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Race, Culture, Rotherham


Allison Pearson of the Telegraphgives voice to a certain form of outrage emerging in the wake of the Rotherham scandal:

The Labour Party, in particular, is mired in shame over “cultural sensitivity” in Rotherham. Especially, cynics might point out, a sensitivity to the culture of Muslims whose votes they don’t want to lose. Denis MacShane, MP for Rotherham from 1994 to 2012, actually admitted to the BBC’s World At One that “there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that. Perhaps, yes, as a true Guardian reader and liberal Leftie, I suppose I didn’t want to raise that too hard.” Much better to hang on to your impeccable liberal credentials than save a few girls from being raped, eh, Denis?

Equally horrifying is the suggestion that certain Pakistani councillors asked social workers to reveal the addresses of the shelters where some of the abused girls were hiding. The former deputy leader of the council, Jahangir Akhtar, is accused of “ignoring a politically inconvenient truth” by insisting there was not a deep-rooted problem of Pakistani-heritage perpetrators targeting young white girls. The inquiry was told that influential Pakistani councillors acted as “barriers to communication” on grooming issues.

Front-line youth workers who submitted reports in 2002, 2003 and 2006 expressing their alarm at the scale of the child sex-offending say the town hall told them to keep quiet about the ethnicity of the perpetrators in the interests of “community cohesion”.

Fear of appearing racist trumped fears of more children being abused. Not only were negligent officials not prosecuted, they prospered. Shaun Wright, a former Labour councillor who was in charge of Rotherham children’s services during a five-year period when a blind eye was turned to the worst case of mass child abuse in British history, is now South Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. Oh, Jonathan Swift, thou shouldst be writing at this hour!

She goes on to slam a Pakistani community leader who, on an interview show, said that to focus on the identities of the alleged perpetrators only distracts from the suffering of the children. Read the whole thing.

Pearson is right about how we blind ourselves to things we prefer not to see, because these things violate our orthodoxies. This is no different from the way police forces in the US often turned a blind eye to instances of Catholic priests molesting children. If the molestations were true, then the community at large would have to face facts it preferred not to face. This is a constant in human affairs. There is nothing special about the Rotherham establishment wishing to avoid seeing what was right in front of its nose. This is absolutely not to excuse it, but only to help explain it.

My guess is that it is as unfair and as inaccurate to blame the rape of girls by Pakistani Muslim men on Islam as it was (is) to blame the rape of children by priests on Catholicism. But it is crucial to examine how the culture among Pakistani Muslims may have aided and abetted these criminals. With the Catholic abuse scandal, it became clear that the culture among Catholics of clericalism, as well as remnants of an immigrant impulse to circle the wagons against outsiders, helped keep the abuses secret. In Catholicism, there is nothing in the religion that prescribes abusing children and keeping the abuse of children secret. But the culture of Catholicism facilitated the abuse, as (generally speaking) bishops, other priests, and laypeople conflated protecting the Church and its teachings with shielding it from scandal.

I suspect a similar thing has been going on among the Muslims of Rotherham. It is difficult to look squarely at this sort of thing without either engaging in anti-Muslim prejudice, or its distorting opposite, anti-anti-Muslim prejudice. Clearly the latter has been a more important factor among establishment Rotherham. Last year, the Rotherham Council apologized to a foster family for having removed children from its care after it became known that the mother and father were supporters of the UK Independence Party:

In November after the case made national headlines, the council’s strategic director of children and young people’s services, Joyce Thacker, told the BBC that her decision had been influenced by Ukip immigration policy, which she said called for the end of the “active promotion of multiculturalism”.

Sources close to the case subsequently told the Guardian that there were multiple legal and social reasons why the council wanted to ensure the children be placed with foster parents who spoke their own eastern European language.

The placement with the Ukip-supporting foster couple was not intended to be long-term. It was an emergency move amid allegations that the children’s birth father had sexually abused two of his daughters and had held a knife to his wife’s head while she was holding their baby. According to the birth parents, the children were taken in a raid by police and social workers last year.

