Friday 16 November 2018

Castes of Mind

Little mentioned in the case of Asia Bibi is the fact that the problem with her drinking from the same cup as Muslim women was that, like many Christians in South Asia, she was of low or no caste. 

Christianity spreads among those of that background, in the way that it spread through the Roman Empire among the slaves.

Ah, you may say, but those Muslim women's ancestors had given up the caste system many centuries ago, when they had converted to Islam.

Not so.

Caste is a notoriously difficult habit to break. Communities that have been Christian for 500 years still sometimes have different services or buildings for different castes.

And the baradari system in Pakistan and among Indian Muslims is in fact the caste system carried over, even though caste itself is as far from the principles of Islam as it is from those of Christianity.

The strongest ever political challenge to the baradari system took place in Britain, in 2012, when George Galloway beat it hands down by recruiting younger Pakistani-descended Yorkshire Muslims to whom it was irrelevant, un-Islamic, or both, thereby wiping the floor with a local Labour Party that it largely controlled.

That was not the only factor in his victory. He topped the poll in every ward, including those which were more than 90 per cent white, in what had been a Conservative target seat as recently as 2010. But it was the strongest ever political challenge to the baradari system, anywhere in the world.

At least, it was the strongest such challenge to date. George has his faults. But Parliament needs him back. And he is now dropping broad enough hints as to where he is going to do it.

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