Muslims vs ‘slags’: a clash of civilisations?

The fevered row about Muslim men ‘street grooming’ white girls suggests the political class has taken leave of reality.

Tim Black

Tim Black

Topics Politics

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It emerged last week that a short British film, My Dangerous Loverboy, has been withheld from distribution for nearly three years. This isn’t because it is deemed to be particularly gruesome or morally dubious. In fact, the film, commissioned by the UK Human Trafficking Centre, a part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, was meant to be an educational drama to be shown in UK secondary schools. No, the problem, it seems, is that it touches upon an issue that seems to be exercising the anxieties of Britain’s elite: so-called ‘street grooming’.

For those unfamiliar with the innocent-sounding, innocence-doubting vernacular of the abuse industry, street grooming, if the reports are to be believed, refers to the sexual exploitation of white teenage girls picked up in public places, usually with promises of booze and drugs, by male Pakistani Muslims. And since that is exactly what My Dangerous Loverboy depicts, it is felt that the authorities are somewhat reluctant to imply that British men with Pakistani backgrounds are likely to be sexual predators.

Not that this reluctance has stopped street grooming, complete with racial inflection, from becoming something of an issue this year. In fact, there seems to have been quite a lot of effort put in to making street grooming something society should be very worried about indeed. The conviction earlier this month of two Derby men, Mohammed Liaqat and Abid Saddique, for raping and sexually abusing girls aged 12 to 18, may have provided the catalyst, but it was the subsequent comments of former home secretary Jack Straw that really made it an issue of public debate. Describing twenty- and thirtysomething men of ‘Pakistani heritage’ as ‘popping with testosterone’ but unable to find any outlet among their female peers, he argued that they ‘seek other avenues’ for sexual release. These other avenues being ‘white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care… easy meat’.

And there you have the issue, the social problem, stated in its baldest terms, complete with colonial-era connotations: Pakistani men have a Muslim-inspired predilection to abuse white girls because they view these girls as accessible and subhuman beings; in short, as ‘easy meat’. Some rushed to condemn Straw for racialising sexual abuse – as they would surely rush to condemn My Dangerous Loverboy were it ever to be released – while others felt he had merely aired a previously unspoken truth.

What neither Straw’s critics nor his supporters seem to have noticed is that so-called street grooming is a reprehensible but exceptional crime. It is neither a widespread threat to white girls nor endemic among Pakistani Muslim males. As a ‘crime type’, it is not a trend, it is a statistical irrelevance. Over the past 14 years, just 56 men have been charged with offences which look a bit like those of the two Derby men. Of those 56 men, 50 were of Asian background. And of those 50 not all were ‘of Pakistani heritage’. So, at most, that means that just 40 or so men ‘of Pakistani heritage’ have been found guilty of ‘street grooming’-like crimes in the past 14 years. Yes, the police say that these convictions form only a small proportion of a ‘tidal wave’ of such crimes. But this is the tip-of-iceberg approach to fear-mongering. Actual evidence is not taken as proof of what we know, it is taken as proof of a whole lot we don’t know. In other words, fear-informed speculation.

What’s interesting is how an exceptional, isolated set of crimes committed over a 14-year period have become a genuine cause for concern. The answer to this does not lie in a sense of moral superiority cultivated in the Muslim communities of Oldham or Bolton or Derby. And it does not lie in the dissolute lives of some white teenage girls. The reason lies somewhat closer to Westminster.

That is, in the angst-filled eyes of Britain’s elite, isolated, unrelated cases of Muslim men abusing white girls appear as nothing less than a clash of civilisations, between a righteous East and decadent West. This isn’t because that’s what it is, but so morally rudderless do Western elites feel, bereft of both tradition and purpose, that it really does seem as if Western secular society has lost its moral bearings; that it is inferior to Islamic culture.

Writing in the Daily Mail, Melanie Phillips almost gave the impression that Western society is inviting the abuse of white girls by Muslim others. Debauched, drink-sodden, pointlessly promiscuous… the terms of self-abuse proliferate. ‘Who can be surprised’, wonders Phillips, ‘that young white girls willingly go with these sexual predators who pick them up when so many stagger in and out of pubs and nightclubs in a drunken haze wearing clothes that leave little to the imagination and boasting of “blow jobs” or how many guys they have “shagged”? Who can be surprised when even sex education materials in schools advise on oral sex and other sexual practices; teen-targeted magazines, clothing and popular culture are saturated by sexuality; and family life has often disintegrated into a procession of mum’s casual pick-ups and gross parental indifference, leaving young girls desperate for affection from any quarter?’

Phillips is far from the lone fount of Western self-loathing. In 2005, for instance, several Tory MPs wrote to the Spectator claiming to agree with an Islamist’s claim that Britain was decadent. In 2007, Time Out magazine, noting how much healthier and environmentally friendly we might be if we all became Muslims, concluded only half-jokingly that ‘Islamic London would be a better place’. In each, the same self-hatred is at work: as a sense of Western moral superiority wanes, so Islam waxes. A lack of cultural confidence in the West, an absence of moral resources, is translated into the moral superiority of Islam.

And, no matter how absurd it seems, it is this cultural anxiety that has made an issue – racial, religious or otherwise – of a despicable but rare type of crime. Hence, when writing of the ‘street groomers’, the Independent’s Yasmin Alibhai Brown can talk seriously of challenging the ‘underpinning values of the Asian criminal rings in many of our cities’. They are not simply bad people doing horrible things to young girls. No, as Brown understands it, they are spurred on by their ‘underpinning values’.

If an elite sense of moral decay has underwritten the hyperbole around street grooming, then that stand-in for the ruling class’s old-fashioned Imperial sense of mission, multiculturalism, has helped to moot the response. Hence the fear of going public, or even releasing an ‘educational’ film, on the issue of street grooming. This is a case of a fictional problem that dare not speak its name.

But alongside that fear of upsetting a minority, there is a deeper anxiety gnawing away at those quick to criticise Straw for speaking his authoritarian little mind: the fear of how Britain’s instinctive, pre-rational working class might react upon hearing the supposed racial truth about street grooming. Because such are the amoral, animal-like depths to which politicians and commentators fear British society has sunk, there is absolutely no doubt in their minds that white working-class types would form lynch mobs throughout their Northern outposts.

Condescending, prejudiced and inclined to see a threat to society where there is none, the real problem here is posed neither by Muslim men nor white girls but by politicians and commentators in want of perspective.

Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.

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Topics Politics


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