Imams in Bradford are seeking talks with police chiefs for a plan of action to safeguard girls against sexual grooming.

They aim to ensure Bradford does not suffer a similar case to that in Rochdale, which last week saw nine Asian men jailed for a total of 77 years for grooming vulnerable girls as young as 13.

A statement released yesterday, signed by ten Islamic clerics, “wholeheartedly and unequivocally” condemned the “reprehensible” actions of the Rochdale sex offenders.

It said: “We welcome these convictions and are committed to ensuring that any future abuse is prevented and actively challenged.

“Their actions can in no way be justified, and we are committed to working with all the safeguarding agencies to ensure that these actions are prevented from occurring in the future.

“We unreservedly challenge the distorted notion that somehow ‘other women’ are lesser and not as deserving of protection as Muslim women/girls. All females are to be seen equally and afforded the same protection.

“Sexual abuse occurs in all communities and is perpetrated by people from all backgrounds, and where this abuse occurs within the Muslim community, and by members of the Muslim community, we will strive to actively prevent and challenge it.”

Syed Zafar Hussain, president of the UK Islamic Mission in Bradford, said Imams would be forming a committee and arranging a meeting with police chiefs and other agencies on the issue.

Bradford Councillor Ralph Berry, who is responsible for children and young people’s services, said: “It is very helpful to have a clear reference point from a very broad range of Islamic opinion from people who are highly respected.

“We are always vigilant about any issue of exploitation and abuse of children. It would be daft for me to say that I didn’t think there was a grooming issue in Bradford, but I am not aware of any major issue.”

Police said the new partner working had led to 22 people being arrested on suspicion of involvement in child sexual exploitation in the last three months.

Bradford District Chief Inspector Marianne Huison said: “We welcome the support of the Bradford UK Islamic Mission in our continued efforts to tackle street grooming and child sexual exploitation.”