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Allegations of CSE cover up and misogyny within the Labour Party

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Shaista Gohir Source: Facebook

Shaista Gohir
Source: Facebook

 

Shaista Gohir is pulling no punches. The chair of the charity Muslim Women’s Network (MWN) UK is continuing to deal blows to the Labour party, accusing it of covering up misogyny and intimidation of Muslim women from the men in their own communnities.

Gohir has been gathering evidence from Muslim women across the country in order to get the party to address the allegations and make some serious changes.

But more revealing is the allegation made by a former Labour councillor, who  claims that abuse is being covered up within the Labour party. The Muslim woman told Newsnight that Pakistani councillors on the council where she served are regularly protecting men who may be exploiting white girls, simply because they are important business allies.

Zahara – not her real name – claims that the police presented councillors with a sexually explicit video as they ruled on whether to shut down a club where these alleged offences were taking place.

She said: “The decision ultimately should have been to close the establishment down because of inappropriate behaviours going on of a sexual nature between young white girls and Asian males that was being shown on the video.

“I was clearly told to stop questioning by a hand gesture and nudge by senior male councillors that were Asian who were sitting next to me… I was told: ‘Do you know who it is? It’s a very prominent Asian businessman that supports us’.”

This woman claims that, on this occasion and many others, she was deselected because she refused to do as these powerful councillors of Pakistani heritage demanded. When she arrived at the selection meeting, it was full of Asian people she had never seen before. “They’re in the pocket of influential male councillors,” she added.

This, in my opinion, is the angle on which Newsnight should have led. Instead, it was almost buried within the report. It is almost as though allegations of covering up CSE were an afterthought of this report.

It seems evident to me that Labour is doing anything to keep  the ‘minority’ vote, at the expense of leaving those groups effectively to be ruled by ‘their’ men.

 

“Systematic Misogyny”

Councillor Arooj Shah Source: Oldham Council

Councillor Arooj Shah
Source: Oldham Council

 

From about 2:50 in the Newsnight video, Oldham councillor Arooj Shah is seen leafleting in her neighbourhood, along with fellow councillor Shadab Qumer. Councillor Shah is doing the talking yet the Muslim man they visit only shakes hands, and speaks directly, only with the male councillor, instead of Councillor Shah.

She told the BBC: “There’s Labour Party members who will accept my two colleagues, Asian men, but support anyone but me. They’re members of the local Labour party. They are shameless about it… It’s because I’m a woman and anyone who sugar-coats it is lying.”

Councillor Shah also said that she has received disgusting letters where her head has been attached to images of Page 3 models, in an effort to silence and intimidate her.

MWN has been heard from many Muslim women across the country on the “blocking” of vocal, independent Muslim women by male members of the Labour Party who are of Pakistani heritage – or ‘biraderi’ (clan) politics. The charity has called for an inquiry by party leader Jeremy Corbyn into the “systematic misogyny” within Labour. If this is happening in the Labour party then I wonder – is this also happening in other parties?

Unfortunately this is no surprise to many women of Muslim heritage. We are all aware of the fact that most of the hostility faced is by those from within our own communities. We receive support when we toe a certain line, but as soon as we go beyond that we are quickly silenced.

Well done to the brave women who are continuing to speak out against the misogyny and campaigns of harassment they have faced. It takes a lot of courage to speak out.

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Why are we blaming girls for the actions of predatory men?

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Originally published for Left Foot Forward on November 2, 2014

Child sexual abuse is now ‘normal in parts of Greater Manchester’, according to Stockport MP Ann Coffey. Her independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation, released on Thursday, found that it is a ‘real and ongoing problem’ and a change in attitude is needed.

When it was found that police had failed to protect up to 1,400 sexually abused young girls (perhaps even more) in Rotherham, we have all been asking ourselves: why are children being groomed and abused? Why is this being allowed in our country?

But I’ll tell you why. It’s because we don’t care. Sexually abused girls are not seen as actual victims; they are treated as ‘little tarts’ or liars.

