“Lost” Girls Are Not Sex Objects – Whatever Their Race

A group of nine men of Pakistani and Afghan origin were sentenced to jail recently for using alcohol and drugs to “groom” white British girls for sex.  The abuse took place in the town of Rochdale, near Manchester in northwest England.  The men, aged 24 to 38, were employed as taxi drivers, and included a religious studies teacher and a takeaway worker who were indicted for assaulting victims as young as 13 years of age.  Since then, another two people have been arrested in connection with another child grooming case in Rochdale.  The ethnic background of the latter two is not clear.

The arrest of the group has heightened racial sensitivities, with several British Muslim communities receiving an increase in hate mail and abusive phone calls, further stoked by statements from far right organizations like the British National Party and the English Defence League. Fiyaz Mughal, from Faith Matters, which has set up a new helpline (Tell Mama) to monitor anti-Muslim attacks, was quoted on this issue:

“This is dangerous for community relations,” he said. “There’s lots of discussion about ‘Muslim paedos’, like saying the prophet married a young girl. All of this disgusting talk is adding to the poison against Muslims.”

While politicians have generally distanced themselves from the surrounding controversy, police officials involved in the case have denied any causation between race and sexual deviancy.

“It just happens that in this particular area and time, the demographics were that these were Asian men.

“However, in large parts of the country we are seeing on-street grooming, child sexual exploitation happening in each of our towns and it isn’t about a race issue.”

Additionally, recent comments by Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, a public body tasked with monitoring and promoting equality across nine key thematic areas in Great Britain, have further emphasized the alleged racial undertones of this abuse case.  Phillips considers it “fatuous” to deny that the men convicted were Asian and their victims white.  He further underscored the role of “closed communities” where people were either afraid to speak out against such behavior or were separated from other communities, thereby condoning such behavior.

In this regard, it is worth taking note of one particular quote by Lady Warsi, the Conservative Party co-chairman and Member of Parliament.  In an interview with the London Evening Standard, she states that “there is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game.”

Sayeeda Hussain Warsi is the third Muslim, and first Muslim woman, in UK Prime Minister David Cameron’s cabinet, a trained solicitor born to Pakistani immigrants, who was elected from a constituency with a heavy Muslim presence.  On this particular issue, Lady Warsi adds that this minority of individuals see women as second-class citizens, and white women probably as third-class citizens.  She also recommends that communities take heed and speak out against such behavior.

While Lady Warsi is right to suggest that for some Pakistani men, white girls may indeed be fair game, she has failed to consider that such comments are too based on stereotypes wrought from hyper-sexualized media images of white women, ironically, created by white men.  Much of the Muslim myth about Western women portrays them as oversexed, promiscuous, and with revolving doors in their knickers. How is this different from Orientalist fantasies of women in chadors or hijabs?  It isn’t: women in both cases are subject to objectification and misogyny, both of which ultimately transcend cultural and ethnic barriers.  A recent Jezebel article by MMW‘s Sara Yasin addresses the Western obsession with Muslims and sex, suggesting it stems from a desire to peek into the harem and to understand whether or not Muslim women are, in fact, oppressed.

“The secret sex lives of barbaric Muslim men and their oppressed wives is not a relic of a Colonial past, but still something that continues to enthrall us today.”

Imam Karmani (who, in addition to being an imam, is a psychologist with experience in youth and community work) offers courses and workshops to help change the attitude of young British Pakistanis that he believes underlie the cultural assumptions which have led a number of Asians to become involved in the on-street grooming of schoolgirls for sex.

“Many of these men do not understand what is appropriate behavior in wider society and what is not,” he adds. “They are so lacking in social skills – because relationships between men and women in Pakistani culture are characterized by a real formality – that they can misconstrue an ordinary conversation with a white girl in their taxi and think she is indicating that she is open to a sexual advance when that is not what she means at all.”

What the Rochdale gang did is wrong.  It cannot be emphasized enough how terrible the acts of these men has affected a community and a nation.  No community should protect individuals like them.  But to place blame on a race, religion, sect and or to make causations that demonize a community based on the acts of an reprehensible few is not justified.

