A-M u s i n g s

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Racial Prejudice and Blind Eyes

I wasn’t even in England when I happened to see a TV news report about the happy town where I grew up; it just couldn’t be true, I thought, but it was. This, in edited form, from Australia’s Sydney Morning Herald: “When the full extent of child abuse in the South Yorkshire town of Rotherham was revealed, a sigh of recognition was quickly followed by a sharp gasp of horror. A nation is in disgrace, the UK has plunged into a debate over culture, race, immigration, and political correctness.”

One thousand, four hundred children, wrote Professor Jay, was “our conservative estimate” of the victims in Rotherham from 1997 to 2013. She was close to tears when announcing her findings. “It is hard to describe the appalling nature of the abuse that child victims suffered. They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten, and intimidated. There were examples of children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone. Girls as young as 11 were raped by large numbers of male perpetrators.”

For years those charged with protecting children failed their task. Rotherham is bright with faces from across the old Empire. Mosques are dotted around the town centre, and food stores hawk Asian groceries, halal meat and poultry. In Britain, “Asian” usually means Indian or Pakistani heritage.

The victims were children with troubled family backgrounds, with “a history of domestic violence, parental addiction, and in some cases serious mental health problems”. A significant number of the victims had a history of child neglect and sexual abuse when they were younger. Others were known to social services because of child protection and child neglect, domestic violence and school truancy.

They were picked up outside schools by cars and taxis, given presents and mobile phones, free alcohol and sometimes drugs. They were flattered and impressed. “I was driven around in fast cars,” said one.And then they were abused. And if they complained, perpetrators would sit outside their homes, smashing windows, making abusive and threatening phone calls. Sometimes the victims would go back to the perpetrators believing this was the only way to keep their parents and siblings safe.

One survivor told the BBC “They threatened to rape my mum so, in my mind as a 13-year-old, it was ‘well they gang-raped me so what stops them from doing that to my mum?’ They knew where she went shopping, and when, so they made it quite clear they would do it if that’s what it took.”
Three officially commissioned reports were ignored or disbelieved, partly due to the “issues of ethnicity”. The majority of known perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage. There was a widespread perception at the council and within police that the ethnic dimension was to be “downplayed”. Opening up the ethnic issues would “give oxygen” to racism and attract extremist groups.

The Times wrote, “It was hard not to notice that … the convicted men in each case had something in common. They invariably had Muslim names.” The tabloid The Sun screamed, “They knew about it for years. But the council let it go on because the rapists were Asian … They prioritized political correctness over the gang-rape of children.”

Ed West, blogger at Britain’s Spectator and a writer on immigration and the clash of cultures, wrote, “In Britain, there appears to have been a pattern of sexual abuse by second-generation Pakistani men,” citing other cases in Oxford, Rochdale and Derby, where gangs of overwhelmingly Pakistani-background men have been preying on girls in care. “It’s definitely something cultural … Most Pakistanis in Britain come from quite conservative rural communities in a particular part of Kashmir. It’s as far away from British attitudes to sex and individualism as you can get… There is an attitude that women are basically targets, they are not respected as people and they can basically be used … To ignore what is obviously a major pattern is contrary to trying to solve the crime.”

This focus on race is not welcomed by all. “The idea of a uniquely Asian crime threat is ill-founded, misleading and dangerous,” said Ella Cockbain, a research fellow at University College London’s Crime Science Department after a similar but smaller scandal in Oxford. She went on to say, “Everyone was saying ‘child sexual abuse is a growing priority in our country,” but added, “It’s just one of those issues where the more you look for it the more you find it.” Be that as it may, but for the first time in my life, watching the news unfold, I felt ashamed of my roots.

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