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Focus on ‘Asian gangs’ takes away from the victims

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This article originally appeared in The Backbencher on 25/11/2012

This week on BBC Asian Network, the topic on Wednesday morning was: “has the media got it wrong by focusing on Pakistan child grooming gangs?”

It was not long before the majority of the callers, including former Labour MP Ann Cryer, were quick to point out that this was specifically a ‘Pakistani problem’ because Indian or Bangladeshi men had not been involved.

Let me make one thing absolutely clear, before you all start accusing me of being in denial or other such things. I was absolutely appalled at the behaviour of these gangs in Rochdale – I hope they are left to rot in jail. But what disgusts me even more is how people have jumped on the bandwagon and started brandishing their pitchforks, determined to point the finger at Pakistani or Muslim men.

Deputy Children’s Commissioner Sue Berelowitz said this week that the “model” of Asian men targeting white girls was just one of “a number of models”, and warned that if investigators concentrated on those patterns, victims could fall through the net. The report concluded that both boys and girls could be victims of sexual exploitation, although the vast majority were girls. However, something which was not revealed in the media at the time was that almost three out of ten victims (28 per cent) were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

This is the key point, given that the general perception and crude stereotype seemed to be that there were dangerous brown men only after white flesh, because of some underlying prejudice where they see all white females as easy targets and more ‘available’ than their Asian or Muslim counterparts.

Furthermore, this should, hopefully, quell the myth that somehow Pakistani or Muslim men avoid abusing their ‘own’ women out of respect – that is simply not true. Men such as the ones who were  arrested in Rochdale have absolutely no respect for females of any kind, whether they are white or brown. They are monsters. End of.

Academic Vron Ware recounts that the black male has been historically ‎constructed as the antithesis of white femininity, sexually predatory upon white innocence and ‎beauty – the black male has now been substituted for ‘Asian’ or ‘Muslim’.

The danger with this finger pointing and crude stereotyping is that the victims often lose out.

The Children’s Commissioner’s report says that approximately one third of abusers, about which they received data, are Asian but ethnicity isn’t an issue.

In the vast majority of cases the ethnicity of perpetrators is not collected and it may be that their ethnicity is more likely to be recorded if they are non-white. Overall, the percentages were skewed to show a higher percentage of perpetrators were Asian than is really the case.*

 

 

In certain areas ‘Asian gangs’ can form a bigger percentage, especially if they are a bigger part of the local population, but that does not make it an ‘Asian’ problem. Yet there is this danger now that many Pakistani men will be suspected of being potential groomers or abusers

A social worker on BBC Asian Network recounted how young Asian men are now under the spotlight – pregnant white women who come into hospital with their Asian boyfriends are suddenly suspected of being groomed by them with no reason, other than seeing partners with two different skin colours.

The victim loses out once again

The discourse of the grooming case has been dominated by this idea that there is a cultural issue behind the sexual abuse of white girls. Unfortunately, this takes away from the fact that young girls, or children rather (let us not forget they were still children), were being abused for a significant period of time. While we have all debated how it is brown men that are causing the problems on our streets, we forgot to ask ourselves – what about the children?

Because, let’s face it, Pakistani abusers receive more headlines and it sells more papers, and eventually plays into the hands of the racists, such as the BNP and EDL, who don’t really care about the victims, they are just looking for someone to scapegoat.

Debating the race, ethnicity or nationality of those monsters to me is irrelevant and trivial and the abuse goes unnoticed. This needs to be addressed.

Instead, the focus should be on the victims. Social services and the police need to be trained and guided on how to identify children who may be subjected to sexual abuse or grooming. They need to be helped first. That way, the abusers are caught – it is not easy to find out who is an abuser, it just does not work like that, whereas there are often tell-tale signs of a child who is being abused. Once a victim is identified, the abuser can be apprehended. The police and social services can then find out who else is being groomed or abused.

An Asian problem?

Sexual abuse is a taboo everywhere, especially in Asian communities. Not all abuse is documented, or ever found out.  Asian women are less likely to report abuse because of this notion of ‘honour’ and ‘shame’.

Amongst Asians, the family (extended over numerous households) is a fundamental and influential foundation, providing financial support and emotional security. The accomplishments of an Asian family are judged in terms of the family as a whole, so privacy or independence is seen as undesirable. Gender stereotypes are highly conventional and since women are held responsible for maintaining family honour, known as izzat, and avoiding sharam (shame) the family may justify women being guarded and considered not as individuals but as property.

This leaves many Asian girls even more vulnerable because they are less likely to speak out. So we need a better system in place that can help even more young boys and girls come forward if they are being abused.

At the end of the day, our first priority should be helping the victims, and I hope that after this report we can see past the labels and put the victims first.

 

* This paragraph has been amended to include the unreliability of the data

Another MP puts his foot in it

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MP for Keighley Kris Hopkins

Each week seems to bring yet more controversy. This time it was because a Conservative MP for Keighley,  Kris Hopkins, decided to go off on a rant about “gangs of Muslim men” apparently “raping white kids at this moment in time.”

 

Now, if I knew that there were gangs raping children, I’d call the police. It’s as simple as that. I hope that if Mr Hopkins knows something illegal is going on in his constituency then he has reported this matter to the police who can then do something about it. Otherwise, I don’t see the point of his little stunt in Parliament other than to make headlines and score cheap points.

