Muslims back Jack Straw on Pakistani rape gangs

Jack Straw

‘These young men do not see white girls as equal, as valuable as they see their sisters,’ says Muslim leader

BY Tim Edwards LAST UPDATED AT 07:32 ON Tue 11 Jan 2011

Jack Straw is not looking quite as lonely as he was last Friday when he made the controversial statement that there was a "specific problem" involving British men of Pakistani descent grooming young white girls for sex because they think they are "easy meat".

An initial burst of outrage, led by fellow Labour MP Keith Vaz, has been followed by more sympathetic statements from Muslim commentators and women's rights campaigners.

Straw, the MP for Blackburn, made his comments after the jailing of two men of Pakistani heritage, Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, for abusing girls between the ages of 12-18
whom they had plucked off the streets of Derby.

Leicester Crown Court had heard how the two men, both married fathers, were part of a gang of "sexual predators" who cruised the streets, approaching white women as young as 12, who they then plied with drink and drugs before grooming them for sex.

Straw told the BBC: "These young men... act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.

"So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat."

Straw's remarks were criticised as "pretty dangerous" by Keith Vaz, while others went further, accusing him of acting as a recruitment
officer for far-right groups.

Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardos, said: "I certainly
don't think it's just a Pakistani thing. My staff would say there is
an over-representation of people from ethnic minority groups among perpetrators - Afghans, people from Arabic nations, Pakistanis. But it's not just one nation."

But Straw is now receiving support, not least from members of the
Asian community.

Mohammed Shafiq, director of the Muslim Ramadhan Foundation youth group, said: "These young men do not see white
girls as equal, as valuable, of high moral standing as they see their
own daughters, and their own sisters, and I think that's wrong. It's a form of racism that's abhorrent in a civilised society."

"I first raised this two or three years ago and I got a lot of stick
within the community from people who said I was doing the work of the BNP and stigmatising them."

The feminist Muslim journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown has also backed
Straw. Writing in the Independent about the Derby gang she says: "The criminals feel they did no wrong. These girls to them are trash, asking to be wasted – unlike their own women, who must be kept from the disorderly world out there."

She calls on Asians to examine "what lies beneath these crimes".

Earlier, Ann Cryer, former Labour MP for Keighley, West Yorkshire, who campaigns for women's rights, said Straw should be commended for bringing up a problem which, she claimed, Muslim MPs were not prepared to confront.

Said Cryer: "The vast majority of young Asian men are fine, but there's a minority who do not behave properly towards white women and sweeping it under the carpet will only make matters worse. If these Asian men behaved in the same way to young Muslim girls they'd end up in very hot water in their community."

Even before Straw made his provocative statement, there were calls for an inquiry into the racial basis of gangs who groom underage girls for sex on the street.

Last week the Times published its own survey into the ethnicity of those convicted of on-street grooming. It found that over the past 13 years there had been 17 court prosecutions by northern and Midlands police forces involving such crimes.

Of the 56 people found guilty, three were white and 53 were Asian.
Detective Chief Inspector Alan Edwards said: "To stop this type of
crime you need to start talking about it, but everyone's been too
scared to address the ethnicity factor.

"No one wants to stand up and say that Pakistani guys in some parts of the country are recruiting young white girls and passing them around their relatives for sex, but we need to stop being worried about the racial complication."

The Home Office says that officials from the Child Exploitation and
Online Protection Centre (CEOP) are currently looking at the issue but it is an ongoing inquiry and may not be looking into whether there is any link to ethnicity. CEOP, says the Home Office, will report back "in due course". · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.