Imam Karmani’s attempt to address the communication gap between the sexes is a commendable  effort to bridge understanding of such a sensitive issue.  Conservative societies like those found in many predominantly Muslim nations have a tendency to shun discussion on issues relating to sex and the culture that surrounds it. This only serves to fuel ideas and perceptions which are oft misconstrued and can lead to expectations which hurt intimacy and relationships.  Communicating may not remove the taboo or shame associated with sex but it may empower individuals to make better choices about their personal lives.

  • anneke

    Interesting, but I definitely do not think this is an “Asian” phenomenon. Lover boys in The Netherlands for example, often trick “white girls”, or other (vulnerable) girls from different communities and lure them into prostution. These men are predominantly Moroccan, and I have noticed a similar attitude towards “white females” among males around me, none of whom are Asian.
    Al Jazeera recently featured a documentary on lover boys in The Netherlands on their website: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2012/05/201251115345899123.html
    Might be interesting in this context…

    • Merium

      Hi Anneke! Thank you for your comment. I agree, it’s not merely an “Asian” phenomenon. Grooming women for sex is very much part of the business of sex trafficking and transcends all racial and cultural barriers. As long as there is money to be made, vulnerable children (boys & girls) and young adult women will always remain targets. I think greater attention (and resources) need to be directed at runaways and obviously the foster care system. It is evident that the courts will prosecute to full extent of the law (as was seen in this particular case) but managing the care of ‘at risk’ children remains a challenge for many countries.

      Will definitely check out the documentary.

  • http://www.wewillinspire.com Sara Khan

    There has been alot of discussion on how unlike white women, allegedly Pakistani women are ‘protected’ at home. Having heard little from the women of those communities, I wrote a blog for the New Statesman arguing that we cannot ignore that there are some Pakistani men who view ALL women as inferior including the women in their own households and how some of these women, rather than being protected have suffered abuse at home. We cannot ignore this dimension when discussing this grooming case and I think it’s been a shame that so few have discussed this issue. My article can be read here: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/voices/2012/05/after-rochdale

    • Merium

      Hi Sarah! Thank you for reading. I agree with your comment – we cannot ignore that there are some Pakistani men who view ALL women as inferior and to suggest these women (in their respective households) are always protected is an obvious fallacy. I instead wanted to emphasize how stereotyping and causality is the laziest kind of truth and we generally see that vis a vis the portrayal of Muslim women in the media.

      Will definitely check out the link, thanks.

  • Chris

    Quote: “… she has failed to consider that such comments are too based on stereotypes wrought from hyper-sexualized media images of white women, ironically, created by white men. Much of the Muslim myth about Western women portrays them as oversexed, promiscuous, and with revolving doors in their knickers.”

    I cannot help but feel a little uncomfortable with this paragraph. Is there racism and stereotypization against Muslim or “brown” women by non-Muslims in Europe/”the West”? Definitely. With a full stop, and no rationalization of whether this may have to do with Muslim or “brown” men publically speaking out for the obligation of women to stay in the house except for “urgent” and “necessary” choirs, and that with the permission of the husband; with Muslim or “brown” men often actively preventing their wives from learning the language of their (European) home country (for those who see this saying as exaggerated: heartbreakingly, in many German cities successful language classes for Muslim immigrant women had to be held secretively, masked as sewing courses, with actual sewing machines on tables to hide books under for the relatively frequent case men would come in to check on whether the women were actually learning to sew, and nothing more “subversive”).
    I think it is safe to say most of us agree: Such relativization racism and stereotypization against Muslim women as backwards, uneducated, submissive, locked-in at home by “white”/”Western” publics to be caused by “brown”/Muslim men and their public behavior does more harm than good to what is intended to be expressed with the critique of racism against Muslim/”brown” women. It sounds awfully apologetic, also.