That second paragraph sounds like total butt-covering. Anyway, note that the Council’s agents removed abused and endangered children from the care of a foster family solely because a council bureaucrat judged that the parents’ political beliefs put the kids in danger precisely because it contradicted liberal dogma on multiculturalism. Look at Joyce Thacker’s interview with the BBC, from the BBC account:

The couple, who have been approved foster parents for seven years, were eight weeks into the placement when they were approached by social workers about their membership of the party.

The wife told the Daily Telegraph: “I was dumbfounded. Then my question to both of them was, ‘What has UKIP got to do with having the children removed?’

“Then one of them said, ‘Well, UKIP have got racist policies.’ The implication was that we were racist. [The social worker] said UKIP does not like European people and wants them all out of the country to be returned to their own countries.”

The paper says the woman denied she was racist but the children were taken away by the end of the week.

She said the social worker told her: “We would not have placed these children with you had we known you were members of UKIP because it wouldn’t have been the right cultural match.”

The couple said they had been “stigmatised and slandered”.

Ms Thacker said she did not regret the decision, which was reached after “a lot of soul searching”.

“These children are not UK children and we were not aware of the foster parents having strong political views. There are some strong views in the UKIP party and we have to think of the future of the children.”

She added during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today: “I have to look at the children’s cultural and ethnic needs.

Is it really so hard to believe that there was a culture of indifference in Rotherham government to children abused by Pakistanis, informed in part by multiculti codswallop? Is it really so hard to believe that Pakistanis in Rotherham government tried to cover up to protect the image of the community?

Writing in The Guardian, Lola Okalosie, who has worked with abused children, speculates that there might be a different manifestation of racism at work within the police force itself:

Much has been made of officials’ oversensitivity to accusations of racism. Much less discussed has been how these often poor white girls were considered disposable by authorities because they had transgressed the colour divide. In towns brimming with racial tension, it is often women’s bodies – black, white and brown – that are so fiercely contested by rival communities.

I have worked within schools where poor white girls being groomed were, despite brilliant work from pastoral teams, viewed as complicit in their own exploitation by some staff. What did they expect from mixing with the “Asian boys”? These children were fair game because they had crossed the colour and cultural line. Doing so had rendered them beyond respectability and thus all relevance.

If Okolosie is onto something here, then the white child victims had rendered themselves trash to the internal culture of local white police because the girls had been defiled by sexual contact with Asian men. We don’t know this to be true, but it sounds plausible to me. When I was growing up in the South, the unwritten rule was that white girls did not fool around with black boys, because to cross the color line sexually was for a white girl to render herself untouchable. Sick, I know, but that’s how it was, and no doubt still is for many. Race and sexuality are always combustible combinations, and not just among whites. If you ever saw the Spike Lee movie Jungle Fever, the scene in the beauty shop in which the black women tear into the idea of white women dating black men is really raw. At least I think it was in that movie.

Here’s another potential factor, though one that may be less applicable to Rotherham, but still worth considering. Several years ago, New Zealand police investigator (and practicing Christian) Daniel Walker wrote a book about global sex trafficking, which he went undercover to investigate. In this excerpt on Patheos, he talks about the phenomenon in Atlanta, and why it persists:

All of the information I gathered during my time in Atlanta was given to the law enforcement authorities: federal, state and city. All were aware of the sex slavery occurring within their respective jurisdictions, and each one expressed the same frustration and sense of powerlessness at doing anything about it. They each recounted the many meetings they had attended in order to communicate their concerns to the Atlanta Visitors Bureau and the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.

The law enforcement officers were united in their sentiment that while the leaders of their city were always polite and listened to evidence of the growing sexual exploitation of women and children in Atlanta, they were ultimately completely ineffectual in doing anything about it. Most disheartening of all for some of the police officers involved was the knowledge that when a young girl runs away from her home in the city of Atlanta, statistically the police have only forty-eight hours to find her before she is recruited into prostitution.

