The conviction of nine men for committing sex crimes in Britain has once again thrown the Muslim community abroad into the spotlight. Though the British press has been doing a commendable job of covering the conviction objectively and trying to delink this heinous crime from any particular religion or nationality, we cannot totally buy the argument that race, culture or belief had no role to play in this disturbing incident.
Eight of the nine men found guilty of being members of a child sexual exploitation gang are of Pakistani origin. One of the men is of Afghan origin. The men acted together for years to sexually exploit girls as young as 13 years, using alcohol, food and drugs to ensure their continued compliance. The ‘grooming gang’ was able to abuse girls without detection owing to the fact that the girls targeted often came from troubled backgrounds, thus could not turn to trusted elders for guidance or support. Furthermore, the British police failed to act on a tip-off a few years ago fearing that they would be accused of discrimination.
All that aside, one must investigate whether the regressive attitude towards women that is so common in Pakistan and Afghanistan pushed these men into believing they could use young girls as pawns in their pursuit for pleasure. It cannot be denied that in some settings, men from this part of the world look down on those women who they believe don’t abide by strict interpretations of women’s religiously sanctioned roles. In fact, men raised with these beliefs about women tend to justify such perverse action through abuse. Following this incident, the Pakistani community in Britain should reassess how well it spreads the message of tolerance, justice and respect for the law among its members. Rather than feeling victimised or maligned by media attention surrounding the issue, the community must use this opportunity to create awareness in an effort to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th, 2012.