Sermons preached in mosques will do nothing to prevent child sex abuse in south Asian communities

There is no doubting the good intentions of Together Against Grooming, but their actions will only reinforce anti-Islamic assumptions and distract from the real issues

Share
Related Topics

Last Friday, Muslim leaders across the country united in openly condemning instances of child grooming and trafficking gangs within their communities. Organised by the non-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and supported by the Muslim Council of Britain, a sermon delivered in around 500 mosques highlighted both the “moral depravity” and Quranic condemnation of such acts, which have no place in the Islamic faith.

There is no doubt that the intentions of the lectures were amicable, particularly in light of recent cases involving grooming gangs in Oxford and Rochdale. Yet in attempting to disassociate the wider Muslim community from such deplorable acts, they may have instead found themselves contributing to the toxic narrative often espoused by anti-Islamic groups such as the English Defence League, who argue that paedophilia and abuse are inherent within the religion. Further, while the gesture may have been widely praised by the media, it will have achieved little in getting to the roots of the problem, or preventing further such cases.

That’s largely because the relationship between Islam and grooming gangs is spurious at best. Mosque leaders are correct in their assertion that these acts lack any scriptural basis, and more importantly, such methods of coercion - through the use of drugs and alcohol, are completely forbidden under any circumstance. Despite what some may think, it is also unlikely that the gang’s members were particularly concerned with the details of proper Islamic conduct either. Indeed as with most cases concerning sexual exploitation, to overpower and control vulnerable young girls was a far more central to their thinking than any form of perceived religious duty. So in this case, it makes little sense to characterise the actions of grooming gangs through Islam, particularly if those involved never actually displayed any form of religious motivation in the first place.

Alternatively, some may argue that while these men were far from pious, Muslim leaders have a civic duty to address these issues. In part, I agree; where mosques are integral parts of local communities, they should play an active part in addressing issues that affect wider society. But we shouldn’t simply place pressure onto mosques and imams, for in reality they can do little but continue stating the obvious: that such acts are abhorrent and impermissible. In fact, a more effective way of tackling the epidemic of grooming gangs lies in encouraging the quieter voices within Asian communities - residents, community groups and local business owners - to speak out. Victims of abuse often find themselves at the mercy of the perpetrators, who are empowered simply because those around them are more than willing to keep quiet and look the other way.

That’s not because members of these communities agree with the actions of the grooming gangs, or view the victims as worthless. In fact, their silence highlights a far more complex cultural issue - notably the cult of shame and honour that forms the basis of social organisation within many South Asian communities. Where the misdeeds of a son run the risk of making both his parents and close relatives outcasts by tarnishing their reputation, it is not hard to imagine why family members are reluctant to speak about it in private, never mind on a public stage.

Indeed, it is not just the young victims of abuse that these grooming gangs were exploiting, but also the sensitivities of their cultural heritage. Herein lies the  problematic component of this issue; where many South Asian cultures have both a taboo on discussing matters to do with sexuality and narrowly defined codes of honour, issues concerning child grooming cannot be effectively addressed by religious leaders. They must instead be tackled by actively reforming values and relationships within these traditional communities - a considerable feat for anyone.

While denouncing grooming and child abuse is an important topic, it is unlikely that last week’s sermons will have gotten to the heart of the problem. And while I agree that a disproportionate number of South Asian men have been found guilty of grooming, the somewhat apologetic nature of the sermons will have done more to associate Islam with such acts - further justifying the rhetoric and abuse used by anti-Islamic groups. More importantly, it does little for the victims, reducing their psychological traumas to a simplistic equation in which they are labeled as ‘proof’ of the evils of Islam.

The truth is that beyond the names of the perpetrators, Islam has little to do with these crimes. The real problem instead lies with cultural taboos and a hesitance by traditional communities to engage with such sensitive topics, which is readily exploited by criminal groups. The result of this continued silence is more victims of abuse and further hostility toward the majority of law abiding Muslims.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Manager - OTE £40,000

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This web-based lead generation ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Intervention Teacher Required To Start ASAP.

£125 - £150 per day + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: A 'wonderful primary ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Maths Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Our client is an 11-16 mixed commun...

Recruitment Genius: PHP / Drupal / SaaS Developer

£32000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A rapidly developing company in...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Benedict Cumberbatch attends a special screening of his latest film The Imitation Game  

Benedict Cumberbatch race row: What's the actual difference between 'coloured' and 'person of colour'?

Matthew Norman
Pressure is growing on Chris Grayling to abandon the Government bid to advise Saudi Arabia on running its prisons (Getty)  

What in sanity’s name is Chris Grayling doing in the job of Justice Secretary?

Matthew Norman
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore