There is no Muslim problem with sexual grooming
Our series The State of Racism has been running over the past six weeks to illuminate just how prevalent racism is in the UK.
We’ve also been highlighting the unique dilemmas faced by certain groups, from black mums, to South Asian Muslims.
But every time I have written about Muslims, I have received one recurring comment, on my Facebook, Twitter, emails and in the article comments – ‘what about the grooming gangs?’.
Why is this bought up every time I mention an obstacle faced by Muslims? Do the crimes of a few speak for all Muslims?
Obviously not, but it seems this constant bleating about ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ is specifically being used to shut down important discussions about islamophobia.
And while it’s difficult to measure the ethnicity of sexual offenders, there is clear evidence in many reports that the majority have been white men, not Asian Muslims.
Almost 85 per cent of offenders found guilty of sexual activity with a minor in England and Wales in 2011 were white while four per cent were Asian.
Some have reported even higher figures, claiming that the number for white male offenders is 90 per cent.
To say it’s an intrinsically Muslim problem is a lazy, transparent tactic – and the inaccuracies behind these claims need to be dismantled in order to move the conversation on.
Grooming gangs are only depicted to be an Asian or ‘Muslim’ problem because of a few high-profile cases and the media’s penchant to overreport certain types of stories.
The reasons people seem to be so consistently hung up on this issue is twofold; first because it reinforces already-held racist stereotypes of Muslim men as threatening and regressive.
And secondly, because the most oft-cited cases of sexual grooming involve white, working-class girls and women.
In the sexual exploitation cases of Rochdale and Rotherham in Yorskhire, there was extraordinary neglect against the, mostly white, victims aged 12-16.
How they were treated was largely due to classism and misogyny.
The girls were from working-class backgrounds, which is often thought to signify laziness or fecklessness. And they suffered misogyny – thought to be ‘available’ – a kind of oppression assigned to anyone who looks like a girl or woman and wears anything ‘suggestive’.
Consider this – had the victims also been of Asian and/or Muslim descent, would the uproar be the same?
There are actually Muslim victims of sexual exploitation but they’re often missed because of the focus on white victims.
We can also ask: if the perpetrators were also white – would their race be mentioned?
In this case, one of the most reported aspects was the commonality of the gangs – in terms of their ethnic and religious background.
The fact that whiteness so often goes unchecked and becomes an invisible default is one of the reasons we launched The State of Racism.
Granted, sexual abuse should always be taken seriously. But there is only one thing in common with sexual predators – the crimes they’ve committed.
But their background is oft mentioned because there’s an appetite to be fed about how backward Muslims are.
We see the same thing happen in cases of terrorism where attacks by Muslims receive 357 per cent more press attention then when white people do it.
These grooming gang cases are complex and there are racial elements to it – the perpetrators saw the girls as ‘easy meat’ because they were white and thought to be sexually loose.
This is, unquestionably, appalling and discriminatory behaviour from these Asian men.
Not all Muslims follow this backward way of thinking though.
Yorkshire police also admitted to being reluctant to report the men due to fears of racism accusations.
But arresting dangerous men, especially where there is evidence, is not racist.
Major neglect like this occurs because the UK is so ill-equipped to discuss and identify what racism really is.
Some people are more worried about looking racist, than they are concerned about doing the right thing.
These young girls were failed twice; by the men in their community who saw them as nothing but easy targets to quench their dark thirsts, and by the police who had their own interests in mind.
But they were not failed by all Muslims. We have the right to distance ourselves from the bad seeds in our community.
The way we see it, the men denounce themselves from Islam the moment they commit grotesque crimes.
So when they do commit them, they’re doing it as bad and dangerous men. Not as Muslim men.
These gangs deserve all our condemnation for the crimes they commit, but let’s not frame this as an intrinsically Muslim problem.
Because the numbers say otherwise.