By Sabby Dhalu
In September a racist and Islamophobic campaign was whipped up in some sections of the media regarding a child from a Christian background being placed in the foster care of a Muslim family. The issue has been discussed as a “clash of civilisations” as though placing a Christian child in the care of a Muslim family is a threat to Christianity and the western world.
This is nonsense and yet another cynical and grotesque attempt to use vulnerable children and families to stir up racism, Islamophobia and division in society, when what is needed is unity and peace in this turbulent economic and political climate.
Aside from the many inaccuracies of the reporting, such as the fact that the Christian girl comes from a mixed family with Muslim grandparents, it is inappropriate for the press to be reporting on such sensitive cases regarding the care of children. Vulnerable children and families facing difficulties should not be used as racist propaganda material by the media.
Lost in this discussion is what should be the primary concern for us as a society: the protection and proper care of children.
Many Muslim families and those of other faiths and none care for vulnerable children of different backgrounds. Simply placing children in the care of Muslim families is not abuse. Suggesting it is an abuse is quite simply racist and Islamophobic.
There is a direct link between racist discussions by politicians and the media and violent attacks on the streets. The only consequence of this most recent discussion is more violence and abuse of Muslim communities, when these attacks are increasing with numerous disturbing acid attacks and the deliberate targeting of Muslims in a terrorist attack in Finsbury Park where Makram Ali was killed and ten people were injured.
Similarly the recent discussion on sexual abuse and exploitation of women and girls led by Sarah Champion, focused more on the ethnicity of the convicted gangs than the crime itself. Sarah Champion resigned from the shadow cabinet after an article in her name in The Sun claimed among other things that: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls… These people are predators and the common denominator is their ethnic heritage.” Jeremy Corbyn was right to accept Champion’s resignation.
The sexual abuse, exploitation of women and children and the historic failure of those responsible to properly tackle the crime and bring the perpetrators to justice, must be condemned in the strongest terms.
We must support and seek justice for all victims of sexual exploitation regardless of their social or ethnic background. We must condemn and seek prosecution of all those responsible for these crimes irrespective of their ethnicity or creed.
Investigations into rape, sexual abuse and exploitation, abhorrent crimes that must be rooted out of society, reveal no link with racial and ethnic background and focusing on ethnicity distracts from the crucial task of preventing this crime in all communities.
The 2014 Independent Inquiry into child sex exploitation in Rotherham by Alexis Jay OBE stated that “as has been stated many times before, there is no simple link between race and child sex exploitation.”
The report reminded us of the conclusions reached by the deputy children’s commissioner that “one of these myths was that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males, as if these men only abuse outside of their own community, driven by hatred and contempt for white females. This belief flies in the face of evidence that shows that those who violate children are most likely to target those who are closest to them and most easily accessible.”
Research by Sheffield Hallam University shows the majority of sex offenders in Britain — 81.9 per cent — are white and that 5.6 per cent of offenders are of South Asian heritage (2007).
When examining these statistics or discussing other cases — Jimmy Saville and Rolf Harris — there is rightly no discussion of the link between white, British, English, Australian and Christian culture and child sex abuse.
Focusing on the background of perpetrators — which is only happening when they are from a non-white background — distracts from the crime itself, why it takes place and preventing it in future.
Falsehoods surrounding this issue and linking an entire community and religion with this crime has been seized on by the English Defence League (EDL). The EDL will be demonstrating in Bradford and Keighley today and is using this issue to stir up racism, Islamophobia and recruit support.
The labour movement must stand up to racism and Islamophobia and not concede to racist myths peddled by the far right.
Sabby Dhalu is co-convenor for Stand up to Racism and joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism.
The forthcoming Stand Up To Racism conference will provide an opportunity to discuss how to counter the Islamophobic and racist offensive. Progressive people who support equality are encouraged to attend. It will take place from 10.30am to 4.30pm on Saturday 21 October, at Friends Meeting House London NW1. Book here.
An earlier version of this article was previously published by the Morning Star here.