Two Asias

"Asian" has an entirely different connotation in the UK than it does in the US.

BBC presenter Ros Atkins passes along a story by his network showing “18% of 500 young Asians in UK feel that certain behaviour by women justifies physical punishment.”

Initially puzzled, I quickly recalled that “Asian” has an entirely different connotation in the UK than it does in the US. There, Asians are subcontinentals from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the like. Here, it has become a euphemism for what we used to call “Orientals,” those from China, Japan, Korea, and such.  Sure enough, the story refers to the former:

To qualify as Asian, interviewees had to identify themselves as being from one of the following communities: Mixed Asian; Indian; Pakistani; Bangladeshi; Other Asian.

Asked if they agreed that families should live according to “honour”, 69% agreed, a figure that rose to 75% among young men, compared with 63% of young women.

They were also asked if they felt there was ever a justification for so-called “honour killings”. Only 3% said that it could be justified.

However, when divided by sex, 6% of young Asian men said that honour killings could be justified, compared with just 1% of Asian women surveyed.

Experts interviewed by the programme argue that the root cause of “honour” crime lies in forced marriage.

To be sure, the fact that such a large number of young people living in the UK hold those views is abhorrent regardless of which part of Asia they trace their ancestry. But it’s much less surprising that Indians and Pakistanis feel that way.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Anon says:

    So what do people in the UK call people from East Asia, then? Maybe “East Asians”?

  2. legion says:

    I shudder to think what the results would say if this survey were given in certain regions of the US.

  3. Anon says:

    By the way, if we look at the full details here, there is a differently worded question where only 6% thought it was okay to use physical punishment.

  4. Budgie93 says:

    It’s really the patriarchal societies of south Asia that lead to this kind of thing. First generation immigrants bring their culture and values over with them and sometimes the more backwards and barbaric ideas are retained. I’m sure the people who answered yes to the honour killings are the same sort who live in neighbourhoods which are ethnically heterogeneous.

  5. Franklin says:

    Thanks for the head’s up that Brits define Asian differently, I was not aware.