Honour killings shame us all
There is evidence from the Crown Prosecution Service that honour killings among Muslims in Britain are being fuelled by Islamic extremists with links to terrorist groups.
A recent BBC investigation into honour killings exposed how Muslim girls and women who are thought to have dishonoured their families or Islam are hunted down and murdered by contract killers. In the words of police officers, "it is organised crime".
Twelve women are murdered in the UK every year as a result of honour killing. There are fears that the authorities - including the education service and the police - are failing to tackle the problem.
The most common reasons for an honour killing are when a daughter refuses to enter into an arranged marriage or chooses a boyfriend or spouse outside the family's religious community.
Other motives include a female family member being the victim of a sexual assault, seeking a divorce (even from an abusive husband) or allegations of adultery. Human Rights Watch makes the point that "the mere perception that a woman has behaved in a way that 'dishonours' her family is sufficient to trigger an attack on her life."
As well as the known murders, there is now concern for the welfare of hundreds of Asian girls who disappear from British schools every year. In Bradford alone 250 did not return to school after the summer break in 2005 - a situation mirrored in other UK cities. Privately, police fear that some of these children have been taken abroad, been forced to marry or have become the victims of honour violence.
Anne Cryer, MP for Keighley, believes education officials are reluctant to intervene for fear of upsetting community relations.
"I think they're scared stiff of being called racist or Islamophobic. If a white girl were removed from school her parents would be before the courts for aiding and abetting her truancy. I think we should be taking the same line with Asian parents. We shouldn't be kow-towing to cultural differences."
Cryer concludes: "We have to have some system of reporting by the schools to the police and to social services. And if they've been whisked away to Pakistan or wherever, I think they have to be brought back."
Baroness Scotland - recently appointed as Attorney General - was the Home Office minister with overall responsibility for honour violence. She rejects criticism that the Government is failing to make sure children are safe.
"We are looking at trying to find ways of making sure we know where children live. There can't be an assumption that all these children have been shipped out."
The BBC was told that the police are at fault too. Insiders at the Metropolitan police said senior officers 'dropped the ball' and that 'political correctness' hampered the fight against honour crimes. The commander in charge of a raft of initiatives launched in 2002 was moved aside, and a training presentation on honour crime was suspended after accusations of Islamophobia and racism.
Commander Steve Allen of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) denies the allegations, saying that "90 per cent of frontline staff have been through mandatory training which involves discussions on honour based violence." But insiders say the issue of honour crime is not being treated as a top priority by the police.
There is also criticism from former civil servants that Government guidance is simply gathering dust on policy makers' shelves.
The Home Office has yet to announce who will take over responsibility for honour violence from Baroness Scotland. If those who have concerns about honour killings are to be believed, it is an appointment that needs to be made without delay.
The Crown Prosecution Service is candid. It admits that it is playing catch-up and asserts that more women will die.
Ok you UK'ites, what think ye of this? One woman a month gets subjected to honour killing, and that's only the confirmed cases. The total could be much higher. In fact given the number of young women and girls going missing every year it's probably bound to be higher. Do you think the authorities are striking a good balance between political correctness and their duty?