Child exploitation: an issue minorities cannot afford to ignore

Failure to engage with the cultural issues in the case review makes them ripe for exploitation by the far right

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The serious case review into the Oxford sex gang cases (‘Operation Bullfinch’) has revealed ‘a worrying lack of curiosity’ about what was happening to the six girls in question, coupled with harsh attitudes towards their own testimonies. One girl recounted how she arrived at a police station in the early hours of the morning, ‘blood all over me, soaked through my trousers.’ She said: “They dismissed it as me being naughty, a nuisance. I was bruised and bloody.”

It is no wonder that the courage of the six victims – all aged between eleven and sixteen at the time of the abuse – has been praised by all involved in this case. They endured the ordeal of giving evidence to a packed courtroom, recounting details of horrendous abuse by men they had once trusted, and faced lengthy cross-examination as a result.

In May 2013, the Independent published an anonymised testimony from one of the victims. Groomed by Mohammed Karrar from the age of eleven (his first gift to her was a bottle of pop), she was raped repeatedly by him and his contemporaries over a five-year period, forced to have a backstreet abortion after falling pregnant at 12, ended up being taken into care at 13, and suffered brutal violence at the hands of Karrar and his brother. She was also injected with heroin, which she started to take herself ‘because it was better than being alive, better than feeling.’

Karrar and the other six perpetrators were given life sentences at the Old Bailey in June 2013. However, this was only Stage One of the girls’ battle for justice. The aim of the serious case review was to understand why the abuse went on for so long, and to ensure it can never happen again. This entails a wide-ranging investigation of all the factors involved, including those that are less palatable in some contexts i.e. the cultural, racial and religious specificities of these crimes (should any exist).

I firmly believe that anything less is a disservice to the bravery of these young survivors. We should prioritise empathy over tribalism, and inconvenient truths over mealy-mouthed apologia.

Contrary to popular belief, fear of offending cultural sensitivities did not play a part in the investigation of these particular cases. However, the review admits that investigators may have found it hard to work with ‘tight-knit groups of a different culture, and even language.’ Certain media outlets often serve up the banal platitude that child sexual exploitation (CSE) occurs within all communities.

While no-one is denying this, the serious case review clearly states that GROUP-BASED CSE (as opposed to other forms of CSE) is overwhelmingly associated with perpetrators of Pakistani heritage, and with ‘a mainly Muslim culture.’ (In the Oxford case, five out of seven of the perpetrators had Pakistani backgrounds, while two were of East African descent).

Various studies have backed this up, including the Child Protection and Exploitation Centre’s 2011 report, ‘Out of Mind, Out of Sight’,  which researched 2,379 potential offenders caught grooming girls since 2008. Of 940 suspects whose race could be identified, 26 per cent were Asian (almost all of Pakistani origin), 38 per cent were white and 32 per cent were recorded as unknown. This is all the more sobering when you consider that only six per cent of the English population is classed as Asian (ONS).

This is an issue that minority communities cannot afford to ignore. To this end, the serious case review pushes for stronger links between authorities and local faith groups, and increased opportunities for debate and understanding on a national level. Thankfully, there have been a number of excellent interventions on CSE from a faith and minority community perspective, not least the University of Bedfordshire’s research on faith-based interventions.

Of course, I am all too aware of the need to prevent the far-right from hijacking the racial or religious elements of these crimes for political capital. But I would say two things to people who raise this as a justification for not taking these crimes seriously enough.

First, have faith in the peacemakers of our communities, who may come from unexpected places. Witness the intervention of Angela Sinfield, the mother of a CSE victim in Yorkshire, who was very openly critical of the BNP’s attempts to misappropriate the racial narrative of these cases in 2006. This is very admirable; it makes one think how many others in the same position would call for restraint, and so publicly too.

Second, once we take full ownership of these problems and engage in constructive action – as the Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation did, with Julie Siddiqi as its spokesperson – there will automatically be less fodder for far-right groups anyway. The victims have put themselves on the line for others, despite losing large parts of their childhood to utter brutality. The least we can do is address these issues honestly and fearlessly, instead of having identity politics as our initial concern.

