Last week seven men from Oxford were found guilty of various sexual offences, including rape, for ‘grooming’ young girls and ultimately raping and allowing other men to rape them. Many of them were in local authority care and others (as in Rochdale) were placed in care by their parents in an attempt to stop the abuse that they were complaining about, but carers refused to listen to the girls’ and their parents’ complaints, in one case telling one of the victims that it was ‘inappropriate’ to talk about the issue at that time. On Wednesday’s Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, he had two guests: John Brown of the NSPCC’s sexual abuse programme, and Taj Hargey, an “imam” that the media commonly wheels out to issue sweeping negative generalisations about Muslims. The programme can be listened to here until next Wednesday and is the first feature (which starts after Michael Jackson’s Thriller ends).
I’ve written about my problems with Jeremy Vine’s type of “journalism” here before, and then as now it was a Muslim issue: the supposed “no-go areas” in east London that Muslims were trying to establish; this came after the then (thuggish New Labour) Home Secretary John Reid was heckled by Muslims during a speech there for coming to a “Muslim area” with threatening talk. Then, Vine pitted Anjum Choudhary of al-Muhajiroun with Sara Khan, someone who had been on “The Apprentice”. Apparently just being a famous Muslim gave her the authority to talk about any issue related to Islam. The encounter became a slanging match with Choudhary speculating on whether she prayed or did the ritual ablutions. The purpose of the exercise was to give the impression of a “robust debate”, but was really just a good barney for entertainment’s sake.
In this encounter, John Brown made the point that the crime was about abuse of power and particularly male power, rather than anything to do with the perpetrators’ religion, and he also made the point that when sex crimes in general, the most common type of perpetrator was a white man, not an Asian one, and that there were currently cases under investigation of sexual abuse by groups of white men. This is one particular sex crime among many and the fact that “all” the perpetrators are of a given race or religious background is statistically less significant if the actual numbers are tiny. There were seven men convicted here. We are not talking percentages of the Asian community. The same statistical trick was played in reports of Muslim men’s involvement in rape in Norway, in which it was alleged that all rape in Oslo was perpetrated by Muslims. In fact, it was one category of rape, and the total number of perpetrators over the period referred to was six.
During Brown’s contributions, Vine persistently interrupted him, such as when he mentioned “the economy” as a possible reason for why Pakistani men were disproportionately involved in this particular type of crime (he explained that he meant their involvement in the “night-time economy” such as cab driving and take-away restaurants). I could tell that Brown was talking faster to try and fit things in before Vine interrupted him. By contrast, Vine did not interrupt Hargey, who was telling him what he wanted to hear, namely that the gangs do this because Muslim society and Muslim imams condition them to believe that white women are immodest, are pieces of meat and are there for the taking. Vine then suggested that they believe that “white women, and by extension the host society, are trash” and Hargey readily agreed with him.
Vine then presented Hargey’s claims to Brown and emphasised the fact that Hargey was an imam, clearly playing on Brown’s ignorance of Hargey’s position, or lack thereof. Hargey is a self-appointed imam in a self-established organisation and has no standing in the Muslim community whatsoever. He is known only for publicity stunts consisting of acts of fake worship calculated to embarrass the Muslims by making them look backward, such as prayers led by women, ‘religious’ marriages of women to non-Muslim men, and most recently, a Friday sermon given by a Christian bishop, and his take on the sources of Islamic law make his claim to be a Muslim, let alone an imam, extremely dubious. There were plenty of Muslims who could have given a more constructive answer to Vine’s questions, but would not have delivered the answers Vine wanted and suspected his audience wanted. Brown did not have any answer to Vine’s “but he’s an imam” line, and Vine persistently played the card that he had no explanation for why Asian men were responsible. Asking this is a bit like asking why Italians are disproportionately involved in the mafia.
These were criminal gangs. The majority of Muslims are not criminals and religious Muslims, as is well-known, are not supposed to drink alcohol, take other drugs to get high, or sleep with prostitutes or otherwise have sex outside marriage. What it is against Islam to consume, it is against Islam to sell, although some Muslims do indeed run shops that sell alcohol. You can find all of this on any Islamic website, and particularly on the fatwa websites that the media like to attack and mock every so often. It is all so well-known that there would not have been a need for any imam to tell his congregation that it was also haraam to ply teenage or pre-teenage girls with alcohol, to rape them and to offer them to other men to rape them, to take them away from their homes and parents to other towns for several days to do all this to them. It was probably completely beyond their imagination until the facts were revealed in the media recently, much as was the case with many other people. If these men had been to mosques and read any books on Islam, they would have known that everything they did was against Islam, but did it anyway. There is also a significant misunderstanding as to what an imam can and cannot do: they can only tell their congregations what is right and wrong, but they cannot stop anyone doing something they have said is wrong, let alone something they haven’t because they did not know it was happening. Imams are not responsible for everything their community does. They are not rulers of their communities and they cannot ‘deliver’ them. Individuals are responsible for what they do, not their supposed leaders (and Pakistani imams have even less influence over Kurdish and Eritrean Muslims, who were involved in these gangs, than over Pakistani Muslims).
