Thursday 1 November 2018

Huddersfield grooming gang: The Islamophobia issue

Earlier this year, one of the victims of the Rotherham grooming gang anonymously wrote a very informed and intelligent piece on this issue for the Independent.

In it, she said that grooming gangs are upheld by religious extremism and even went so far as to compare them to terrorist networks. But even she - having very good reason to allow herself to be tempted to take the racist approach - condemned the work of people like Stephen Yaxley-Lennon aka Tommy Robinson , saying he doesn't speak for her, and said that she and other survivors are 'uncomfortable' with the EDL's protests.

In her own words, she 'experienced horrific, religiously sanctioned sexual violence and torture' and described how her main abuser beat her as he quoted scriptures from the Quran to her. And in Oxford, it was said that sexual assaults were particularly sadistic.

But, despite what some right-wing media and extremists want you to think, the fact is this isn't actually the case with every Asian grooming gang in the news.

It's a point that the prosecutor of the Rochdale grooming gang, Nazir Afzal, has already made.

Speaking about the case in an interview with The Guardian in 2014, he said:

There is no religious basis for this. These men were not religious.
"Islam says that alcohol, drugs, rape and abuse are all forbidden, yet these men were surrounded by all of these things. So how can anyone say that these men were driven by their religion to do this kind of thing?

"They were doing this horrible, terrible stuff, because of the fact that they are men. That’s sadly what the driver is here. This is about male power. These young girls have been manipulated and abused because they were easy prey for evil men."

In an interview with the New Statesman earlier this year, he described the ethnicity of street groomers as 'an issue', but gave more weight to the night-time economy that they often work in, the availability and vulnerability of the young girls who are often around it and the community's silence and lack of action to tackle the problem.

And I believe, based on the evidence heard in court, that what he said is also true of the Huddersfield grooming gang.

One of the victims in Huddersfield was Asian - something that also happened cases such as Rochdale and Newcastle, but is not often reported by the media.

The ringleader, Amere Singh Dhaliwal, converted to Sikhism after the abuse. He wears a turban, carried a kirpan in it and swore on the Guru Granth Sahib before taking to the witness stand. Raj Singh Barsran, who hosted many of the 'parties' in his house, is also a Sikh.

We shouldn't focus on race and religion and the discourse should be about something much more important - for a start, the causes of hebephilia and ephebophilia.


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