The Pakistani Muslim men – three brothers and an uncle – who groomed, raped and destroyed young girls in Rotherham have been given long sentences. Two local white women have also been convicted of supplying girls to the men. The reactions to these verdicts are instructive. Racists are red with righteous rage; this is what happens, they say, when you let “coloureds” into the country. Many anti-racists, just as blindly furious, assert race and ethnicity have nothing to do with what happened. The white female procurers are their alibis. The rapists’ relatives and community leaders stand by their men. They believe the blokes took what was freely offered by trashy females – children, daughters. Muslims who condemn the exploitation, in their eyes, bring shame on the community. That’s how twisted their values are.
The one question nobody asks is how these men have been treating their sisters and wives. Most of them behave just as abominably and cruelly indoors as they do outside when they prey on young flesh. They want control; they abjure equality. Some – a small minority – do feel a kind of love for the women and girls in the family but many have monstrous views on sexual equality and feminine desire. Home is a cage in which no pleasures are permitted, where hopes and freedoms expire. Activists have sought to free these women for decades. The terrible truth is that as society becomes more permissive, the number of caged birds increases. One caveat: I am not saying all Muslim girls and women are oppressed. What I am saying is that sexual predators from traditional Pakistani families and many other minority communities think all women and girls are low-life.
I was looking at my wedding pictures the other day. On a cold, snowy December day, in 2000, I married my English husband in Ealing Town Hall. On the steps we had photos taken. It was freezing cold but I was in a silk sari, as was my mum. My Asian friends in their finery were shivering and smiling happily. The most striking, gorgeous person in the crowd was Humera (not her real name), who had stayed with me several times over the previous two years. She was from a northern town and had escaped a forced marriage. Her family had made her marry a man from Pakistan who had then raped her nightly for months. A social worker helped her escape. I heard of her case and offered to have her live with us for a while. The bruises on her thighs and breasts took months to heal.
She was one of countless such victims, all hidden and hopeless. Forced marriage has since been outlawed and girls have some protection and awareness of their rights but now we have Sharia courts in this country, which condone wife beating, marital rape, compulsory or child marriages, polygamy, paternal ownership of children and extreme sexism. Pre-pubescent Muslim girls are married on Skype. Imams praise this technology, which allows families to trade in their daughters – girls between the ages of six and nine among them. How did our rulers let this happen?
Political scientist Elham Manea, herself a Muslim, has written a new book, Women and Shari’a Law: the Impact of Legal Pluralism in the UK. She investigated 80 faith “councils”, which settle disputes and make quasi-legal decisions. According to Manea these courts are more hardline even than in Pakistan and many of their religious leaders issue horrendous advice. For example, a senior cleric in a British Sharia council pronounced that there was no “right age” for a girl to marry: “As you know, the earlier the better”. Humera’s family were not given religious authorisation to do what they did to her. Imams in the 1990s were conservative but not inflexible Islamicists. Today the human-rights abuses are validated by dozens of Muslim leaders as well as by influential Islamic institutions. Though forced marriages are a curse in Hindu and Sikh families too, they do not have systemised, pervasive doctrines to back their heinous behaviours.
Why is this even important when we are discussing the Rochdale crimes against white British children? Am I trying to deflect attention from those horrors? On the contrary; I am making vital connections. We should find out how those close to the three brothers and the uncle were treated. Was terrible violence meted out to them, too? Should we not know that? More than 1,400 vulnerable white children were abused in Rotherham. Thousands of others are being discovered in other towns. The numbers would shoot up if we also counted the family victims of the groomers.
Grooming and domestic rape often go together. Police and journalists need to be as concerned about the latter as they now (thankfully) are about the former. Families and communities will resist such probes, lob accusations of racism and “insensitivity”. But it has to happen. Females of all backgrounds should be protected from sexual savagery and misogynist Sharia courts. There must be one law for all.