Britain’s Pakistani community has reacted with outrage on reports that officials failed to act on sex abuse cases because of concerns about racism in the northern English town of Rotherham.
It is clear from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham (1997 – 2013) issued on 26 August that the victims have been let down by those who were meant to care for them and obvious signs of abuse were either missed or not fully investigated. Despite three reports between 2002 and 2006, which both the council and police were aware of, no action was taken to protect the victims, it added.
The report which came to surface on Tuesday pointed out that more than 1,400 children were sexually exploited in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, over a period of 16 years. An independent investigation found evidence of “appalling” exploitation between 1997 and 2013, involving children as young as 11.
|Baroness Sayeeda Warsi|
The victims identified in the report include both girls and a small number of boys. Prof Alexis Jay’s report has revealed that a disproportionate number of men of Pakistani heritage were the perpetrators in Rotherham.
Leading personalities and organizations of the British Pakistani community strongly condemned the sex abuse cases and demanded that the perpetrators be brought to justice. However, they were of the view that putting the entire blame on the Muslims or Pakistani community for these incidents was not appropriate.
The first Muslim Minister of the British cabinet Baroness Sayeeda Warsi in a special interview to Evening Standard in 2012 had stated that ‘there is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game.” She called on mosques and community leaders to condemn “a small minority” of their members with racist and sexist views. “And we have to be prepared to say that you can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first.”
The Muslim Council of Britain repeated its condemnation of the cases of child abuse and grooming. Dr Shuja Shafi, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain said: “Those who carried out these acts are nothing more than criminals. Criminals do not follow any religion, and the issue here should not be race or religion. No faith, and culture would condone such activities. This is about gang culture engaging in all forms of criminal activities: money laundering, drugs, guns and sex trafficking is just one part of it.”
|Lord Nazir Ahmed|
Communities’ Minister Lord Tariq Ahmed in his Twitter message expressed outrage at the child abuse and sexual exploitation report and urged that the criminals must be brought to justice.
Lord Nazir Ahmed from Rotherham expressed dismay that according to inquiry report most of those involved were of the Pakistani origin. He stated that the first and second generation of the Community who came to Britain did not even think of that.
Lord Nazir said that the perpetrators irrespective of the race, religion or community must be strongly condemned and punished. He said that in the past 14 to 15 years there has been an increase in such incidents. Nazir said that there are several mosques in Rotherham today and there is no dearth of religious leaders. However, increase in involvement of Muslims boys in such cases is a matter of concern. He pointed out that a large number of Muslim men and women are in jails on the charges of drugs and fake marriages.
Lord Nazir was of the view that Rotherham has become a `hotbed’ for the criminal activities. He said that this speaks of declining moral values in the society and that connecting any religion would not be fair.
He opined that `our people are unfortunately not willing to recognize such issues. Remaining silence would not do. We should openly condemn such incidents. The imams should address such issues in their sermons’.
UKIP’s Pakistani-born MEP Amjad Bashir expressing his view on the report said that “the whole community is ashamed of those men who have behaved so appallingly against vulnerable people.
“This is not a time to circle the wagons, people of Pakistani-descent, like the rest of the community, are outraged and they strongly feel that these young men have let the whole community down. “These young men are a small faction and do not represent the rest of us and we are ashamed of them and it is right they should face the stiffest of legal penalties. “I am ashamed that these few young men born and bred here have descended into this way of thinking that British girls can be treated so badly. “Somehow over the last three or four decades it seems that these young men have lost their heritage and love for this country that previous generations felt,” said Mr Bashir.
|Khalid Mahmood MP|
“I think we as a community have to speak up against it and say we will not tolerate it. They are a tiny minority and the rest of the community are disgusted that they have put us in such a bad light. “I am urging the community to get together to say these men do not represent us. They should be demonised and held to account. We who come from Pakistan abhor and hold in contempt these people”. “I am a believer in Islam and our religion says that orphans should be looked after. Those young people in care homes are very vulnerable and easy targets for attacks and true believers in Islam would protect not harm them.”
Khalid Mahmood MP said that such incidents also took place not only in Rothhem but also in Rochdale, Oxford and Birmingham and that these are failure on the part of the organizations concerned. He said that in a way the Council Office, Social Services, Councillors and the Police had kept their eyes shut.
Khalid asked as to why complaints were not lodged on time and called for complete probe into the matter and action against delinquents so that such incidents should not recur.
He believed that there was fault on the part of the community also which did not rise against such incidents and for bringing the perpetrators to justice.
Khalid said that the entire Pakistani community is bearing the impact of the criminal acts of a few individuals.” The right-wing fascist organization would use these incidents to disseminate negative feelings against the Muslims”, he added.
Yasmin Qureshi MP said that those involved in such ghastly acts have brought a bad name to the community and the religion. She said that Islam teaches us to respect the Muslims and the non-Muslims alike.
|Yasmin Qureshi MP|
Muhbeen Hussain, founder of the Rotherham Muslim Youth Group, said that Muslims are disgusted that justice was not done. Hussain says “race, religion or political correctness should never provide a cloak of invisibility to such grotesque crimes.”
Rotherham United Multicultural Centre’s managing director, Mrs. Perveen Qureshi MBE, said that she was running the centre for over past 32 years and her stance was that in such incidents Asians as well as non-Asians both were involved. However, she added, she was saddened at the reports about the involvement of youngsters from the British Pakistani community. However, for the individual acts of a few the entire communities should not be blamed.
Ms. Qureshi asked the parents to keep a vigilant eye of their children and their activities. She said that a number of cases have come to the fore but not taking concrete action was a failure on the part of the organizations concerned.
Maroof Hussain Rashid who is settled in Rotherham since 1984 and worked in various capacities Local council and Race and Equality Commission rejected the notion that such incidents occurred in Rotherham only and that child abuse cases also surfaced in other cities of UK. He was of the view that involvement of British Muslims in such incidents was lack of religious teaching and that there should be a proper system of guidance and training at the mosques.
|Imam Qari Asim|
Hussain opined that concealing and covering up would not do and that such incidents be condemned and people be urged to follow the path of righteousness. He also asked the parents to provide guidance to their children and help enable them distinguish right and wrong.
Organisation Together Against Grooming’s Ansar Ali responded that the report has shocked the community. He was of the view that the issues should be debated openly and condemned as this would help in finding solutions. He was of the view that all segments of the society should work collectively to help overcome this common challenge which is deep rooted.
“Any perceived racial tension or cultural sensitivity should have never been a bar to applying the law and exposing criminals”, said Dr Qari Asim, Imam at Leed’s award-winning mosque, Makkah Masjid.
Imam Qari Asim said: “Sexual predators come from all backgrounds and all sections of society. It is not credible to blame a whole community for the acts of a tiny minority of criminals; such an agenda of hate and division will only deflect the attention from the real issue that we do not have a robust system in place to protect the vulnerable.
“We need to be careful about not creating stereotypes around just Pakistani men, or just white girls. Victims of sexual exploitation come from all classes, religions and backgrounds. Many of the victims of this sexual abuse were young girls of Asian background”, said the Imam.