When the nine men from Rochdale and Oldham were successfully jailed for sexually grooming young girls, the instant reaction from Muslim and south Asian people was that those men do not represent all the men from that community. Not all Pakistani men are abusers.

Well I’m sorry to break it to you, but those men who viewed the young girls as ‘slags’ and as ‘easy targets’ etc, do share similar values to the other members of their communities. No, not all Muslim or Pakistani men are abusers – there are sick men in every community. But many others do share that mind set.

Don’t believe me? See the comments below (click to zoom in).

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The screenshots are taken from post on the BBC Asian Network’s page on Thursday, when presenter Nihal Arthanayake hosted a discussion show asking ‘Should parents let teenagers dress the way they want?’ Perhaps young girls should start wearing a burqa, as one Saudi cleric suggested – better to be safe than sorry, eh?

Beautician Preeti Vyas said (at 18:30) that there are sick men out there and women (let’s not forget the topic was about teenage girls, not women) should protect themselves as best as they can. But what if a woman is dressed ‘decently’ (whatever that means) – who is to blame for her rape?

Preeti could easily speak out against society; she appears to blame a female for her own abuse. The gang members from Rochdale and some in their communities are singing from the same hymn sheet. These people calling into the show may find rape abhorrent, but they justify it by blaming the victim.

And there is the problem, especially within the south Asian and Muslim communities in particular – it might make me unpopular, but it needs to be said. In fact, I was labelled an ‘Islamophobe’ and ‘sick feminist’ (which I took as a compliment) by one man who believes 15-year-olds should be classed as adults.

I was sitting with a group of Pakistani women who were talking about the Rochdale grooming gangs in 2012. One woman remarked, ‘Why were these girls even out in the first place? Silly tarts.’ Another added, ‘They’re always trying to entrap Asian lads.’ It was these underage girls, these children, who were the predators, not the other way around.

And if you’re a brown girl being abused, people care even less. Not only do you have a lack of confidence in the police because you are raised to believe they are institutionally racist, but your family members try to hush up the crimes once discovered.

This is certainly the view of Shaista Gohir, who believes the communities are allowing the abuse of girls to continue.

The chair of the Muslim Women’s Network, she is making an appeal to victims of sexual abuse by family members to come forward for a new report she is compiling to highlight the extent of the problem.

She said:

“I want to collect case studies within the Muslim community to make them realise that part of the problem is our silence and we’re covering it up. The problem is getting worse and worse. I am hoping the research will get them to be proactive rather than ignoring it.

“I’m finding that women are the barrier to justice – they’re covering it up. Women have been in the know. Isn’t it our fault as a community if we instantly protect the offender and demonise that victim? This happens in all communities but within the Asian culture there’s the shame and honour which results in covering it up.”

I am glad that Ann Coffey highlighted the need to change our attitudes, but I worry that some of her statements could be seen as perpetuating this victim-blaming mentality. She said:

“Sexting, selfies, Instagram and the like have given rise to new social norms in changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent. I think we have lost the sense of what a child is. Sexual predators out there are having their quite unacceptable views confirmed through messages in the wider media: that children are just sexualised young adults.”

If an older man is sexually attracted to a young girl, that shows there is something wrong with him, not the young child. How is that we are still blaming a child for the actions of predatory men?

A young girl, a child, should not be viewed at in a sexual manner just because she is wearing a crop top, or shoes with a heel higher than an inch, or for wearing lipgloss. I am fairly certain that paedophilia and rape existed long before the invention of the selfie and ‘provocative’ pop videos.

When young boys are raped or molested, no one asks them what they did to deserve it – that question is reserved for those who had the misfortune to be born with a vagina.

And I am sick of the words ‘honour’ and ‘shame’ constantly being used to silence girls for being victims of horrific crimes. The shame lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Until we stop blaming a girl’s behaviour or clothing for her rape and abuse, we will never end the sexual exploitation of women and girls.

