The Rt Rev’d Christine Hardman, Bishop of Newcastle, has put her name to a letter, along with other community leaders, expressing their sadness and shock that child abuse gangs have been operating for years in Newcastle’s West End – grooming children, plying them with drink and drugs, raping, trafficking, soliciting children for sex. “Members of all communities are amongst those who are most disturbed and devastated by these crimes,” the Bishop affirms. “It is important now that we do not compound the profound suffering that victims of these crimes have endured by casting blame on entire communities,” she appeals, along with all the other individuals and leaders of organisations, which seems to include an awful lot of chairmen and secretaries and treasurers of an awful lot of mosques and Islamic centres.
They are right, of course. It is entirely wrong to blame “entire communities” for the actions of a minority: it isn’t the fault of Pakistani women if gangs of testosterone-charged Pakistani men think ‘white trash’ girls are ‘easy meat’. But when these child abuse gangs are made up of Asian men – and predominantly Pakistani men – it really doesn’t help when a Church of England bishop puts today’s community cohesion above tomorrow’s victims.
Former Justice Secretary Jack Straw got it about right back in 2011:
“Pakistanis, let’s be clear, are not the only people who commit sexual offences, and overwhelmingly the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders. But there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men… who target vulnerable young white girls.
“We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way. These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they’re fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically. So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… who they think are easy meat.”
No one seeks to blame “entire communities”, but it is profoundly unwise and dangerous to pretend that child abuse gangs are not a problem for a particular community. By appending her name to this letter, the Bishop of Newcastle invokes that very cultural sensitivity which permits these gangs to thrive: no one wants to be ‘racist’, least of all an Anglican bishop.
And yet this is a gang of Asian men. Look at the pictures. The fact that the montage includes one white woman means that the BBC can breathe a sight of relief: they can talk about “Eighteen people convicted” instead of Eighteen Asian men, which would, as the Bishop of Newcastle notes, come close to “casting blame on entire communities” (and on one particular sex, but the letter doesn’t mention that for some reason). They are “mostly British-born, of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish backgrounds”. That is to say, they are Asian.
Were they, by any chance, Muslim?
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd says: “I want to be absolutely clear that political and cultural sensitivities must never be allowed to get in the way of preventing and uncovering it.” The ‘it’ here is “sexual predators preying on young women and girls”. And yet we can’t talk about ‘Asian’ (let alone ‘Pakistani’) for fear of compounding the profound suffering that victims of these crimes have endured by casting blame on entire communities. And we certainly can’t talk about schools of Islamic misogyny or certain Muslim attitudes toward the ‘white trash’ kuffar, for that would be ‘Islamophobic’.
And so we have the Home Secretary and the Bishop of Newcastle both pussyfooting around a truth about these child abuse gangs which is staring them in the face, but neither will articulate. Instead, we get this sort of equivalence doing the rounds:
The fact that these men never operated as gang is irrelevant: they are white and even professing Christians, and this is adduced as evidence to nullify any inference of an Asian-Muslim community problem – or to deflect from it.
Of the 56 child abuse gang members in Rotherham, 53 were Asian and 50 Muslim. The same significant proportions of Asian Muslim men may be seen in the child abuse gangs of Oxford, Rochdale, Bristol, Aylesbury, Peterborough… with claims that such behaviour is “promoted by imams who encourage followers to think white women deserve to be ‘punished’“. People who have tried to warn about this are branded racists or bigots. Muslims who try to expose it within their community receive death threats:
“I was one of the first within the Muslim community to speak out about this, four years ago,” says Shafiq, “and at the time I received death threats from some black and Asian people. But what I said has been proved right — that if we didn’t tackle it there would be more of these abusers and more girls getting harmed.”
You don’t tarnish an entire community by talking about the fact that a specific community has a particular problem. And you don’t help the victims (of today or tomorrow) by deflecting with quranic tuition in how children were precious to Mohammed and that he’d cuddle them if they cried, and that’s what we must focus on for the sake of community cohesion.
And then we get this gem from Barnardo’s:
How many young white Methodist girls in the UK have been victims of female genital mutilation? Barnardo’s were challenged (robustly) about this, but were unrepentant, tweeting: “FGM doesn’t affect just one community or religion. Regardless, we’re sorry for any upset caused. We value constructive & robust feedback.”
God forbid that we might compound the profound suffering that victims of these crimes have endured by casting blame on entire communities.