Is there are problem of rape and child grooming in the Pakistani community? This is a question that was frequently asked by Jeremy Paxman to Bradford’s Imam and councillor Alyas Karmani, on Newsnight on Friday in light of the sentences given to the seven men involved in the Oxford grooming case. This infuriated me at the way Paxman asked the question, firstly why is there are ‘your community’ and ‘my community’ distinction, surely as British Asian men, they were from the British community. Second and third generation British Asians are as much British and English as any other ‘white’ British person, therefore Paxman can keep his arbitrary distinction (of skin colour) to himself.
Moving onto the real debate regarding these men’s conviction of child grooming, can you seriously toy with the idea that religion allows such an abhorrent act. The sermons held in 500 or so mosques across the country were wrong to deliver anti-grooming sermons, stay with me on this one I will explain why. Of course I am angered and disgusted at the vile acts carried out by these men and shall be toasting like everyone of their conviction and sentences. However what I am annoyed about is that these sermons have somewhat symbolised the notion that somehow grooming is a Muslim or Pakistani problem. Since when did any religion promote rape, or grooming and other vile acts? Of course child abuse of this kind has occurred within the Church and probably does occur within other religious and non-religious institutions; however no organised religion has made rape and grooming part of their manifestos publically. If we are going to practice ‘free speech’, at least make it consistent, and apply the same public scrutiny to other cases of abuse across the country, without highlighting the perpetrators ethnic background and religious affiliation (if they have one at all). If anyone is to play the blame game, can we say paedophilia is inherent in the ‘Yorkshire community’ because Jimmy Saville is from Yorkshire? Certainly not, because that is a ridiculous state and ill-founded. Grooming, rape and gangs is not a problem of any community and therefore we should treat criminals as criminals. It seems as though the media is insistent on presenting the ‘Asian man’ as the sexually violent and dangerous ‘other’.
Are British Asians more likely to fall into the life of crime? Perhaps Yes. But at least look at the reasons why. British Asians (in particular British Asian men) are mostly working class and poorer than their white counterparts (and working class counterparts), crime is therefore an option due to the lack of employment opportunities and social mobility faced by young Asian men. If Britain was less of a racist place, perhaps ‘Asian ghettos’ wouldn’t be a frequent picture of ‘multicultural Britain’, multicultural it may be, but integrated and equal it is certainly not! The current economic crisis and subsequent sluggish growth only plays a small part in wider economic problem faced by many working people today. Britain has seen since jobless growth since the 1970’s, when manufacturing jobs were outsourced to places like China, leaving the then skilled working class out of work and categorised as ‘unskilled worker’. This also included South Asians migrants, who have therefore been unable to guide their children (second and third generation British Asians) from working their way up the social mobility ladder and accessing opportunities they themselves lacked. Job security has also been a substantial problem, short term contracts and seasonal work has become the norm, compared to the 1980’s and prior which saw many people of working age working for the same company/firm for the rest of their lives. Newspapers like the DailyMail are quick to print myths about our swelling welfare state, or ‘nanny state’, but fail to look at how most benefits are going into topping up wages, because wages are simply too low to live off. Crime is therefore inherently linked with unemployment and low social mobility. Crime, drugs, gangs and rape culture are all products of neoliberalism, and this culture is not only present in any one society, but is rampant across the globe.
Imam Karmani said this was a result of the ‘crisis of masculinity’. Really? What does this say of masculinity? That it was somewhat constant and fixed? This is not the crisis of masculinity at all, because this assumes that there was once a role for men to play that they have now lost. What is he implying? That men, who are no longer breadwinners, have to compete with women, and therefore use rape to satisfy their male egos? Absolutely not! Masculinity, and what it is to be masculine, is a social construction and therefore is ever changing. There is no such thing as the ‘crises’ of masculinity. On the other hand, patriarchy is also of course the problem. However this is not something specific to the Muslim Pakistani community either. Poorly written lyrics by wannabe ‘badmen’ such as ‘are you gonna bang tho’, The Sun’s Page 3 etc. are part of a culture that continue to present women as sexual objects. Therefore grooming and rape comes out of this sexist culture. If there is anyone to blame, it should be this patriarchal system and racial and economic inequality.
The media needs to stop feeding into the hands of xenophobes such as the EDL (and their equivalents) by reproducing stereotypes and sustaining misinformation. The media lacks consistency when portraying the ‘dark stranger’. British Pakistani men in particular as presented as either sexually exploitative (‘talking our women’ etc), or they are socially and culturally conservative, radicals, extremists and terrorists. If these were inherent in one specific community I doubt Britain would be functioning, after all the Muslim population is growing. These labels cannot be simply specific to one community, and one community cannot be all of these things. It unfair to the rest of law abiding society to bear the brunt of the actions of what these men did. We should be challenging all types of inequality in society rather than making false and arbitrary racial and religious distinctions, and thereby reproducing already rampant racism in Britain.
Comment below with your opinions. Also don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @AmnaGRiaz