Not our brothers’ keepers

Picture of Ellie Williams, a young white women with injuries to her face and right eyelid, lying on a bed with her head resting on a pillow with a butterfly motif.
Ellie Williams

Last week a young woman named Ellie Williams (right) from Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria, posted a long message on Facebook describing having been kidnapped by a group of local Pakistani men and taken to an address where she was beaten and raped as a punishment for not attending ‘parties’ in town due to Coronavirus. The post, accompanied by pictures of injuries she had suffered in the incident, was widely shared on social media and commented on by feminists and left-wing commentators among others. Last weekend it transpired that Williams had been charged with making multiple false accusations of rape against several local men between 2017 and 2019 and following the Facebook post had been remanded in custody for breaching bail conditions (her family say that this was in fact a curfew put in place for her own protection which she broke under duress from the gang; if this is true, it is ironic given that many prisons are hotbeds of Covid-19 and have been confining prisoners to their cells for 23 hours a day or more).

There have been public protests in Barrow in support of Ms Williams, including an assemblage of cars in a retail park with horns blaring. Today, at one such gathering where many people were out of their cars and gathering close together (no social distancing), Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (AKA Tommy Robinson) showed up in his car and was cheered by many of those in attendance before going off in a convoy to Ulverston (see the video attached to this tweet). The claims have led to local Asian restaurants being attacked and forced to close, though the owners condemned and denied any involvement in abuse and said they supported “justice for Ellie”; the female author of some of the local press reports has also been threatened with violence as have members of her family. The Williams family have said they want nothing to do with him and have gained the support of women’s charities. Cumbria Police have issued a video statement claiming that they conducted a year-long peer-reviewed investigation (‘peers’ presumably meaning other police forces; the limitations of that have been demonstrated in police complaints investigations over the decades) that found no evidence of organised abuse of the type described in the Barrow area.

I want to address some of the social media commentary on this alleged incident, as I first found out about it on a Twitter feed run by a particularly obnoxious Leeds-based white feminist:

I want to know what our local institutions, the Council, the Police, are doing, to disrupt the Pakistani/Muslim #GroomingGang network across the North of England. Where are the local Mosques speaking out about this? … As ever, “not all Pakistani/Muslim men are like that”, but there’s a pattern here, and recognising this pattern means we’re forced to act, to protect girls/young women. … I know that the ‘woke’ left thinks all discussion of this is racist. I think that racists will use anything to promote racism. But that doesn’t mean that the rest of us can afford to refuse to face the issues with integration, the role of women/girls in the way Islam is promoted.

This issue of “what are the mosques doing?” was raised every time the matter of grooming by groups of Asian men was in the news. It’s assumed that everyone from a Muslim background is religious and that they will automatically listen to what an imam says, and that if Muslims are doing it, they all must know about it — perhaps because it’s assumed, as it often is of minorities, that we all know each other. In actual fact, the criminal activity in some of the towns took place well away from the part of town where most Muslims live, so it is quite possible that most local Muslims knew nothing. Muslims do not have the ability to police members of our own community; there is one law and one police force for everybody in any given county or metropolitan area. An imam can give a sermon but it’s the listener’s choice as to whether he takes any notice; every Muslim knows that everything the grooming gangs are doing is against Islam for numerous reasons and none of the excuses hold any water. And the reason Muslims often live separately from others is because of racism; even when Muslims move into previously mostly white middle-class areas of many northern towns, whites start to move out. (It is not only white feminists making these ridiculous claims about Muslim complicity or inaction; I have seen Muslims on Twitter saying similar things.)

I believed Ellie’s story when I first read it. I don’t know how she got the bruises and other injuries shown in the attached pictures if she is not telling the truth. While no doubt the explanation for them will be made clear during the forthcoming legal process, the police have offered no explanation so far. She is 19 now, which meant that she would have been 16 when she made some of the accusations she is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice for making. While false accusations of rape or sexual abuse or harassment have been a factor in previous hate crimes and the usual rule that women rarely lie about having been raped breaks down where racial prejudice is strong, the family do not appear to be racist and have rebuffed “Tommy Robinson”; comments under recent entries say that he “makes it his show”. However, other recent social media posts about this issue have tended towards violent racism, with one I saw saying that genocide is the answer. I have also seen tweets sharing the addresses of businesses whose owners are supposedly involved. There is a danger of a lot of well-meaning people who think they are not racist nevertheless making a lot of racist assumptions about Muslims based on ignorance and commonly-held but false views, and of people who would normally rail against victim blaming when it refers to rape or abuse victims doing exactly that when it concerns innocent Asian victims of mob violence; the fact is that this is a small group of criminals, we are not our brothers’ keepers in law and we have no power over them. It is up to the police to investigate and if Ellie’s supporters are to be believed, they have done a terrible job. The truth will be revealed in the coming months, however.

Image source: Ellie Williams, Facebook.

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