Yasmin Alibhai Brown: Jack Straw is right to ask hard questions about Asian men

Fear of racism should no longer be the veil covering up hard truths

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The unrepentant British Pakistani gang leaders who violated young girls in Derby have been rightly reviled and given indefinite sentences. Their victims were almost all white. There it might have ended but for Jack Straw, who rekindled passions on all sides when he said that such Pakistani men thought these females were easy meat who deserved no respect or consideration ( I paraphrase). No solid evidence is provided by Straw to back these assertions. In fact, when he was Home Secretary he could have funded research on the matter, but failed to.

Still, even a man used to controversies must be nonplussed by the reaction to his comments. His words were thrown on to blazing pyres by fulminating leftie liberals, feminists, Muslims, Pakistanis, anti-racists and influential individuals who think of themselves as gravely responsible. It was unacceptable, they said, to racialise or ethnicise a particular crime; some even declared that any discussion of cultural factors was dangerous and racist.

Being avowedly a leftie liberal, anti-racist, feminist, Muslim, part-Pakistani, and yes, a very responsible person, I should be in the circle with these objectors – particularly as I can't stand the Rt Hon MP for Blackburn, his devious, shady politicking and moral expediency. However, just as when he criticised the full veil, I cannot condemn his views. How can I? Just before Christmas, I too wrote about these rapists and the anti-white cultural prejudices in some of their communities and families. It was a hard column to write, as is this one. Easier to pick your way barefoot through a dark park littered with broken glass. You need to think about every line, its effect, and know that you will step on the shard that will cut you, however carefully you tread.

I accept that on the basis of the evidence presented in court, this Derby gang was no different from that of the white grooming posse convicted in Cornwall in November. They too preyed on helpless, easily-pleased young white girls who were then used and destroyed. Most paedophiles in this country are white, and their victims too. Just because they harm their own doesn't make it less abominable or more acceptable. What does it matter to a young, white, rape victim whether her violator has pasty or dark skin? And it is gratifying that reputable figures like Barnado's Martin Narey and the judge in the Derby case have spoken out against wholesale racial scapegoating. We know extremists use race and crime statistics to stoke racial hatred against Britons of colour and from religious minorities. I have sometimes been a pin-up girl for the repellent BNP and English Defence League, whenever I criticise Muslims, or Asian values or black Britons who do wrong. You feel degraded and treacherous when this happens.

But I still say we need to expose and discuss more openly the underpinning values of the Asian criminal rings in many of our cities. If we don't, the evil will grow. Fear of racism should no longer be the veil covering up hard truths. What the Derby gang did has planted and raised more racism – possibly even among good, benign people – than my words ever could. I am sure recruitment to extremist parties has gone up too. Prominent anti-racists know that, but will not openly say so.

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. The whore and the virgin are both feared and severely controlled and abused. A 2005 study in the Netherlands of Muslim males found the same bifurcation, and identified deep sexism as responsible for both.

The conversations can be heard every day around dining tables and on streets; they are embedded in thought and language. I once interviewed the mother of a man who had been convicted of repeatedly raping his young wife, who came from a rural village in Pakistan. The head of the nursery school the couple's child attended had helped the victim report what was happening. In Urdu, the mother hissed: "How lucky was she to get my son? The dirty, ungrateful bitch – went to a white woman to complain. They sleep with everybody. She just didn't know how to make him happy. We have thrown her out. She can go on the streets like those whites now."

I have been writing about these culturally- sanctioned injustices for two decades, and have interviewed countless people. I will not melt the misdemeanours into generalities, and do not accept that ethnicity and sexual abuse cannot and should not ever be linked.

Some years back, a similar furore was raised over the Sierra Leonean journalist Sorious Samura, who made a TV documentary on the gang rape of young girls in British cities. Censured by the usual slate of apologists, he accepted that the attacks were carried out by men of all backgrounds, but pointed out that a high proportion were black or mixed-race. "As a black man as well as a journalist, I wanted to know what lay behind such attacks, the profoundly disturbing attitudes to females."

That is what I am seeking to do too, as a Muslim journalist who cares deeply about migrants and their progress. Let's ask questions we never ask, to find out more than we ever try to. Do these men have any idea of normal, pleasurable, healthy sex between a man and a woman? Are they maddened by their own frustration and fear of females? I am not impugning those Asian or Pakistani men who love women, but those who are too messed up to understand what that means; maybe those whose key choices, including their lifelong partners, have all been made by families operating as firms. And again, is this the most appalling pay-back for white racism? Black writers in the US, including Eldridge Cleaver, have written movingly about some of the unconscious, vengeful urges that impel black men to take up with white partners to assert power, sometimes to annihilate the person who trusts them.

Shouting down Jack Straw, busying ourselves with warnings about feeding the BNP, are displacement activities that will do nothing to stop Asian groomers, who, from childhood have developed distorted ideas about themselves, society, females, vice and virtue. Like Samura said, it is up to insiders to examine and reveal what lies beneath these crimes. We owe that to ourselves, to our future generations, and to the country we have made ours.


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