There is a common argument that “Muslims regard white women as easy meat / trash”, besides being a huge slur which has very little truth in it, is entirely irrelevant when we take into account that several of the girls abused by the Oxford gang were only about 11 when first targeted. These rapes would likely have been their first sexual encounters. These were not young men casually taking advantage of young women of the same sage; this was calculated sexual abuse of children by a criminal gang of adults. Melanie Phillips made the same mistake in her article in the Mail in January 2011:
Who can be surprised that young white girls willingly go with these sexual predators who pick them up when so many stagger in and out of pubs and nightclubs in a drunken haze wearing clothes that leave little to the imagination and boasting of ‘blow jobs’ or how many guys they have ‘shagged’?
Who can be surprised when even sex education materials in schools advise on oral sex and other sexual practices; teen-targeted magazines, clothing and popular culture are saturated by sexuality; and family life has often disintegrated into a procession of mum’s casual pick-ups and gross parental indifference, leaving young girls desperate for affection from any quarter?
The disgust felt by some Muslim youths at such sexually promiscuous girls can then feed into a more general hatred and hostility towards Britain and the West. Such youths form themselves into gangs bound by a common feeling of being outsiders united by a profound hostility to the society into which they were born.
The fact is that girls seen around nightclubs are mostly adults, and regardless of what one may think of their dress and behaviour, they are not easy marks for these gangs because they are a bit older and wiser, they often have college courses or jobs to go back to, and the things offered by the gangs, such as alcohol or drugs, are no longer novel or exciting to them. The young girls exploited by these gangs were vulnerable; many of them were in care (and clearly not adequately supervised), but clearly it seems that they were easily led by the promise of ‘adult’ pleasures such as alcohol and the promise of ‘love’. These gangs not only know they cannot exploit Muslim girls; they also cannot exploit adult women of any cultural background either.
Hargey, in his Mail article published last Tuesday, blames pretty much every aspect of Muslim culture, generalising that Muslims in general regard women as second-class citizens and that mosques, including in Oxford, preach that women are “little more than chattels or possessions over whom they have absolute authority”. This is something that mosque committees in Oxford should take notice of, as if no such sermon has been delivered recently, Hargey’s claim is libellous. To claim that a sermon endorsing women obeying their husbands or wearing the hijab or even more than that amounts to a green light for criminal gangs to rape young girls is an enormous leap of logic. He then spuriously connects this to the “growing, reprehensible fashion for segregation at Islamic events on university campuses, with female Muslim students pushed to the back of lecture halls”. The fact is that separation of men and women at Islamic events, public and private, has always been standard practice and they are either in a separate room or on a different side of the hall from the men, not at the back. (In the recent event that caused so much fuss, there was actually a mixed seating area in the middle, with separate men’s and women’s areas in the wings.) It has become a matter of controversy only recently, due to agitation from secularist groups.
The media should not be blaming the generality of the Muslim community or “Muslim attitudes” when there were very real failings by the people who were meant to be looking after the girls, but there is also evidence that they are not empowered to protect the girls and prevent their abuse, by restricting their liberty if necessary. In the past, children (and particularly young girls) were not allowed out at night, and often not even in the daytime unless supervised or with trusted friends. These days, care homes are powerless to prevent them leaving if they want to, unless the home is a designated secure facility, and such places have been closing one after the other for years, mostly for economic reasons. This should change, and the police should return children to their homes or a place of safety if found hanging around at night or with strange men or ‘undesirables’. The fact of adults hanging around with young girls they are not related to should, in itself, be a cause for investigation, and should be prevented if there is not a very good explanation; supplying minors with alcohol is illegal, and if this had been stopped at that stage, the rape and trafficking could have been prevented. Finally, when the girls complained that they were actually being abused, they were told to go away, as were parents when they complained to both police and social services. There is ample evidence that care workers, social workers and the police knew that this was going on (they even took the girls to a sexual health clinic in Reading), but did nothing until the abuse had been going on for years.
There are attitudes to women among whites that match anything found in the Muslim community. There is a casuality about rape nowadays in some quarters; there are rape jokes told in theatres and on TV and people talk about a sports team getting “raped” rather than beaten. This translates into actual rape when a bunch of juvenile sportsmen get together and a drunk 16-year-old girl stumbles into their midst, and come within a hair’s breadth of getting away with raping and publicly humiliating her until international outrage force the authorities to take action. There have been plenty of surveys carried out that show that many white people, not only Pakistanis, think a woman who wears a short skirt is “asking for it” if she gets raped. So, it is not unsurprising that the same negative attitudes may have influenced the actions of the social services and police when told that young girls on council estates in Oxford, Rochdale and elsewhere were being abused — oh, they were in care (nuff said), they were from broken homes and/or council estates, they were hanging around with older men, they were half-dressed, they were drinking and having sex … no better than they should be. It’s not imams’ job to police Asian criminals or to look after girls in care. It’s the state’s job, and the people whose job it was didn’t do it.
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