As UK faith representatives, we support the persistent efforts of Home Secretary Priti Patel who has in the face of some considerable opposition decided to release the government report on, ‘Group based child sexual exploitation characteristics of offending.’[i] The Home Office report talks of ‘othering’ of victims by perpetrators, but remarkably failed to address one of the more obvious motivations behind street-based sexual grooming gangs in the UK – that is culturally linked to religion.
We believe the evidence overwhelmingly points to an inconvenient truth that non-Muslim girls (this includes Sikh, Hindu, and Christian heritage girls) have been systematically targeted in Britain, and this aspect of ‘othering’ is culturally motivated hatred. We implore the Home Secretary to have the courage to explore this element, which is critical in understanding the motivations behind street-based sexual grooming gangs like those convicted in Rochdale, Rotherham, Telford and Oxford. It is important that we listen to the voice of Muslim leaders like Baroness Warsi, who bravely said, a small minority’ of Pakistani men see white girls as ‘fair game’.[ii]
Victims and others concerned are increasingly speaking out. A Rotherham survivor said she was called a ‘white slag’[iii], and in evidence given to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is quoted to have said perpetrators viewed, ‘kaffir girls as worthless’.[iv] (‘Kaffir’ is a derogatory term for non-Muslims). Judge Gerald Clifton who sentenced men in Rochdale in 2012, made a similar observation in sentencing remarks. He said the men had targeted their victims because they were not part of the offenders’ ‘community or religion.’[v]
Since the 1980s British Sikh and Hindu communities have suffered at the hands of Pakistani grooming gangs.[vi],[vii] A television report on BBC1’s Inside Out programme in 2013 explored this issue – in particular, the targeting of Sikh girls.[viii] In the same year there was a conviction of men with mainly Muslim names in a case in Leicester, in which a Sikh girl was being abused above a restaurant called the Moghul Durbar.[ix],[x]
The establishment’s perceived obfuscation on the issue of race and religion has created an opportunity for Britain’s far-right activists to have a stake in this debate,[xi] in which they unfairly blame Muslims in general. They also blame others from the sub-continent for the behaviour of a minority of Muslims who use a misunderstanding of Islamic teachings to justify the negative treatment of women of other faiths and cultures.
We believe moderate voices in all communities have a duty to promote an open and honest dialogue about the racial and religious drivers behind these crimes, which will help strengthen the image and standing of the majority of British Pakistani Muslim men, who are law-abiding citizens.
The Home Office must prioritise this in any subsequent research into the characteristics of those convicted in high profile sexual grooming gang cases while showing support and understanding to those survivors who are brave enough to speak out about it.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon CBE, Director – Network of Sikh Organisations
Anil Bhanot OBE, Interfaith Director – Hindu Council UK
Rajnish Kashyap MCICM, General Secretary – Hindu Council UK
Arun Thakur, President – National Council of Hindu Temples UK