The ‘Muslim’ label

There was an absolute furore over the fact that Hopkins described the men as ‘Muslim’.

 

Abid Hussain, senior vice-president of the Keighley Muslim Association, said: “We are totally condemning the statements he [Hopkins] made. We live in a multicultural society and he has just blamed the Muslims.”

 

I doubt very much Hopkins has a problem with Muslims, I just believe he phrased it rather clumsily and without any diplomacy at all. It is statements such as these which fuel members of the far-right.

 

It did not help that Ann Cryer, former Labour MP and predecessor to Hopkins, claimed that this was a ‘Mirpuri’ problem.

 

Speaking on BBC Asian Network, she said that people from Mirpur, a region in Pakistan Administered Kashmir, were very ‘rural’ and generally ‘uneducated’. Yes, because this tiny part of Kashmir is responsible for producing sexism – there’s something in the water…

 

After this comment of hers, many other callers seemed to corroborate her views, having no issue with generalising about people from one part of Pakistan.

 

Most people were perfectly fine with the fact that the label ‘Asian’, ‘Pakistani’ or ‘Mirpur’ was used to defame an entire group of people, yet the use of the word ‘Muslim’ was wrong. Why? Why the differentiation? Why is it acceptable to say ‘Asian gangs’ or ‘Asian men’ but not ‘Muslim men’?

 

Someone tweted me saying that ‘Asian’ was a more appropriate term because “Muslims aren’t homogeneous” (that magic word) “and Muslims come from all over the world, it is not fair to stigmatise the whole religion.”

 

So by that same logic then, as Asia is a huge continent and includes many different languages cultures and religions, why should all Asians be tarred with the same brush?

 

When the nine men in Rochdale were jailed for grooming young girls, many Sikh and Hindu people called in, outraged over the label ‘Asian’ because, as they pointed out, none of the paedophiles had been Indian or Bangladeshi – they had all, bar the odd Afghans – been Pakistani, Muslim men.

 

The Press Complaints Commissions code states clearly under Section 12 :

 

  1. The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.
  2. Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

 

I do not believe the word ‘Asian’ or ‘Muslim’ should be used in such stories, especially if they are not relevant, but what I take issue with is over people getting offended over the mention of the word ‘Muslim’ but not ‘Asian’.

 

The ‘cultural’ aspect

(sorry I’m not done just yet)

 

Mr Hopkins then went on to talk about the Muslim men who roam around Bradford University to routinely harass women.

 

He said: “Fundamentally, there is a sexist behaviour by Muslim men towards women…They are treated like princes.”

 

Yes, Muslim men can be sexist, I won’t even deny that. But so can non Muslims – it isn’t as though sexism is the first pillar of Islam (as much as many of you would like to believe). Women in this country still earn 15% less than their male counterparts. Sexism and misogyny are problems that are endemic in many communities and societies.

 

If Hopkins, and other politicians, truly wanted to eradicate these problems in our communities, then what is he doing about it? Have politicians actually reached out to the people in their constituencies who feel marginalised by the political system? I doubt it very much.

 

As if that wasn’t enough, he decided to generalise further by adding:

 

“One reason which I think plays out is that women from Pakistan are subservient. They do not speak English or understand the values and freedoms that a girl born over her may live by. It is more convenient for a man to have a subservient woman in his household. They are not equal citizens.”

 

Has Mr Hopkins met many Pakistani women? I doubt it very much because not every woman in Pakistan is uneducated. I know you all like to think that they all still live in mud huts and rub sticks together to make a fire, but this is such a gross generalisation. In some instances, the women who come here to marry British men are more educated than their husbands!

 

Ann Cryer claims that the Mirpuri community don’t value education in women and that the parents always import brides from abroad for their children (forgetting the fact that many Bangladeshi and Indian parents do the same thing). If she has said this ten years ago, I would have been inclined to believe her. But times have changed. Ann seems to believe that because she worked in one small town, and worked with one set of people, she seems to know the entire mindset of Pakistani or Kashmiri people.

 

Go out there and talk to people Ann, maybe then you’ll see that people have moved forward. Many women of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin have been to university and subsequently found good jobs. Some of them find their own husbands instead of going down the traditional arranged marriage route.

 

What this piece of information had to do with paedophiles though is beyond me – they’re two separate subjects.

 

Child abuse

 

The main point of this story should have been that children and women are subjected to sexual harassment and abuse – yet we’ve gone off on a tangent and decided the subject of discussion should be to tarnish an entire ethnic group (even yours truly went off on a slight rant).

 

Such issues remain buried. When the BBC falsely alluded to Lord McAlpine’s involvement in a sexual abuse scandal, we were all distracted. Reams of blog, articles and television topics were dedicated to the mess the BBC had gotten into, what would happen to the corporation, who would be next in line to be fire.

 

But what most of us forgot were the abused children – who will speak for them? Why must we get so distracted with a person’s skin colour, race, ethnicity or how famous the perpetrator might be when the issue is, and should always be, what will we do to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society?

 

Politicians always come out with the community-leaders-should-be-doing-more line, but they are our elected representatives. They are the ones who should be tackling these issues, not self-appointed men (never women) who do not even represent a whole community. That is a prevalent myth, that ‘community leaders’ should be doing something about the problems when they do not even represent a large group of people, only their own interests.

Written by Iram Ramzan

November 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

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