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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.

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Written by Iram Ramzan

November 19, 2012 at 6:02 pm

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