    • Merium

      Hi Chris! Thank you for reading and I’m sorry if the comment thing was acting up. :) I think I understand what you’re trying to say and I believe another commenter above also brought this up. I do not discount the role Muslim men play in furthering stereotypes of women in the west. There are horrendous examples of this but are representative of a small percentage of individuals who have been unable to reconcile their socio-cultural identities with their new host countries. Much has been written about this issue already.

  • Chris

    P.s. There was more I wanted to say, but Spam rules seem to prevent me from doing so. I assure you I have no objectionable language in the comment I was trying to post. I could only by trial and error split my comment and post what seems to not trigger Spam filters. I am not sure the new Spam rules (I was unaware of) are very effective. As I said, nothing “spammy” I wanted to say from my point of view!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/ Krista

      Thanks for letting us know, Chris – that’s really weird. I’ll look into it…

  • Rochelle

    “…to place blame on a race, religion, sect and or to make causations that demonize a community based on the acts of an reprehensible few is not justified.”

    True. But I’ll remember this statement the next time MMW links the stupidity of a few christian/jewish white folks with endemic islamophobia or racism in N. America or Europe.

    Clearly demonization of entire communities are never okay, but it is also reasonable to discuss the deeper social, cultural, and political roots of particular acts, even when they are conducted by ‘individuals’.

    • Merium

      Hi Rochelle! I agree, it is important to address the roots of particular acts, even when they are conducted by ‘individuals’. Issues of sex trafficking of minors and women however occur all over the world and transcend ethnic-religious boundaries. Sex tourism in certain parts of Southeast Asia caters to white, adult males. Does that necessarily imply that all white men are sexual deviants? On the contrary, it suggests a stereotype based on mass media coverage of the issue and suggests a trend which does not imply causation. I made an attempt address constraints in communication between Muslim sexes which can be problematic for Muslim men when immersed in cultures where socio-cultural norms are more relaxed. The article on Imam Karmani is especially eye-opening and worth a read.

  • Tec15

    “but it is also reasonable to discuss the deeper social, cultural, and political roots of particular acts, even when they are conducted by ‘individuals’.”

    What a disingenuous way to indirectly defend Western racism without claiming to. Also nice to know that there is no widespread Islamophobia in the West and it is only due to “the stupidity of a few christian/jewish white folk”. Heh, we can always depend on certain people to play down actual Islamophobia while concern trolling about the deeper roots of “certain acts” (Something that never happens when white western “individuals” are caught raping, killing, stealing etc around the world.)

    How about examining the deeper social, cultural, and political roots of a handful of native informants and colonial feminists who rush to defend the West and certain “secular” dictatorships at all costs, all the while deeply demonizing their own religion and culture for the benefit of their western audience/paymasters ? There surely is a deeper pathology at play here.

    This comment has been modified according to MMW‘s moderation policy.

    • Rochelle

      Wowza there were so many leaps of logic and assumptions in this comment that it made my head spin.

      “Also nice to know that there is no widespread Islamophobia in the West and it is only due to “the stupidity of a few christian/jewish white folk”.”

      Actually I think there is widespread Islamophobia.

      “Heh, we can always depend on certain people to play down actual Islamophobia while concern trolling about the deeper roots of “certain acts””

      This is precisely my point: You can’t take blame some issues as “lone wolfs” while implying that others are endemic without evidence to back up such claims. I think BOTH Islamophobia AND patriarchy should be interrogated for their deeper sociocultural roots, causes, and consequences. You can do both. What a thought!

      Why does shit have to be either or with folks like you? When I help my neighbor on the left side I’m accused of ignoring the neighbor on my right. Believe it or not (and i know it must be difficult to wrap your head around this crazy thought) I can interrogate patriarchy in Muslim/Brown communities AND white communities at the same time! Whoa!

      “Something that never happens when white western “individuals” are caught raping, killing, stealing etc around the world”

      Seriously? Have you never been a feminist blog? The women’s movement have been talking about the systemic rape culture in the West for decades. As for killing – have you never heard of Columbine? There was entire clusterfuck of accusations/analysis over the “deep” social causes of that – it’s the lack of gun control, its militarism, its bulling, its Maralyn Manson etc etc etc.

