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The right use abuse scandals to feed racism

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A new report shows politicians and the media use abuse to whip up Islamophobia, says?Sadie Robinson
Issue 2688
The media whipped up racism around the Rotherham abuse scandal
The media whipped up racism around the Rotherham abuse scandal

Some centre left politicians have helped to entrench Islamophobia by reinforcing racist myths about abuse, according to a new research paper published in Race and Class journal.

The myth is that Muslim and Asian men have a particularly sexist culture, making them more likely to be abusers.

The lie is pushed by far right groups. Academics Ella Cockbain and Waqas Tufail argue that they are “weaponising women’s rights” to attack Muslims. But they add that “supposedly feminist and liberal actors” have “lent legitimacy” to racist stereotypes.

Their new paper looks at the impact of nearly a decade of claims that “Muslim grooming gangs” pose a growing threat to white girls.

Cockbain and Tufail show how the claims have been fed by shoddy “research” by groups with links to far right figures.

Their paper argues that “a relatively small number of high-profile ‘grooming gangs’ cases have been used to claim an ‘epidemic’ of abuse”.

“Centre-left politicians have proved particularly pivotal” in legitimising racist rhetoric, including former Labour ministers Jack Straw and Sarah Champion.

It’s not just Muslims who are targeted. The argument is that “a ‘disproportionate’ number of Asian, Muslim or Pakistani heritage men” are involved in grooming gangs.

The authors describe the impact of “the use of women’s rights to advocate and advance anti-Muslim sentiments” across the world.


Anders Breivik denounced Islam and the rape of “hundreds of European women” before launching a terror attack in Norway in 2011.

In New Zealand last year, Brenton Tarrant massacred 52 Muslims in Christchurch. The words “for Rotherham” were inscribed on his ammunition. In Rotherham, Muslim pensioner Mushin Ahmed was beaten to death in 2015 after being repeatedly called a “groomer”.

Rotherham Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) survivor Sammy Woodhouse called the New Zealand killings an “evil act”. “This was not done in our name,” she said.

The increased attention on CSE has led to more victims coming forward. But focusing narrowly on one type of abuse risks obscuring others.

In 2016 some 6,687 offenders were convicted of child sexual abuse related offences in England and Wales. While the right claim an “epidemic” of Muslim abusers, the abuse is the true problem.

The authors reject the view that authorities ignore abuse for fear of being labelled racist. Instead, they say the crimes are given a low priority partly reflecting prejudice over who makes a “deserving” victim.

They call for improvements to policing. But they add that many women “are often further brutalised—rather than protected—by the police”.

And they called for more funding for support services for victims and survivors of abuse.

Treating child abuse as a racial issue “obscures institutional failures” and “attitudes towards victims, many working class”.

This doesn’t help the victims.

Read the report at


Failure of the Manchester police and authorities to protect children exposed

A report published last week exposed how police and authorities in Greater Manchester failed victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

Researchers were commissioned by Manchester mayor Andy Burnham following a decision to close down Operation Augusta in 2005. This was a Greater Manchester Police (GMP) investigation into CSE in South Manchester.

It was launched after Victoria Agoglia died aged 15 in 2003. She had been abused while living in care.

Her abuser, called her “pimp”, was allowed to visit her. Victoria had told social workers two months before her death that she was being injected with heroin by an older man. She died five days after being injected with heroin.

But a coroner’s report said her death could not have been foreseen.

Operation Augusta identified mainly Asian perpetrators, although there are some questions about data reliability.

For instance, a police evaluation report described the arrest of five offenders, four Asian and one white. But last week’s report found that the police database described one of those said to be Asian as “of Tunisian origin”.

Right wing papers claimed cops failed to act because of “political correctness”. The report does not conclude this.

It found “fundamental flaws” in how Operation Augusta was resourced. GMP was instead focusing on murder investigations, and gun and gang crime. Also exposed were “several examples” of cases being dropped because a child didn’t make a formal complaint. Attitudes were also found to be a problem.

Children as young as 14 were described as having “boyfriends” in their mid-20s. They were said to be “placing themselves at risk”.


And those in authority focused on “encouraging young people to protect themselves.”

There is also evidence that some officers saw victims as a problem.

Records for several suspected victims said no action would be taken as they were not “credible”.

Detective Margaret Oliver described a child identifying a suspected perpetrator in a car. Oliver took the registration details and a police computer check “identified that the vehicle was linked to a GMP officer”.

The report described how Oliver said there “must have been a flag on the system” as she “got a call straightaway and was directed not to go anywhere near the suspect”.

The closure of the operation was “driven by the decision by senior officers to remove resources”.

The report said that a number of suspects known to Operation Augusta “appear to have since been involved in the sexual exploitation of children”.

Researchers concluded, “Most of the children we have considered were failed by police.”

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