Everyone’s an expert but most are avoiding the really difficult questions
Dr Abdul Wahid
Over the past few days, hoards of media commentators have filled column inches after the conviction of nine men for the sexual exploitation of 47 teenage girls. Most write as if they are well-informed experts – despite simultaneously informing us that one of the key problems is how poor statistical data is on this matter.
This obvious contradiction is a sure sign that much of their comment is likely to be nonsense – and bigoted, politically driven nonsense at that.
But the focus on the Asian/Muslim/Pakistani background of the gang and the fact that most [but not all] of the victims were young, white & vulnerable has led to most of the speculative comment being about how endemic this problem is amongst Asian/Muslim/Pakistani men – and if so, what is it in their psyche that makes them behave like this.
Some – like Melanie Phillips & David Aaronovitch – are not even asking questions. They seem to have made up their minds well before they heard a single fact of the case – at least that is the impression they give in the manure they peddle as journalism on this subject. Their position is very similar to that of the BNP and other far-right anti-Muslim groups.
Only a handful of commentators have mentioned some of the key questions that ought to spring to mind. In particular, what is it in society that allows young women to be exploited like this?
Britain has a serious problem when it comes to the sexual exploitation of young women. Let’s not forget that in weeks and months gone by these same media outlets have discussed the issues of sex-trafficking, date rape, the way professional footballers have been implicated in abusing women; and many cases of child sex abuse where there was not even a semblance of consent – not to mention the sexualisation of young girls by the media and fashion designers.
Prison service statistics from 2007 suggests that the ethnic breakdown of sex offenders in the UK is 81.9% White, 9.9% Black and 5.6% Asian – but other research suggests a disproportionately high level for Asian men in cases such as that in Rochdale. But if in Rome, people do as the Romans do, they will adopt as many vices as virtues of the host society. Hence, if men of Asian/Pakistani/Muslim origin are increasingly doing what others do in unacceptably high numbers, it is perhaps predictable.
A brief look at the website of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children [NSPCC] makes disturbing reading about the extent of abuse against young people:
• One in six (16.5%) 11-17 year olds have experienced sexual abuse and nearly a quarter of young adults experienced sexual abuse during childhood.
• There were 17,727 sexual crimes against children under 16 were recorded in England and Wales in 2010/11.
• Two thirds (65.9%) of contact sexual abuse experienced by children aged 0-17 was perpetrated by someone aged under 18.
• Four out of five (82.7%) children who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.
• The number of sexual assaults on children were more than 400 offences reported to police every week in 2010-11 with fewer than one in ten resulting in a conviction.
• Of the 23,097 victims more than a fifth – 4,973 – hadn’t reached secondary school age and almost 1500 were five or under. However the majority of offences, 14,819, were reported against 11-17-year-olds.
• Around half of the abused or neglected children who enter care each year are abused or neglected again when they return home.
• They reveal more than one in three of all sex crimes* are committed against children and at 19,790, the number of girl victims was six times higher than boys – 3218.
The abuse and rape of these girls started as free social interaction with some flirtatious chat. One victim described pitifully how they made her feel ‘pretty’ before any sexual contact started – something not uncommon in the UK but not especially common in South Asia/Pakistan/Muslim culture.
The men sat and drank vodka with their eventual victims – again not uncommon in the UK, but not at all common from where they originated.
The girls, mostly from broken homes and vulnerable backgrounds, were hugely attracted by the drink, cigarettes, food and taxis: which seems tragic when one thinks about it. For they were made to feel special and wanted in a way they were not at home and in other areas of society – a feeling that was grotesquely exploited it seems.
Perhaps one of the red herrings in the coverage is the idea that the men chose these girls because they were ‘white’ or ‘non-Muslim’ [Melanie Phillips’ view!]. One commentator did mention that Asian girls of the same age were more ‘strictly parented’ – which made them a less easy target. There is likely to be some truth in this; as there maybe to saying that the cultural norms that surrounded these victims that made them an easier target.
Julie Bindell describes the process of ‘grooming’ saying: “First there is the gaining of trust. Next, desensitisation (the normalisation of abusive acts to the point where the victim comes to believe she deserves it); isolation (from friends, family members and school); and sexualisation (so that the girls “act out” their abuse in a way that results in them being seen as “asking for it” rather than abused).”
Her point is strengthened by her account of the disappearance of Charlene Downes, “who was 14 when she went missing in 2003 and has never been found. What was discovered during the police investigation, however, was endemic child sexual abuse and prostitution in her home town of Blackpool. Dozens of girls were being bought and sold for a bag of chips, cigarettes and vodka by sexual predators of all ages, cultures and ethnicities.”
The strong implication in all of this is abuse and grooming has become easier where the victims view the enticing behaviour in the ‘gaining of trust’ as part of a normal social life; where the victim craves attention, attention and being made to feel special for their looks; and where where families and social structures have broken down, so leaving them vulnerable and defenceless.
These are some of the deep societal questions that are consistently avoided by most politicians & media.
This is also why many Muslim parents in Britain will continue to strive hard to inculcate Islamic values of modesty, preserving childhood innocence and treating women as figures of respect and honour, and not commodities [which Nick Griffin and Melanie Phillips will abhor!]. If liberal behaviour and loose [or non existent] family structures are part of the reason young girls are vulnerable – surely people have to counter this with some effective values.
If British society has reached a point where it doesn’t protect these values, do not be surprised that Muslims looking for a change in Muslim countries want a system that will effectively protest and promote these values.
There can be little doubt that power, lust, greed are the drivers behind the kind of behaviour from any one who commits these abhorrent acts; and there is much in modern Western society to fuel these drivers. But there seems no effective sanctions that act as a deterrent.
In an Islamic society, a person proven beyond doubt to have had a sexual relationship outside marriage would be punished – and for a married man, it’s a capital punishment.
In a normal week, most people in Britain would flinch at the thought of this. But just for a moment, after the Rochdale gang were convicted, I suspect most people would have seen the wisdom of this particular Shariah punishment.
Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at [email protected]