      What an absurd strawman you’re building here.

      That being said, is there a disparty in the propensity to interrogate particular acts in Western media? Absolutely. That’s why I was so furious at the mainstream media’s coverage of that Norway terrorist, because he was treated as a lone wolf, foreclosing the opportunity to interrogate the endemic pathologies of neo-fascism, sexism, and xenophobia that shapes his ideology and drove him to that act.

      But to say that I can’t do the same thing with Muslim communities? Psha. I guess that would be airing our “dirty laundry”, right? Do you really find the Muslim communities so fragile, so helpless, so incapable of justice that we must ignore every fault lest we be accused of being a “native informant”?

      • Tec15

        For someone who claims to detect “leaps of logic and assumptions” you throw up an enormous number of them.

        “Actually I think there is widespread Islamophobia.”

        Really? because that is certainly not what your first comment implied. You comment quite clearly implied that this site (and by inference the larger Muslim community) jumps on the “the stupidity of a few christian/jewish white folk” to imply endemic Islamophobia when there is none. That is we make a mountain out of a molehill for nothing at all while ignoring the actual eeevilness of Muslims as being an even bigger problem.

        “When I help my neighbor on the left side I’m accused of ignoring the neighbor on my right.”

        But that’s not what you do. You actually hold up you neighbor on the left as the ideal representation of humanity with only a few minor blemishes while castigating your neighbor in the right as intrinsically backward, evil,violent and in need of enlightenment (forcibly if necessary) from your neighbor in the left. That is, even if you do not say so in so many words, what you ultimately mean.

        “we must ignore every fault lest we be accused of being a “native informant”?”

        Speaking of straw men, nothing I said implied anything of that sort. People are not accused of being native informants “for ignoring every fault” , but for magnifying certain faults all out of proportion and attributing them to intrinsic parts of “religion” or “culture” while appealing for the “civilized West” to save them from their own “savagery”. They appeal to their own authority as insiders and members of a group (Trust us we know what happens) while simultaneously ascribing all manners of evil to that same group.
        I could say more but I think this is far enough off-topic as it is, so I will end it here.

        • Rochelle

          “But that’s not what you do. You actually hold up you neighbor on the left as the ideal representation of humanity with only a few minor blemishes while castigating your neighbor in the right as intrinsically backward, evil,violent and in need of enlightenment (forcibly if necessary) from your neighbor in the left. That is, even if you do not say so in so many words, what you ultimately mean.”

          Please tell me where I have said such things. Please tell me how a learned person such as yourself could detect what I “ultimately mean” even if I never said such a thing. Even when I started clearly in my point on the Norway terrorist that Islamophobia exists in endemic and destructive ways. Even when I stated clearly that critique of Islamic communities and critique of Western communities are not mutually exclusive, are not conflicting practices, and should not be pitted against each other in a game of oppressive olympics.

          The first line in my first comment was an exercise to point out – again I am repeating myself – that Islamophobia cannot be taken as endemic while patriarchy is taken as a fluke without evidence to support either claim. It does not deny Islamophobia. It was a comparative effort to interrogate our logic about some issues versus others.

          You are putting me in a box, Tec15. You are projecting your own shit onto me. Please re-read what I actually said and then take issue with what I said, not what I ‘ultimately mean.’

          As for when you said: “nothing I said implied anything of that sort”, well… I know what you ‘ultimately mean.’

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/ Krista

          “You actually hold up you neighbor on the left as the ideal representation of humanity with only a few minor blemishes while castigating your neighbor in the right as intrinsically backward” – there are a lot of people who do this, but Rochelle is not one of them, and none of her comments here suggest that there’s one group that should be put on a pedestal. Please try to stick to the actual comments being made, rather than making assumptions about the people commenting.

