Last Friday, Imams in various mosques around the country delivered a political sermon (khutba) for a change - it was not about the awful situation in Syria or Burma, but on the domestic issue of street groomers; the men in question entice vulnerable young girls with gifts, drugs and alcohol for sexual exploitation, and if necessary employ violence to keep them in chains. Imams do not need to deliver sermons or pass a fatwa, it is common knowledge that adultery, rape, prostitution, drugs, and alcohol are explicitly forbidden in Islamic law, and the jurists are unanimous on this. The sermon sent out a political message - it implied some level of collective guilt on the wider Muslim community, as if they have to bear some responsibility for the actions of the street groomers. One is naturally compelled to ask the simple question: what’s the connection between the street groomers and the wider Muslim community? Is it simply their Muslim names and heritage? Had the street groomers committed armed robbery or murder, would a similar sermon be delivered?
What about the fact that the street groomers are predominantly British; many were born and raised here through the education system, so should the society not feel the collective guilt too, and deliver a similar sermon? Of course, the media deploys the race card in a subtle manner, the British tag is conveniently dropped and they are described as Muslim or Pakistani street groomers. They are not as British as Tommy Robinson, Nick Griffin, Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, Gary Glitter, Mark Bridger, Myra Hindley and Ian Brady! The adjective of ‘Muslim’ or ‘Pakistani’ implies the acts are somehow linked to their religious or cultural roots, no relation to their British identity and the values of the wider society that ‘ironically’ permits alcohol (drugs) and casual sex, as opposed to the Islamic heritage of the street groomers.
This type of skewed media coverage is politically motivated to tarnish the Muslims and Islam, which has become a fad post 9/11. Hence, non-street-groomers like Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall, and Gary Glitter were given a very different type of media coverage; there was no attempt to classify them as a group of white Christian men with a problem that may have emanated from their British way of life, instead they were just individuals committing crimes. I can imagine Nick Griffin, Melanie Phillips and Douglas Murray standing up together and applauding the media.
It is highly unlikely that the street groomers are sitting inside the mosques listening to sermons, given their lifestyle of drugs, alcohol, adultery, and pimping out young girls. They are far more likely to be found in pubs, bars and clubs which the intoxicated racist hooligans of the far right EDL (English Defence League) types frequent. For sure, the street groomers have far more in common with the EDL thugs than they have with the average members of the Muslim community.
Forget the street groomers for a moment, if you are going to blame an entire community; thus, indirectly point to their religious and cultural values, then one should start by citing examples from religious and political headquarters. It is difficult to find scandals from Imams and religious leaders among Muslims; thus, in desperation the media cites actions of illiterate street groomers. Just imagine the Islamophobic media response, if they found sexual abuse of children committed by Imams on a similar scale to what has been revealed inside the Catholic Church, in the heart of the Vatican. I wonder what Robert Spencer has to say about this. Yet there is no hint of suggestion that this was the result of Catholic values and teachings; no priests delivered sermons around the country. The media duplicity is palpable. Similarly, can we generalise about white European men in suits, and ask them to issue a disclaimer of innocence, based on the examples of Silvio Berlusconi and Dominique Strauss-Kahn?
No matter how well intended the unprecedented and coordinated sermon only endorsed the rightwing propaganda that grooming was the product of the Muslim view
, of the outside
world. The Muslim guilt gets reinforced by a phantom Imam from Oxford, Taj
Hargey, who is rolled out on our television screens and given ample spaces in
national newspapers to air his superficial and slanderous views. He has made absurd
claims that Imams or preachers teach that scantily dressed white girls are
Halal meat, permitted for our carnal consumption. Is he really suggesting that they
are teaching adultery is permitted (Halal)? Of course, there is no reference to
a particular mosque, a particular Imam and a date of the sermon to back up his
claim. And until he can substantiate his claims, Taj Hargey stands as a serial
liar. This fool should know that any scantily dressed woman would excite any
hot blooded young man; this is about biology not indoctrination.
What then was the thinking behind the sermon? The issue is not about education, everyone knows sexual exploitation of young girls is forbidden according to Islamic law, and according to the secular laws of the country. It would be naive to think that the sermons would reach the culprits and have an impact on their behaviour in a positive way. The most likely reason was to curtail the anger of the majority white community. But their anger exists because of the skewed portrayal of the issue by the media.
Instead of focusing on the wider issue of sexual exploitation, the media attention has been on street grooming, because the Muslims may be over represented here. Street grooming is merely one method of carrying out sexual exploitation, a wider view of the issue shows the problem is not specific to any community, as was reiterated by the expert appearing on BBC2 Newsnight, during the revelation of the Oxford street groomers. Moreover, crimes against children, I mean really young children, toddlers and babies, emanate largely from the majority white community as one would expect, here the Muslims are underrepresented, but nobody is interested in such dull information.
Many dissenting Imams refused to deliver the sermon on this issue, because the act of grooming was not carried out in the name of Islam, unlike the Woolwich murder, where the perpetrators made explicit reference to Islamic teachings. It would have been far more fruitful to deliver a coordinated sermon condemning that action, and isolate the preachers of hate and disinformation, Anjem Choudary and Taj Hargey. Also encourage the Mosques and the Muslim community to use the coming month of Ramadan to reach out to the wider community to build bridges of peace, and burn the bridges of hate.
Yamin Zakaria (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Published on 03/07/2013