Following this month’s convictions of Asian men for ‘sexual’ exploitation in Rochdale a fair amount has been said on the subject.
But what will annoy many in the Asian community is how some commentators are simply stating things to get themselves as much air time and column inches in papers.
Using race and linking it criminality is always misguided and deflects the attention away from the victims.
One of those most vocal people in the past month was the Ramadhan Foundation’s Mohammed Shafiq.
Now, over the years this man has made a habit of saying the things that people want to hear. Should we lambast him for doing so?.
He has made some valid comments about several important issues.
But this month he was heavily criticised for stating ‘there is a significant problem for the British Pakistani community’ and ‘the community elders need to learn from the reaction of young people and reject any attempt to silence the reaction from our community.
But what needs to be said is that is not representative of the views of the vast majority of British people who are of Pakistani heritage.
He is a self proclaimed community spokesperson and his views on the issue of ‘grooming’ are music to the ears of the far right and those within the political and media spheres who have a vested interest in pedalling hatred and division within our society.
We all acknowledge the nine men convicted for the heinous crimes committed on vulnerable children were rightly sentenced to lengthy prison sentences.
It is unfortunate and a feature of our judicial system that these sexual predators were not handed even harsher sentences.
They destroyed the lives of the young vulnerable girls and their families as well their own families.
The nine men convicted are criminals and those wishing to bring their religion or ethnicity as key factors are deluded and really don’t have any understanding of child sexual exploitation.
Mr Shafiq has been given the platform by broadsheets, TV and Radio stations to perpetuate this divisive and destructive notion that the Pakistani community has an inherent problem of on street grooming.
We would encourage all people to exercise their right to condemn not only the criminals but those who are seeking publicity by deflecting attention from the criminals and victims.
Whilst all the real experts such as child protection agencies and the police have distanced themselves from these claims Mr Shafiq seemed insistent that WE as a community were to blame.
Either he was being very brave or just plain stupid.
In our view he was pampering to popular opinion and joining the bandwagon of demonising a minority group.
Even the Jill Dando Institute of Crime who have looked at the issue of on street grooming and whose findings were wrongly cited as evidence of the race link, responded last year after the Derby convictions by saying ‘They were worried that limited data had been extended to characterise an entire crime type, in particular of race and gender’.
They challenged claims that white girls were deliberately sought out by offenders. ‘Though the majority were white, so too were the majority of local inhabitants’ Comparing the percentage of white people in the areas with black and ethnic minorities, their data, they said, showed ‘black and ethnic minority girls over represented among the victims.’ The unfortunate reality is that there are thousands of vulnerable children all over the country who have been failed by society as a whole.
In particular, by their families, local authorities and the police.
We are all responsible for providing the support and protection these children need to prevent them from being exploited by sexual predators.
In a similar case in Carlisle where a man was convicted of sexual exploitation of a young child, the Judges comments were as follows. ‘There are lessons for all of us to learn. There are lessons for parents to learn whose responsibility it is to protect their children. There are lessons for those who are responsible for safeguarding vulnerable teenagers from deprived backgrounds and without appropriate parental care and guidance’ In both the Rochdale and Carlisle cases, the police failed to take seriously the earlier complaints made by the young girls which allowed these depraved individuals to continue sexually abusing young girls.
Unfortunately, sexual predators exist in all communities and their modus operandi is simply to prey on the most vulnerable.
For the likes of Mohammad Shaffiq to lay the blame, directly or indirectly for the sexual exploitation of children at the door of a single community is not only naïve and dangerous; neither will it allow us to eradicate the abuse of those most vulnerable in our society.
Asif Mahmud is a writer for community organisation One Voice.