A few months ago a friend sent me a private conversation he had, to which I could only respond with: “holy shit!” He had been flirting on Tinder, and after a match a conversation was struck up, she asked where he was from. He flippantly replied that he was Asian, to which her response was something like, “oh right, shouldn’t you be chatting to someone ten years younger than me then? lol.” He couldn’t even muster up the energy to get angry about it, nor explain that he was of Indian origin.
Following the horrific report of sexual abuse in Rotherham for over a decade, I suspect there will be more incidents like this. Plenty of men and women have warned of demonisation and stigmatisation of Asian, or more specifically, Pakistani men over the last week. But I’ll be honest, that’s not my main concern. This may sound flippant but there are bigger issues at stake here than worrying that some of my kind might get spurned by a potential date.
Yes, most of the men who were found to have groomed and raped young girls in Rotherham were Pakistani. The same was the case in Oxford, Rochdale, Oldham and Manchester. There are other such cases and more will likely come to light. Some Labour commentators, such as Kevin Meagher, have gone as far as to say that their background and heritage was “the central issue”. What, even more central than figuring out how to prevent more such cases?
Let’s acknowledge that most of these men were of Pakistani heritage. Ok, done. What next? Should all Pakistani men be banned from approaching white children? Should any Pakistani men in groups be considered a rape gang and placed under police monitoring? Should they be banned from being councillors? Some have declared that this means multiculturalism has been a failure. OK…so should they be deported en masse? This is the bit where people go quiet.
Did these men abuse these girls because they were white? In some cases, like in Rochdale, the men used racially charged language. But this is only part of the story. If the rapists in Rotherham and elsewhere targeted white girls because they were racist, what about the Pakistani girls who were abused? The leader of the Rochdale gang was also found guilty of repeatedly raping an Asian girl. There have been numerous other examples.
The extraordinary bravery of women like Ruzwana Bashir and Shaheen Hashmat in talking about the abuse they faced blows a big hole in this narrative about race. Unsurprisingly, their voices have been glaringly ignored by men who claim to be standing up for victims. Dan Hodges, for example, ignores the mention of Pakistani women in the report entirely.
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“I do not care where they come from as long as they are stopped and brought to justice. I told Parliament in 2012 that the ethnicity of the perpetrators was an issue, not the issue. It was not the abusers’ race that defined them, but their attitude to women and girls. They targeted girls because of their vulnerability, and failings by those who should have safeguarded them.”
That was prosecutor Nazir Afzal, writing in the Mail on Sunday, whose diligent work earlier made the Rochdale gang prosecutions possible. Of course he’s going to say that – he’s one of them, you may argue. If that’s the case I have a few questions.
If political correctness was the main reason the police let these abuses carry on, what about the countless other cases where the abuse of girls by white men has gone ignored? In the case of Savile and others this went on for decades.
If the authorities ignored these girls because of racial sensitivity, what about the instances (from the Rotherham report) where its admitted women “were not readily accepted” in the council (13.63), that the council culture was “macho and sexist” (13.64); where a woman was told she “ought to wear shorter skirts to meetings” (13.65)? Is that irrelevant?
If political correctness is to blame for Rotherham, what about the numerous cases listed where the police and children’s social care “were ineffective and seemed to blame the child” (5.24) or said the mother “was not able to accept her growing up” (5.23)
If the police are so good to tackling sexual abuse when racial sensitivity isn’t impeding them, why are their units to tackle rape failing so badly and leaving rapists at large? Last week a student wrote that she was raped at Oxford University, and the police pressured her into dropping the charges.
Let’s talk openly about what happened and by whom. Let’s acknowledge that cultural values played a part. But the cases from Rotherham and other towns, as well as the countless other similar cases, have their root in the same problem: misogyny. Trying to make race the “central issue” is a deflection.
If political correctness and ethnicity was the main issue in Rotherham, it’s remarkable that British authorities have managed to replicate the same problems elsewhere.