By Hannah Khalid*
It seems that there are now only three categories that the British press seem to be using to sort out their ‘Muslim’ stories; extremism (“London ‘sleeper cell’ told to carry out wave of terror by Bin Laden before his death”), corruption (“Another Muslim senior police officer arrested for corruption”) and grooming (“Blackpool: 60 girls groomed at takeaway shops by Muslim men”).
Is it any wonder that many from the Muslim community see the press as pursuing some sort of anti-Muslim witch-hunt, targeting and treating all Muslims as the one and same? No wonder so many Muslims, when coming across a negative story, immediately label it as lies and fabrication, an attempt by the non-Muslims to ‘blacken’ the name of Islam as part of a huge anti-Muslim conspiracy.
But have Muslims ever actually sat down and actually thought about these stories? Could there be a grain of truth in them? And if so, what are we doing, as a community to tackle such issues?
Let’s look at grooming, for example. It seems every few months, a new court case is discussed in the press, each spilling salacious details of Muslim men targeting vulnerable young, often white, females for degradation in the form of sexual favours, rape and abuse. Muslim youth from Leeds, Blackpool, Sheffield, Blackburn, Rochdale, Rotherham and Derby have appeared in the press for this reason over the last 14 years, with more cases to come in 2011. But still, there seems to be a die-hard reluctance in some members of our communities to accept that this is actually happening in our ‘mahallahs’, our streets and neighbourhoods.
If it was a case a one-off case, then one could almost be forgiven for the inevitable denial of all negative Muslim stories. But this is not the case, is it? This is a case of a minority of Muslims behaving in a manner that is causing the majority to look bad.
So, how do we, as Muslims who find such acts utterly abhorrent, tackle this difficult matter? Serious, hard questions need to be asked now and some of the answers will not be palatable or easy to digest.
How could we, as a community have missed and failed to address this huge issue? Or is it that we’ve been pretending that everything’s running smoothly, refusing to open our eyes and minds to the reality of some of our men and their attitudes towards the opposite sex?
Indeed what is it about these men that allows them quite easily to see one type of girl as ‘easy meat’, to use Jack Straw’s words (which, controversially, I agree with), while willing to die, or at least stick fists up, to protect the honour of another? Have we raised a generation of young men who are openly seeking to satisfy their sexual needs and/ or in fact make money from sex without any thought of the consequences?
What effect does sexual grooming have on Muslim communities and why should we begin to tackle this without further delay? Well, straight away, you have huge damning headlines labelling Muslim men as sexual predators and paedophiles, music to the ears of the far right groups such as the BNP and EDL.
Two of the ringleaders of the most recent case, Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, were married, family men. One can only assume that the effect on their families would have been devastating.
And what of the impressionable young boys who see these young men, pimps, as their role models, people to aspire to? If we, as a community, can’t come out and openly condemn the practice of the minority who subscribe to this view, then how can we complain when this pattern of behaviour is perpetuated and continued by the next generation and the next?
Yes, there are some twisted individuals who blame the girls themselves, branding them ‘eager partners’ who are happy to engage in sexual relations with older men who drive nice cars and buy them the odd McDonalds meal. And that it doesn’t really mean much, having sex with a white girl. But what if these girls weren’t white, but instead Muslim ‘sisters’? Think it wouldn’t happen? It already has.
No magic wand is going to solve this issue overnight, neither will a one way PIA ticket to Pakistan. Shame, embarrassment, denial or a lack of information may well be preventing us from speaking out. But in order to protect the young and vulnerable, be they Muslim or non-Muslim, we need to force the issues out into the open. Only then can we start to understand and deal with the damage caused.
If ‘shame’ is holding us back and preventing us from speaking out, then we should be aware that we are still continuing to support and condone this shameful practice in our silence.
*The identity of the writer has been protected for security reasons.
Artwork by Rukia Begum, exclusively for The Platform
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