Tehmina Kazi has been director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy since May 2009, and has worked on a number of human rights and citizenship projects

23 Responses to “Child exploitation: an issue minorities cannot afford to ignore”

  1. damon

    The far right do not have the ability to hijack anything as they are too small and insignificant.
    So maybe we should just leave those fictional bogey men out of it. They could get a few mentions in the footnotes at the end, but are hardly worthy of being right up front there at the beginning of these conversations.
    Like in the title of this thread for example. It’s as bad as those who do try to obfuscate on this issue by saying that all communities have bad people like these abusers and groomers. (Jimmy Savile’s name is often mentioned).

  2. ian brunsdon

    Why can we not just admit that muslim Pakistani men feel it is their right to do these crimes? They are taught women are lesser than them and white women or in this case girls even lower?

  3. JoeDM

    We seem to have imported an alien culture that does not respect our values or our laws.

  4. Tehmina Kazi

    I only mentioned the far-right in the last paragraph; the rest of the piece is about the substantive issues.

  5. Tehmina Kazi

    I had mentioned examples of this mentality in a longer piece I wrote on the subject (it was in Open Democracy last year).

  6. damon

    That’s OK – and I have a lot of respect for BMSD.

    The trouble with discussing this issue is I think, that everyone’s terrified of it.
    Some things have to be swept under the carpet. Just listen to how it’s talked about on radio stations like BBC Five Live. Very carefully. If anyone even questions how many of these men even came to be living in England, it’s like they’ve derailed the conversation. A number of these men are not longterm immigrants or British born citizens (some are) and others have spent most of their lives in Pakistan and only been in England since the last decade. How did they all get to be here? What effect do they have on existing Asian and Muslim communities in places like Cowley Road Oxford? Do they make it more like Pakistan?
    I’d say they have to. Their attitudes to women will be more those of Pakistan than England.
    They will also have an influence on the British Muslim people they spend time with.
    And they help keep the community looking toward Pakistan in their attitudes and in the lack of proper integration they practice.

    This is just one aspect of a much bigger subject though I’d say.

  7. ian brunsdon

    You may have mentioned it but until people can accept its the main factor there is no moving on.

  8. Keith M

    Not only Muslim Pakistani men. The message must go out that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated.

  9. ian brunsdon

    I have noticed the same with 5live,thet are scared to tackle the blinding obvious.

  10. Guest

    Because your narrative of the inferior is complete nonsense.
    The far right has a high conviction rate linked to this sort of thing as well.

  11. Guest

    No, your far right are already here.

  12. Guest

    Yea, you can’t get to the pogroms until you’ve established that your lot are the Superior Race, after all.

  13. Guest

    You’re making excuses for your beliefs. Trying to paint your friends out the picture.

  14. Guest

    Nationality is irrelevant to common criminal behavior. Except you want it not to be so, for what people do to be taken in the light of such – that is, you want to excuse some behavior for the “native” people.

    You want to create a narrative and to paint a picture that they’ll behave more like your far right, as you whine that people like, oh, those evil Jews don’t adopt the RIGHT religion for your society and hence don’t integrate.

    One aspect of your views? No doubt.

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    And as is entirely predictable, you’ve been called inferior repeatedly by the right.

    Rather than having criminality treated as criminality.

  16. damon

    You’re pretty far gone Leon. Practically barking.

  17. ian brunsdon

    You just done Pakistani speak for nonsense again.T he far right are not being accused of raping underage kids in Bradford,Birmingham,Sheffield,Bristol.Peterbough ect why are you denying these crimes?

  18. ian brunsdon

    we can spell.

  19. Guest

    “The Jew’s a dog”.

    Same old far right insults, I see. They never change.

    You can’t argue with the arguments so you lash out.

  20. Guest

    No, I’m not speaking for you and participating in your denial, as you filter for if you care about crimes based on the ideology of the people doing them.

    Criminals are criminals. Period, an argument completely unlike your placing the far right above the law.

  21. Guest

    Your personalities smell?
    Okay.

    And?

  22. damon

    I meant barking mad Leon.
    The rest is just your imagination.

  23. Guest

    Ah yes, it’s my imagination that facts exist, I see, thanks for that little homily.

    No surprise you try and qualify your hate now, eh? Realise you’ve overreached, eh?
    But you stick with the far right line that disareeing with you is madness. The same old far right, totalitarian, social darwinist view which you *are* upholding.

    Reasonable adults can disagree, even sharply, without needing to call each other mad. You’re not being reasonable.

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