White Girls Are Not The Only Victims Of Sexual Abuse

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Originally published for The Backbencher on 15/9/2013

 

“We shouldn’t get away from the fact that there are gangs of Muslim men going round and raping white kids” – Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP, Keighley.

“Some men of Pakistani origin see white girls as ’easy meat’” –  Jack Straw, Labour MP, Blackburn.

“Our women are not halal meat” – BNP poster.

Asian and Muslim girls are abused and groomed by gangs of men. Disgusted? Yes. Shocked? No. In fact, I wrote an article just a few months ago, stating that the abuse of girls, especially Asian girls, was known by some. After I wrote that piece, I was attacked by some people for denying the cultural link, that Asian men only went after white girls, whom they saw as “halal meat”. Even the judge, upon sentencing the Rochdale groomers, said: “One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion.”

Yet it took an in-depth report by the Muslim Womens Network  that it is not just white girls who are abused and groomed by gangs of men.

silent woman

MWN UK conducted research into the hidden experiences of Asian / Muslim girls and young women so that everyone can better understand how to support and protect them. In such a short amount of time, 35 case studies were collected.

They launched the ‘Unheard Voices’ report on Tuesday and presented its findings at the House of Commons. BBC radio stations covered the findings of MWN’s report on Wednesday, but it has not been discussed in such depth as the Rochdale and Oxford  cases did.

Any comment from the EDL or the BNP? No. They were silent of course, because they’re only concerned with their own, white girls, and more concerned with using the victims for their own political agendas. No one was willing to even contemplate that these disgusting men preyed on their Asian girls, because that would require us to put aside our initial prejudices, get off the racial bandwagon and actually use our brains.

Sunny Hundal wrote a piece soon after, highlighting tensions between Muslims and Sikhs. He wrote:

“This is conveniently ignored by the white, Sikh and Muslim men who want men of other communities to point fingers at. Where are the Sikh vigilante gangs against honour crimes , domestic violence  and rape perpetrated by Sikh men against Sikh women? These gangs don’t exist.”

It’s so convenient to blame race and / or religion.  We would rather believe that girls are being abused in far away places by wicked brown men because otherwise, we would have to consider the very uncomfortable fact that abuse is hidden in every community, including our own.It is a complete myth that white girls are seen as “easy” compared with Asian and Muslim girls. One young man, in the report, said of the Muslim girls:

“It is easy to trap girls just have to tell ‘em you love ‘em and will marry ‘em. Some of the lads are doing secret ‘nikahs’ [marriage ceremonies] to make sure da’ link don’t get broken – that way you don’t lose the link with the girl. Then they offer their wives around. I have heard people I know say, hey bro do you want my wife?”

Mussurut Zia, the general secretary of MWN, helped compile the case studies. What did she have to say about the theory that white girls are more vulnerable because they’re supposedly out on the streets and Asian girls are locked up? “Yes you have white girls going out at night, though now you do you do see more Asian girls going out too,” she points out, adding:  ”On the other hand Asian girls can be tightly controlled but they’re sitting ducks. They’re more vulnerable at home.”

She continued: “Asian girls have extended families coming and going all the time. That’s a mass group of people going in and out, and families have no reason to be suspicious. It’s all hidden. One girl spoke to her mother who then said put up and shut up.”

Speaking of families, the report states:

“There appears to be little or no understanding among families and communities about sexual exploitation and there is a tendency to blame the female victims rather than the male offenders.

Girls were being regarded as “temptresses” and assumptions were made about their lifestyles. Denial about sexual exploitation was also raised as a major concern. There is a tendency to prioritise protecting the “honour” of the community over the safeguarding of vulnerable girls…preserving honour is allowing men to continue operating with impunity, therefore fueling sexual violence against girls and women further.”

