Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Muslim youth group the Ramadhan Foundation, recently criticised former home secretary Jack Straw for his comments about the gang of Pakistanis that has been jailed for raping girls in Derby. Mr. Straw described the crimes as “ingrained” in the community, but Mr. Shafiq said in a statement it was dangerous to describe such abuse as being “ingrained” in Britain’s Pakistani community, but said it had been an issue. “I have been clear in instigating this debate that these are criminal matters and should be seen in this way, no community or faith ever sanctions these evil crimes and to suggest that this somehow ingrained in the community is deeply offensive.” Mr. Shafiq may be right but equally he may be wrong, indeed, there is considerable prima facie evidence that this type of abuse by criminal gangs seems to be a fairly common practice among Asian gangs in the Midlands and north of England.
Clearly what is needed is specific research in an intelligence context that can define who is carrying out this type of depraved, criminal behaviour. Certainly, both Barnardo’s and the Children’s Society have raised concerns at the increasing extent of organised sex abuse of girls by gangs. It is gratifying to note that the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre have begun a study “to identify any patterns of offending, victimisation or vulnerability”. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12202489) which will go some way towards identifying patterns in the perpetrators. Recently Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham Crown Court for raping and sexually abusing several girls aged between 12 and 18.Several other gang members were jailed last year. This is not the only Asian gang that has been caught and it naturally begs the question as to whether there is an element of race or culture involved in these crimes. What is absolutely sure is that Islam or its culture is not devoid of malpractice – by internationally accepted standards – concerning young girls, many pre-pubescent.
The concerns that are raised internationally include those by organisations such as the Asian Human Rights Commission regarding child marriages in rural areas in Pakistan (http://acr.hrschool.org/mainfile.php/0278/674/) and IRIN, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, has quoted Mona Koser, a sociologist, who has done research on child abuse, that it was difficult for her to find accurate data because people were reluctant even to respond to introductory questions. (http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=26557)
A report by the Centre for Social Cohesion (http://www.socialcohesion.co.uk/files/1229624550_1.pdf) regarding forced marriages found that policemen, councillors and taxi drivers are turning a blind eye or even conniving in enforcing the Pakistani community’s strict “moral code” on young women. The report, entitled ‘Crimes of the Community’, claims the problem is no longer an issue of first-generation migrants importing attitudes from “back home” but is “indigenous and self-perpetuating” because it is sustained by third and fourth-generation immigrants. If that is the case with forced marriages, where many of the victims have been under the legal age consent, surely it is highly possible that practices that are acceptable in the imported culture may be found in other classes of crimes (i.e. morally and legally not acceptable to the host culture) here in the UK?
On the subject of rape in Pakistan, human rights lawyer and the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Extra Judicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions of the Commission on Human Rights, Asma Jahangir said “we have a law under which a victim of rape runs the risk of being accused of adultery herself and it is not just theoretical because everyday we see through our work hundreds of women sitting in prisons where they have made allegations of rape themselves but find themselves involved in the legal system”. One of the most horrific crimes against women, she said was the fact that they are killed because they do not conform to behaviour set out by society. “I would say that in about 99 percent of these cases nobody is brought to justice,” she added. (http://www.irinnews.org/report.aspx?reportid=13844)
These reports are from trustworthy sources and, as such, one has to ask if these situations represent a composite part of the culture that British Pakistanis would rightly consider to be that of their fathers’ or grandfathers’ origins or, worse still, that they have emigrated from, how can Mr. Shafiq readily consider the word ‘ingrained’ to be inappropriate? Surely the combination of forced marriages, some with children as brides carries the implication that the taboo of sexual relations with children is not necessarily respected by all Muslims?
Child marriage also takes place in many other Islamic countries, including Saudi Arabia, The Yemen, Afghanistan, Iran, Bangladesh and Indonesia. I personally have witnessed such unions in a not-so rural suburb of Agadir, Morocco, where my ex-wife met a child of 12 married to a man of around 60. It is fact that child marriages are common in some Muslim countries and many conservative Muslims quote the example of the prophet Mohammed and his marriage to the six year old Aisha and the consummation of that marriage when she was just nine. Of course in that era such marriages were probably commonplace in many countries, across many cultures. Yet because Muslims consider their prophet to have lead a blameless, perfect life his example is still a paradigm to Muslims to this day. It is evident from the above, in a wider sense in the Islamic world, that their is very little attention paid to equality and human rights issues where women are concerned.
I would like to see some sort of substantive evidence that shows that Islamic practices are not influencing the behaviour of some Muslims when it comes to such criminality. If this it is shown that Asian (Pakistani in particular) men played the larger or a significant part in this criminality, why should they be doing so? What is the correlation?
I have published a document that includes references in a tabular form that support my argument here. I openly invite Mr. Shafiq to respond to the above as this issue needs, at the very least, to be openly discussed and a hypothesis formulated that may, in turn, be investigated and data collected to arrive at some kind of conclusion.