Both Britain and France banned this barbarism in the mid-Eighties; and yet the French have been much more effective in tackling it than we have. They have jailed about 100 people, and started proceedings against a dozen doctors. We have thousands of victims in Britain, thousands of girls being cut every year, and yet we have managed not a single prosecution – let alone a conviction.
Again, there is that fatal squeamishness about intervening in the behaviour of a “protected group” – in this case ethnic minorities, often but by no means always from the Horn of Africa. There are still Left-wing academics protesting that the war on FGM is a form of imperialism, and that we are wrong to impose our Western norms.
I say that is utter rubbish, and a monstrous inversion of what I mean by liberalism. On the contrary: we need to be stronger and clearer in asserting our understanding of British values. That is nowhere more apparent in the daily job of those who protect us all from terror – and who are engaged in tackling the spread of extremist and radical Islam.
We are familiar by now with the threat posed by the preachers of hate, the extremist clerics who can sow the seeds of madness in the minds of impressionable young people. We are watching like hawks to see who comes back from Syria, and the ideas they may have picked up.
We know that the problem of radicalisation is not getting conspicuously worse – but nor is it going away. There are a few thousand people in London – the “low thousands”, they say – who are of interest to the security services; and a huge amount of work goes into monitoring those people, and into making sure that their ranks are not swelled by new victims of radicalisation.
What has been less widely understood is that some young people are now being radicalised at home, by their parents or by their step-parents. It is estimated that there could be hundreds of children – especially those who come within the orbit of the banned extremist group Al-Muhajiroun – who are being taught crazy stuff: the kind of mad yearning for murder and death that we heard from Lee Rigby’s killers.
At present, there is a reluctance by the social services to intervene, even when they and the police have clear evidence of what is going on, because it is not clear that the “safeguarding law” would support such action. A child may be taken into care if he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused – but not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers. I have been told of at least one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation – and it is simply not clear that the law would support intervention.
This is absurd. The law should obviously treat radicalisation as a form of child abuse. It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public.
That must surely be right. We need to be less phobic of intrusion into the ways of minority groups and less nervous of passing judgment on other cultures. We can have a great, glorious, polychromatic society, but we must be firm to the point of ruthlessness in opposing behaviour that undermines our values. Paedophilia, FGM, Islamic radicalisation – to some extent, at some stage, we have tiptoed round them all for fear of offending this or that minority. It is children who have suffered.