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The real truth about child sex grooming

2012 May 12

Spot the odd one out. Jewish politician urged not to insult atheist party leader. Man from all-boys school sends intimate texts to attractive redhead. Straight black man wants same-sex marriage. Pakistani Muslims jailed for sexual assaults on white girls. The first three are ridiculously loaded and leading headlines. The latter was a real one.

You may need some assistance here. The Labour leader Ed Miliband has been advised not to burn his bridges with Nick Clegg in case a Lib-Lab pact is needed after the next election.  Our old Etonian prime minister has been texting “lots of love” to Rupert Murdoch’s henchwoman Rebekah Brooks. Barack Obama has come out in support of gay marriage.
Nobody nowadays would dream of calling Miliband, a “Jewish politician” in that way. So why are 11 men from Rochdale convicted of sex offences described as “Pakistani Muslims”?
It’s all about resonance and gentle insinuation. It doesn’t have to go anywhere near downright innuendo. Introduce a few extraneous facts and you’ll find prejudices or mere presuppositions will do the rest. That is why the British National Party played the Muslim call to prayer in the background to its video on on-street grooming. Viewers got the message long before the “Our Children are Not Halal Meat” posters hove into view.
Politicians and commentators have got themselves in a terrible muddle over the Rochdale grooming case. They know most groomers are white. But they cannot decide whether gang-grooming of children is a particular problem among the Pakistani community. And, if so, is it a race issue, a religious one or simply one of haphazard opportunism by criminals who target the most accessible victims they can find?
The truth is that the figures are impossible to decipher. You can easily find a collection of cases which seem to suggest this is a peculiarly Asian problem, just as  hyperactive news editors some years back were able to find a succession of dangerous dogs to stampede the Government into introducing an act of parliament of the same name. That’s how moral panics work. But different statistics muddle Asians, British Pakistanis, Indian subcontinent migrants and Muslims together, making comparisons tricky. You get the same problem with offences; rape, indecent assault, sex with a child, abduction and kidnap are all recorded in different ways by different groups. The data is poorly-recorded, inconsistent and incomplete.
Yet, even if it is hard to determine whether demographically disproportionate numbers of Pakistanis are involved, there can be no doubt that there is a significant problem inside the Pakistani community. For years community elders denied that, assuming the accusations were another racist slight against them. But a younger generation – born, educated and inculturated here – is now speaking out. And where police and prosecutors trod carefully for fear of being called racist, there are younger indiviuals like Nazir Afzal, the newly appointed chief crown prosecutor in Manchester, who brought the Rochdale predators to trial.
There are several ways of describing what happened in Rochdale. Let’s start with the least contentious. A group of men, working in the after-dark economy, in takeways and taxis, saw the opportunity to woo, bribe, trick and coerce a group of underage girls into relationships which ended in sexual exploitation of a fairly brutal kind. The victims were girls, aged between 13 and 15, in care, or from chaotic dysfunctional families, who were out on the streets unsupervised late at night.
There were undoubtedly cultural determinants for both predators and prey. The men had developed the close-knit bonds of common interest and trust characteristic of a  community which feels under siege from the racism commonplace still in our society. They lived, in effect, double lives. The socially conservative culture of family, business and mosque ruled by day. But by night they encountered a Western lifestyle whose public face was one of liberated scantily-clad sexuality where binge-drinking to the point of insensibility is the normative form of entertainment.
The underage girls, evidently unsupervised by their elders, were creatures of that Western worldview who gave the appearance of being sexually available. They were easy victims. Had the men, by contrast, targeted Pakistani girls one of their relatives would soon have come round to break their legs. Don’t shit where you sit, as a rough Northern proverb has it. That may be all the judge who sentenced the Rochdale ring had in mind when he said that the men were able to treat the abused girls with such disrespect because “they were not part of your community or religion”. By this reading the issue is as much about class as race. Or power, since this was essentially about the strong preying on the weak.
But perhaps there was something more. There is a sense, too, of a culture that promotes the superiority of men over women. Misogyny is not a problem confined to Kashmiri tradition, as a visit to any white working-class estate would reveal. Indeed the culture of secrecy promoted by any community with strong male bonds is evident in the Roman Catholic priesthood.
Some suggest that religion is a factor here, which is why the word Muslims insinuates itself into so many headlines where faith is irrelevant. One Muslim leader, Mohammed Shafiq, of a small Manchester community group called The Ramadhan Foundation, suggested that a distorted view of Islam leads some British Pakistanis to believe that “white girls have fewer morals” and are “less valuable” than Muslim girls. There may be some such oddballs but there is very little general evidence of that. Most of the younger generation reject the idea that non-Muslims are infidels or ‘kaffirs’ who, thus dehumanised, are easier to abuse. Many on the Islamophobic left and right alike seize on this notion with alacrity – the MP Lousie Mensch was talking the other night about the rapists as Islamic extremists as though they were ideologues from al-Qa’ida.
Far more likely is that some Pakistanis take a dim view of the behaviour of such girls, not because they are white, but because they are debasing themselves through promiscuity and drunkenness. Such an idea may be out of line with contemporary British values, if we can call them that, but it hardly amounts to a supremacist religious worldview. To say that Islam is the problem is a bit like blaming Christianity for the shortcomings of George Osborne or Rupert Murdoch.
The British Pakistani community must look to its own bad behaviour. If the rest of us focus on that unduly we may well miss the thousands of other offenders. For the sake of these vulnerable under-age children that must not be allowed to happen.

From The Independent on Sunday

Grooming children for underage sex: Part One – the Asian question

Grooming children for underage sex: Part Two – Muslims and sexuality

A problem not only for Rochdale

Rochdale street grooming; a minefield of racial, religious and political sensitivities


2 Responses
  1. vicki permalink
    August 22, 2012

    I am concerned Paul that in this piece, like your one today on Helen Mirren speaking about rape, that the inheritant abuse of power perpetrated by men of any colour on females is not really being addressed by you. These girls that you term are ‘debasing themselves’ are not: they are following a trend of behaviour that has been championed for boys by lad’s mags and porn. Girls are told that their only value in our society is their sexual attractiveness, then when that is attacked and leapt upon by men, they are accused of being permissive. If, as a woman, you speak out about this culture as feminists have and do, they are silenced by death threats and ridicule. In the end, men have promoted the culture of the whore as a response against feminism, then use that culture to rape and insult us further. When are men going to start working for an equal society?

  2. September 6, 2012

    The Helen Mirren piece referred to was written in 2008 and can be found here

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