Those police officers tasked with combating the growth of such exploitation said that the criminal gangs involved were completely ruthless and very well-organized. Often the men who joined the gangs were more afraid of their own gang than they were of going to jail. Many of the ethnic gangs were said to be very close-knit and only targeted male customers from within their own ethnic communities, making them very difficult to infiltrate by the law enforcement community. The officers explained that at every Atlanta Convention Center event and outside every hotel, patrons would be handed information cards promoting and advertising the sexual services of those women and children enslaved in the industry.

Most alarming for me was to learn what happened during an operation set up to target some of the escort agencies involved. When it became apparent during the investigation that some of the male clients were senior members of the Atlanta city council and U.S. Senators, the operation was quickly shut down. Those officers involved were reassigned.

So, assuming this account is true, it sounds like the problem in Atlanta is in part one of members of the political and business establishment being compromised by involvement with it, and the business establishment wanting to keep Atlanta a favorite destination for conventioneers.

What does all this have to do with Rotherham? Who knows. I don’t think we should be satisfied with simple answers. There rarely is a simple answer for something like this. As in the Catholic abuse scandal, various interested parties will favor the simplistic explanation that favors the views they held before the revelation. This kind of approach doesn’t illuminate; it obscures.

Still, there can be no serious doubt that political correctness played a role in perpetuating this outrage. It should be identified and repudiated, once and for all, and those who advocate for it throughout British life — journalists, social workers, academics, politicians, all of them — should never again be listened to on the subject, and their views given no standing in British public life. The cost is too high. The lives of these 1,400 girls are more important than protecting any group’s reputation. If these criminals bring disgrace onto the Pakistani community in the UK and its leaders, well, then the Pakistani community in the UK and its leaders need to make sure this doesn’t happen again, and go out of their way to help authorities identify and prosecute the criminals.

Whether they like it or not, anything less than that is seen by outsiders as complicity. Hiding behind defensive accusations of “racism” or “Islamophobia” is as futile and pathetic as Catholics who tried to deflect the awful truth about the abuse scandal by accusing outsiders of anti-Catholicism. It only makes things worse.

What interests me most about this Rotherham case are ones I think about all the time, in other contexts:

How do we know what we know?

What strategies do we deploy to keep ourselves from knowing what we don’t wish to know?

How can we overcome them?

UPDATE:A reader sends this from Al Jazeera. Excerpt:

Hussain said the Muslim community needed to do more to break down barriers to talking about sexual issues through education programmes and greater awareness of the dangers that young people faced.

“The fact is that, in the Pakistani Muslim community, sexualisation in general is a taboo subject. So you have something that is undercover because it is taboo, and then when you have someone acting in a criminal manner it is even more undercover.”

Gohir said British Asian girls were also at risk because men from within their own communities were able to manipulate cultural norms to prevent them from reporting abuse, and called for more research into why men of Pakistani heritage kept cropping up in child sex cases.

“Our report indicates that where Asian men can get hold of Asian girls they will probably prefer Asian girls because they are deemed lower risk and less likely to report. Predators know these girls are really, really vulnerable because of honour and shame issues. They will rape them and photograph and film it and then blackmail them.”

UPDATE.2: A reader sends in this Guardian column by Ruzwana Bashir, a successful British entrepreneur of Pakistani heritage who, 10 years after her childhood abuse by a neighbor, went back to her small town near Rotherham to out her molester. Excerpt:

It was only after a decade away from Skipton that I was finally able to garner the courage to return and testify against my abuser. When I first told my mother about the abuse I’d suffered, she was absolutely devastated. The root of her anger was clear: I was heaping unbound shame on to my family by trying to bring the perpetrator to justice. In trying to stop him from exploiting more children, I was ensuring my parents and my siblings would be ostracised. She begged me not to go to the police station.

If I’d still been living in Skipton, surrounded by a community who would either blame me for the abuse or label me a liar, I’m not sure I could have rejected her demands.

She goes on to say that her accusation brought forward another British Pakistani woman who had been molested by the same man. Their testimony put him away. But they were subsequently shunned by the community.

I cannot imagine the pain of one’s own mother (or father) believing that one should accept sexual molestation rather than expose the family to the “shame” of demanding justice. What a sick, sick culture.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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