–atheist comments of Phillips as “scandalous” and giving examples of recent religious misdemeanours of which we never hear analogous atheist examples in the news. It reminds me of something comedian Doug Stanhope once gave as an example of something never on the news: “200 were killed today when agnostic rebels took heavy shelling from the atheist stronghold in the North”. His observation that castes are inescapable, so discrimination against them is worse than ordinary class discrimination, and that it is wrong we do nothing to stop such discrimination following those who flee here to escape it, is also valuable. But I wonder: if we do dismiss Phillips from his post, who, if anyone, should supersede him; indeed, if we get rid of the whole commission in its current form, what, if anything, should supersede it?

Meanwhile, this summary interested me:

the sanction for the oppression of lower castes in a pre-ordained hierarchy comes from Hindu creation myths. Yet caste prejudice does not fit easily into established views of how discrimination works, because caste divisions exist among Sikhs, Muslims and Christians whose families came from the sub-continent, as well as Hindus.

Fascinating. We often hear horrid things Muslims do being described by Islamic apologists as cultural rather than religious. Of course, since our society seems convinced religious things are the one kind of thing we ought not to criticise, that means that we can criticise these “not religious but cultural” things. Perhaps the same case can be made regarding castes.

Faced with the prospect of confronting the prejudices of core supporters

Are there any constituencies with enough higher–caste Britons of Indian subcontinent descent for them to constitute core supporters? Does anyone know?

As much good as Cohen’s comments may contain, however, I must denounce some things he says about Phillips which amount to mischaracterisations.

a voluble quangocrat, who is always willing to fill empty airtime with heart rending cries for greater equality

In the same report Phillips dismissed as fraudulent many of the cries against discrimination of certain British Christians. At least he is merely mute on caste system victims. Including also anti–atheist discrimination, that’s at least 3 calls for more equality he chooses not to follow.

I can only guess that Phillips does not like admitting that ethnic minorities as well as white people are capable of prejudice.

Except he did; he blamed homophobia in the UK on those of African & Caribbean descent. To quote the Telegraph article previously posted on richarddawkins.net concerning the report Phillips delivered:

he expressed concern that many cases were driven by fundamentalist Christians who are holding increasing sway over the mainstream churches because of the influence of African and Caribbean immigrants with "intolerant" views.

Notice also that the suggestion Phillips made that many Christian complaints are dishonest is at odds with this characterisation of him by Cohen:

He may worry, too, that an honest stance would require him taking on religious lobbyists

I admit however I am more concerned by the nonsense uttered recently by those who claim to speak for British Hindus:

Hindu Council UK claimed the issue was being manipulated by Christians eager to convert Hindus from their faith.

So basically a conspiracy theory. (Or does anyone know of any evidence, however scant, to suggest British Christians are exaggerating the nation’s caste problems to cast Hinduism in a negative light compared with Christianity?)

Sun, 26 Jun 2011 07:43:17 UTC | #842723