|Eight of the perpetrators|
Yesterday some awful news emerged from Rotherham - a town which is joined at the hip to Sheffield. For faraway visitors to this blog, let me tell you that over a period of fifteen years, over 1400 children from Rotherham suffered sexual abuse. The victims were mostly impressionable young white girls who were first groomed and then assaulted by British Asian men - often gangs of them. Sometimes the girls would be driven to other towns and cities where more abuse took place as Muslim men with Pakistani heritage networked in a heartless and Machiavellian manner to achieve their bestial pleasures with no apparent concern that these girls were other men's daughters.
At the moment, the knives are out for any public servants who failed in their duties - failed to listen, failed to understand, failed to act. There were many signals about what was going on but it seems there was a widespread reluctance to tackle the cancer because this might have inflamed racial sensitivities in the town and nobody wants to appear racist do they?
However, it was not the chief constable, the leader of the council, the social workers, the head of child support services, the doctors, the nurses or the teachers who abused those girls - it was the men - almost all from the Pakistani/Muslim community. They alone were responsible.
In the British Muslim world there often seems to be a medieval attitude towards women. They are treated both like second class citizens and as angelic objects of reverence. This is in sharp contrast to my own view of women who I simply see as people just like me - my equals, human beings together no matter what our gender. But of course I am an atheist. There is no religion to guide my journey through life or my attitude to the world around me. In contrast, those Rotherham men would certainly claim to be guided by Allah as they refer to the Qua-ran in their daily lives. They probably visit their local mosque and they will have mothers and sisters, maybe even wives who they deal with according to their faith.
And to me, it is not only the evil actions of these men that needs close examination but also the religious context of their lives - a context in which women are not treated as equals, We the tolerant "White British" host community are meant to blithely accept this medieval outlook in our midst, to keep quiet, to accept and say dumb things like "Everybody's entitled to their own beliefs", And we keep our mouths shut for fear of being called racist.
But what has happened in Rotherham and is probably still happening there and in Oldham and Bradford and Rochdale and Huddersfield and Manchester has much to do with the Muslim view of women. The perpetrators have emerged from that context and there is a sense in which it is that religious context that is largely to blame. You don't get gangs of atheists befriending vulnerable girls in the streets before abusing them and passing them around like parcels. We should be braver. We should speak out. Tolerance is sometimes simply cowardice in disguise.