Jack Straw lent credibility to the barrage of racism in the press when he said that the grooming of young women for sex was, “a specific problem” among Pakistani men. He made the statement after two men were jailed at Nottingham crown court after being found guilty of sexual abuse and rape.
Straw and the media say that there is a conspiracy of silence on the issue. They say people are worried about being labelled racist.
The reality is that newspapers and politicians have pursued this story relentlessly, giving it blanket coverage.
They do not care about women’s experience of sexual assault and violence. Young women who are victims of these crimes often find themselves vilified as feckless scroungers by the very politicians and journalists who claim to be concerned about their welfare.
Many are vulnerable. They may have been in social care, and already suffer abuse and neglect.
People like the women in this case will have even less support or ability to improve their lives if the government assault on services and welfare is driven through.
The reality is that the sexual grooming of young women is not a “Muslim problem”. The judge in the case said he did not believe the crimes were “racially aggravated”, and that the race of the victims and their abusers was “coincidental”.
An agency in Blackburn involved in dealing with such cases said that 80 percent of the incidents they deal with do not involve Pakistanis.
Even Straw admitted that the sex offenders’ wings of prisons are full of white sex offenders.
But when he said that young Muslim men were “fizzing and popping with testosterone” and saw young white women as “easy meat” he was repeating an age-old racist stereotype of black men as sexual predators.
From the days of slavery through to the 20th century, black men have been brutally punished for having sexual relations with white women.
It’s not the first time that Straw has led a racist moral panic. In 2006 he criticised Muslim women who wore the niqab. He even asked a women constituent to remove her face veil when she came to his MP’s surgery for advice.
Once again Straw’s statements will legitimise the racist views of the British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL).
Already the BNP has launched a new election leaflet in Oldham entitled, “Our children are not halal meat.” Some EDL divisions are using the issue to rebrand the EDL march in Luton on 5 February with the slogan, “Don’t let Muslims target young girls.”
This is the latest of a series of attempts to criminalise Muslims who have become the victims of growing Islamophobia—racism against Muslims.
They have been subject to detention without trial and targeted by stop and search policies.
Over 100,000 Asians have been stopped and searched under the anti-terror laws without a single conviction for any terrorist offences.
The latest panic adds to this 0Islamophobia, while doing nothing to help the vulnerable women at the centre of this case.