MWN's Shaista Gohir

MWN’s Shaista Gohir

 

No one asks why these men were out late at night or where they were going. Because that is the mentality – men are not to be questioned. The most disturbing thing of all is how families were aware. Shaista Gohir MBE, who has been an activist since 2005, set up MWN in 2007.

 “There are young men that I’ve spoken to – a lot of them are in the know,” she said. “It’s not just men in the know, it’s women too. There are enough women that know about it. In one case study in the report , a girl who was13 or 14 at the time, was kept by a man in her room. He locked the door, leave a bucket for her in the corner to urinate in, and went out. At night he would take her out and pass her around.

“When the police went to find her, his family, who was living in the same house, said he was looking after her because she had run away from home. Sorry but how could you allow that? If you’re that concerned you call the police or social services. It’s become like a third income for some families. First it was drugs, then fraud and now this.”

Nonetheless, we continue to be in denial. Whenever Muslims have been interviewed, they will insist that race has nothing to do with this, that religion has no part to play in any of this. But something is not quite right there.

As Mussurut said: “The first thought on Rochdale was that if you’ve got a community in uproar then part of me always thinks, the lady doth protest too much.”

We need to stop burying our heads in the sand.  Victims go for so long without any help due to this absurd notion of honour and shame, as if it is somehow a child’s fault that they have been sexually molested and groomed.

Asian gangs

Shaista added: “It’s our fault. I blame all the community. If anyone asks me why are you talking about it, you’re bringing shame on us, do you know what I say to those people? I say that it’s your fault if girls are getting abused. You may not be doing the rape but your attitude lets them get away with it. The shame is on these people for remaining silent. Shame on you all.”

Many Muslims were outraged that Islam even had to be mentioned in the same sentence as this abuse. But the fact of the matter is, when a society or community is centred around a particular faith and when the culture is influenced by that faith, then to say otherwise is such a huge denial.

Take this account, from  page 58 of the MWN report:

My mate called me and said ‘Bro I have a surprise for you, come over to this house.’ When I got there 15 of them were sitting in the living room. My mate told me to go upstairs for my surprise. When I went into the bedroom, another friend was doing this girl (she was a 20 years old of Pakistani background). The lads went up one by one and took turns and while they were waiting they were calling their mates, cousins and uncles to come over and join in and showing off. Others turned up too including two older men who were taxi drivers, who went straight upstairs. One older man said I am going to call my son over so he can practice on her and later his 15-year-old son arrived in his uniform. Everyone took turns and it took 6 hours. I did get concerned and said, ‘the girl is going to get broke, who will marry her?’ The girl is not paid but she gets looked after, she is given food and the boys make sure she gets home safely if it gets late. There are set days Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays but some of my friends don’t like doing stuff like that on a Friday because it is Jumu’a (holy day) and they go mosque.

Amazing isn’t it – that young lads and men can be abusing and raping girls one day and praying to God the next. How does that even work?

“People know Islam is against it, when you’re brought up, you know it’s wrong,” Shaista said.  “But it’s become acceptable. They think if that you go on Hajj (pilgrimage) or do your Friday prayers, your sins are wiped away.

Asian child abuse

“One girl said to she that she didn’t feel like being a Muslim any more because most of the offenders were bearded men. One man would pick her up after Friday prayers. Another girl, who was 13,was abused throughout Ramadan. Where’s the morality gone?”
Where indeed.

There has been a lack of response in general. I tried contacting several women’s organisations and children’s charities here in the north west, to no avail. One organisation claimed that they had not even heard about this report. That could be down to either the lack of press coverage on this, or that they just did not want to discuss the issue, perhaps out of fear.

The MWN report highlights what some of us have known for quite a while, yet sometimes the obvious needs to be stated. Otherwise, stories such as Safa’s, whose uncle raped her before introducing her to his friends, will never be heard.

Kudos to these activists and others who have worked so hard over many years for women’s rights, and to those brave, young girls who shared their stories of abuse. They are the real heroines out there.

Written by Iram Ramzan

September 16, 2013 at 9:16 pm

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