“The way men in Pakistan look at women is just revolting- it’s as if they are salivating. They just can’t wait to get their hands on them,” said a male friend on a recent trip back from Pakistan.
I instantly dismissed his condescending sweeping generalisations and thought no more of it. But this week, it all came back to me. I was forced to think about his observations after the lid was taken off a grotesque can of worms.
Last week, nine men mostly of Pakistani origin were sentenced by a court in Liverpool for sexually exploiting and systematically abusing underage vulnerable white school girls.
During the six hours of videotaped testimony one of the victims said she’d been lured inside the take away shop by the men with drinks, a phone card, something to eat- and made to feel “pretty” before eventually being asked to “pay for” the vodka with sex.
At first, I thought this would probably involve a ‘group of lads’ but when I saw their faces I was rendered speechless. The men were taxi drivers, takeaway workers and a religious teacher aged between 24 and 59, many of them married with children of their own too.
Since then, much has been written by the British press both the tabloid and broadsheets alike and various investigations have been launched into why these vulnerable girls from “chaotic” and “council estate” backgrounds were let down. But all of them have been very cautious of accentuating this into a race or religion issue.
In spite of all that, I cannot stop myself from thinking that this case has a lot to do with ethnicity.
Alyas Karmani, an Imam and psychologist from Bradford who has worked for the Department of Education and also was a one-time head of race equality for the Welsh Assembly says, ” Many British Pakistani men live in two worlds. The first is encompassed by family, business and the mosque. It is a socially conservative culture where patriarchs and matriarchs have huge influence and where there is no toleration of sex outside of marriage and little emphasis on sexual gratification.
“Many are emotionally browbeaten into marrying a cousin from their family’s village in north-west Kashmir from which the forefathers of Bradford’s Asian community originate. In contrast to that, the second world is the over-sexualised English lifestyle where women are scantily clad, binge drinking is the main form of entertainment and porn is an acceptable outlet.”
Alyas’s viewpoint doesn’t differ much from the former Labour MP for Keighley Ann Cryer, who in 2003 said: ” Pakistani men are exploiting local children because they had married, or been promised in marriage, to someone they’ve never met, some cousin from their village in Mirpur who is almost certainly illiterate and hasn’t got anything in common with them.”
This makes me wonder if lack of education and say in personal life choices, inter-family marriages and the demeaning attitudes towards the display of affection between couples are just some of the factors that have lead to the horrendous ordeal.
When we look at the numbers, men involved in grooming underage girls on the streets we find that of the18 child sexual exploitation trials since 1997 – in Derby, Leeds, Blackpool, Blackburn, Rotherham, Sheffield, Rochdale, Oldham and Birmingham, most of those convicted were of Pakistani heritage.
Figures compiled by The Times also show that of the 56 people found guilty of crimes of rape, child abduction, indecent assault and sex with a child, 53 were Asians of which 50 were Muslim and a majority were British Pakistanis whilst most of the victims were white.
The judge, Gerald Clifton who sentenced the gang also gave credence to the existence of ‘cultural implications’ when he said: “All of you treated the victims as though they were worthless and beyond respect and you did that because they were not a part of your community or religion.”
But what has really enraged and infuriated me is the number of community leaders who have come out to condemn this horrific and ghastly crime with the exception of The Ramadhan Foundation, Muslim Council of Britain and a few other – the rest have thought it wise to bury their heads in the sand and let the awkward questions and storm abate.
Sadly, the nail in the coffin was hammered in by the chairman of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Trevor Phillip who commented that any attempts to claim that race was not a factor in the Rochdale sexual grooming case are “fatuous” – and that neatly sums up the point I’m trying to make.
For those that disagree, I know such cases take place in other communities too but for now the British Pakistan community has been singled out as one who turns a blind eye simply because the girls concerned come from a different background.
Nevertheless, what most people have failed to notice is that all the men involved are first-generation immigrants who came to the UK as adults which makes me hope that greater amounts of ‘integration’ into the wider community will alter perceptions of Pakistani men and prevent them from viewing white women, in the words of Jack Straw as ‘easy meat’.
But in the end, the real loss has been the bewilderness and bafflement of the generation born and brought up here as they begin to question their association with the country their parents are from.