About four years ago I happened to be sitting in a threadbare pub in a northern English mill town on a dank winter evening when two middle-aged, middle class couples sat down at the next table. One of the women was evidently a teacher at the local high school and she was describing to her friends a wedding which she had recently attended. The bride was one of her pupils – a young woman whom she repeatedly described as “my little Palestinian girl”.
Enthusiastic and detailed descriptions of exotic dress, food and ceremony were eventually interrupted by the other woman in the party who somewhat hesitantly expressed discomfort with the fact that such a young girl had taken part in what was, according to the raconteuse, an arranged marriage. Flicking the ends of her fuchsia pink and silver tasselled ethnic-style scarf impatiently, the teacher silenced her friend with the standard debate-killing, politically-correct slogan of last resort employed so often by those afflicted by normative relativism: “But that’s part of their culture!”