FAO: The Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP, Secretary of State for the Home Department,
As UK faith representatives, we support the ongoing efforts of Home Secretary Suella Braverman, who, in the face of some considerable hostility, has courageously spoken out about the over representation of British Pakistani men in sex grooming gangs operating around the UK. The evidence contained within a number of independent inquiries – Rotherham, Telford, and Rochdale support her position on what is indeed a sensitive and difficult matter.
We as faith communities want the government to acknowledge one of the motivations behind these gangs. We believe evidence points to an inconvenient truth. That is: non-Muslim girls (this includes Sikh, Hindu, and White Christian girls) have been systematically targeted in Britain due to a form of religiously and racially motivated hatred. We believe the ‘othering’ of these victims should be considered as an aggravating factor for the purposes of sentence uplift when perpetrators are brought to justice. We support Baroness Warsi’s previous position when she said, ‘a small minority’ of Pakistani men see white girls as ‘fair game’ and ask the government to help the Pakistani Muslim community tackle this stain on an otherwise majority law-abiding community.
A Rotherham survivor has confirmed she was targeted for being a ‘white slag’ and because she was ‘non-Muslim’. Judge Gerald Clifton who sentenced men in Rochdale in 2012, made a similar observation in sentencing remarks. He said the Muslim men had targeted their victims because they were not part of the offenders’ ‘community or religion.’ British Sikh and Hindu communities have been complaining about Pakistani grooming gangs since the 1980’s, prior to high-profile cases like Rotherham, Telford, and Rochdale, but complaints have fallen on deaf ears. A television report on BBC1’s Inside Out programme in 2013 was the first high profile media to cover the targeting of Sikh girls, as was coverage in the Times following sentencing of men in Leicester. In recent years Hindu and Sikh community groups have attempted to highlight the targeting of girls within their communities. Despite the BBC interviewing them in 2018, a proposed television report on the issue, was pulled for what we assume to be fear of offending the Muslim community.
The unfortunate consequence of government and police inaction in protecting victims is the hate filled narrative of far-right groups, who maliciously and falsely label all Pakistani Muslim men as ‘groomers’. We can’t allow them to hijack the debate with their poisonous and divisive message, nor can we allow political correctness to stifle obtaining justice for victims by addressing the actions of a minority. Indeed, police failures in protecting young girls from grooming gangs has also contributed to rising community tensions in the UK and has negatively impacted social cohesion.
Although it is good that the ethnicity of offenders is now being recorded, we believe the racial and religious-based motivations behind a significant proportion of perpetrators sentenced in places like Telford, Rotherham, Rochdale – needs to be further explored and openly discussed. Victims deserve justice and deserve to be heard. The first step is being able to discuss the various motivations behind this pattern of criminality freely and fearlessly. Discussion should not be censored by fear of being labelled ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’.
We the undersigned therefore unequivocally support the Home Secretary’s brave and principled stand in addressing this serious issue.
Lord Singh of Wimbledon, Director, Network of Sikh Organisations
Mohan Singh Khalsa, The Sikh Awareness Society UK
Dal Singh Dhesi, The Sikh Youth Movement UK
Anil Bhanot OBE, Interfaith Relations Director, Hindu Council UK