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Rotherham sex abuse scandal – let’s keep religion out of it

Rotherham sex abuse scandal – let’s keep religion out of it

Categories: Latest News

Thursday August 28 2014

Quite a few of the newspapers place the report by Professor Alexis Jay into child sex grooming gangs in Rotherham on the front page.

The report, which covers a range of failings by statutory agencies, from child services and local council officials to police officers, is a serious indictment of the failure to recognise and halt the scale of child exploitation in the city. The incidents reach back 16 years and involve some 1,400 individuals.

The Times, which has devoted considerable coverage to the issue, declares that the year-long inquiry was ordered by Rotherham council ‘in response to a lengthy investigation by The Times’.

Times270814The paper also goes on to state that the inquiry ‘found no definitive explanations for senior professionals’ consistent failure to protect children and hold offenders to account’.

It continues with quotes from the report’s independent author, Professor Alexis Jay, who points out that ‘almost all’ the offenders identified by the victims were men of ‘Pakistani heritage’.

Jay adds that there was a ‘widespread perception’ among frontline officers ‘that some senior people in the council and the police wanted to play down the ethnic dimension’.

Professor Jay went further adding that ‘There was also concern not to bring the ethnic issues out in the open, because it might damage community cohesion’.

The leader of Rotherham Council, Roger Stone, resigned on the report’s release yesterday.

The issue of child sex grooming has surfaced over many months with criminal trials in Oxford, Rochdale and London to name a few. The issue has attracted much media attention and on the back of it, protests and campaigns by far right organisations against ‘Muslim grooming gangs’.

Muslims have been at pains to distance themselves and Islam from the unspeakably wicked conduct of those men who preyed on vulnerable young girls, exploiting and demeaning them for personal interest and monetary gain. ‘Racialising’ the criminal element in child sex exploitation not only stymies efforts to reach all victims, irrespective of racial or religious background, but also puts an unhealthy, essentialising focus on ‘race’ or ‘religion’ as contributing or determining factors. Criminal behaviour should be identified for what it is whatever the racial or religious background of the perpetrator.

Muslim communities are at once hit by accusations of ‘covering up’ abuse while being faulted for the reticence of officials to tackle criminality for fear of ‘causing offence’ or being ‘seen as racist’.

Still, some of today’s coverage of the report treads familiar ground with the Daily Mail reporting on claims the BBC has ‘sanitised’ the news by removing references to the ‘racial identity’ of the men engaged in grooming young girls.

DM280814 Daily Mail reporter Sue Reid takes comfort in the admission of the racial identity of many of the men involved in grooming gangs feeling vindicated for her own reports on the issue for the paper.

Paul Vallely and Randeep Ramesh in The Guardian both highlight the undercurrent of anti-Muslim bigotry often unleashed by the media’s reporting on sex grooming and child exploitation.

Ramesh observes that “there must be an acceptance that perpetrators were criminals rather than Muslims. Surely the crime of a young girl being raped should have led officials to act, whatever the colour of the skin of her assailant?”

Paul Vallely adds a note on the improvements in child services introduced by Rotherham Council since the scandal though he acknowledges little of it “will make headlines the way a bit of sensationalist stereotyping will. But it will do far more to protect children.”

Nowhere has the impact of ‘racialised’ coverage on a wider community been better articulated than in the Guardian by Associate Comment Editor Joseph Harker, who contrasted the media’s coverage of grooming gangs in northern towns and the fact that the majority of men on the child sex offence register are white Britons. As investigations got underway into Stuart Hall, Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, he wrote:

“If you think the claims about white people are wrong, then so is the stereotyping of Britain’s Muslims, and the widespread questioning of their culture and their religion, because of the perverted actions of a few.”









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