          • Rochelle

            Thank you Krista. And I agree, there are a lot of people who are doing what Tec15 is accusing me of doing, and they suck beyond belief. So I am sympathetic of Tec15′s enthusiasm to critique such logic, and his/her critique of these people is totally valid and spot on. But it is not a critique of me, and I do not support the polarization (its either Islamophobia or patriarchy) that is characteristic of such debates. While on this blog I tend to emphasize sexism and patriarchy, in other circles I am on the other side, vehemently defending a critique of Islamophobia, which some people indeed do not believe exists. And there I am accused of being a cop-out, a fundamentalist, brainwashed by the male oppressor. There, too, are people who believe it is either or. It is exhausting.

  • beeluci

    I think one of the problems with the term Asian in this context is that it is an attempt at political correctness and it blurs the real issue, which is that this problem arose in Pakistani Muslim communities:

    “Groups representing Sikh and Hindu communities have complained about the term “Asian” being used to describe the men involved in grooming trials.

    Earlier this month, nine men were jailed for being part of a sex ring in Rochdale which groomed girls for sex.

    The groups representing Sikh and Hindu communities said the men involved were “almost always of Pakistani origin” and the term “Asian” was inaccurate.

    The Ramadan Foundation has said grooming is “a significant problem for the British Pakistani community”.

    The joint statement was released by the Network of Sikh Organisations UK, The Hindu Forum of Britain, and The Sikh Media Monitoring Group UK.

    It says the reluctance of the media and the government to discuss the “disproportionate representation of Muslims in such cases” and the fact victims are “almost always non-Muslim girls” is adding to the cause of far-right groups such as the BNP.

    It said blanket use of the word “Asian” was “unfair to other communities of Asian origin”.

    “We believe that in this case the government itself is sanctioning the use of term Asian as a way of clouding responsibility,” the groups say.

    The groups say sex gangs have targeted Hindu and Sikh girls but the cases are rarely reported as they seldom reach the courts.

    The statement says: “We believe that political correctness stifles debate and will not facilitate a frank and mature discussion or solutions to get to the root of why the above pattern is emerging in these crimes and how to help find a solution to the problem.

    “We will not be able to do that if we mask the identity of those involved based on misguided views of ‘protecting a vulnerable community’ of the perpetrators and not looking at the vulnerable community of victims.””

    link
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-18092605

  • Chris

    Hi Merium,
    Thank you for taking the time to reply to my comment! As a Western woman that has had a large “oriental” origin (not necessarily only Muslim) social circle for most of her adolescent and young adult life, for whatever reason that may be, and that has married into a Muslim community I can assure you from my impression, and from hundreds of people I have met and (had to) talked to on this issue, Arab, Turkish, Persian, Kurdish, Pakistani it was not a tiny minority that held the deeply derogating and stereotyping views of Western women. I believe most immigrants or descendands of immigrants are aware of a Western phenomenon I would call the “not you, of course” impulse: When a “native” person in a country goes on to rant about immigrants to an acquaintance that clearly has ethnic or national minority background, possibly even an immigration history him or herself, at a certain point they embarassedly note what has been said may actually be offensive to the conversation partner. Then that person often goes on to say “of course YOU are different! (subtone “you are the GOOD foreigner”)”. I can assure you the exact phenomenon happens with Muslim men (and I would not entirely exclude Muslim women, but I would say especially younger women are a lot less outspoken on the stereotyping and downtalking of Western women than men are) and Western women, downtalking of Western women and then the odd “YOU are different, needless to say!”, which I sometimes find even more offensive than the original insult, for its inherent insult of the conversation partner’s intelligence, quite possibly.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/mmw/ Krista

    Just a quick note on comments here – comments at MMW close automatically after two weeks, because otherwise the number of spam comments that we get is absurd and totally unmanageable (and because we almost never have posts that people are still commenting on two weeks later). That means that comments on this post will close in a couple days, and I just wanted to give a heads-up that it’s an automatic thing, not because anyone’s trying to shut down the discussion. The good news is that Merium has written a follow-up post that will run tomorrow, so the discussion can move over there once comments close here.


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