It’s not just sex gangs who abuse ‘white trash’
It seems Pakistani sex pests and British politicians share a similar disdain for the allegedly decadent white working class.
This week, eight men of Pakistani heritage and one man from Afghanistan – all based in Rochdale, Lancashire – were convicted of conspiracy to engage children under 16 in sexual activity. Or, as some of the more leading reports have it, ‘street grooming’. For those unfamiliar with the argot of the abuse industry, this seemingly refers to the sexual exploitation of teenage girls picked up in public places, usually with promises of booze and drugs. In the case of those convicted this week, the girls were mainly white, some as young as 13, and were often residents of nearby council-run care homes.
Weirdly, however, it is not the repellent, degenerate behaviour of this group of men, a mix of losers and saddos, that has troubled commentators and politicians. No, what has driven some observers into angst-ridden convulsions is the fact – and it is a fact – that the protagonists were almost entirely Pakistani and the victims almost entirely white. From this fact, such as it is, two alternative fancies have taken flight.
The first of these involves massively overplaying the significance of the case. A rag-tag assortment of Rochdale reprobates, grouped around a Balti house and a kebab shop, have suddenly become the sinister organisational expression of the attitudes of the British Pakistani community towards their white fellows. Relatively isolated acts of particular significance have been transformed into a symbol of general racially inflected antagonism. In the words of Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, ‘[British Pakistani males] think that white teenage girls are worthless and can be abused without a second thought; it is this sort of behaviour that is bringing shame on our community.’ Or as former home secretary Jack Straw put it when the stories were first gaining traction last year, young Pakistani men, ‘popping with testosterone’, are preying upon ‘white girls who are vulnerable, some of [whom] are in care’. These white girls are seen, Straw concluded, as ‘easy meat’.
A bit of perspective is necessary here. Nine men, eight of whom were Pakistani and nominally Muslim, were found guilty of sexually abusing a number of girls, most of whom were white and living in care homes. These are the bare, depressing facts of the matter. Not 800 men, but eight. Just to put that into context: there are approximately one million Pakistanis living in the UK at the moment; eight is hardly a representative sample.
Of course, this week’s case is not the first in which a group of men, largely Pakistani and Muslim, have been found guilty of sexually abusing young, largely white teenage girls. But even then, the stats, such as they are, fail to tell much of a story. Over the past 15 years, five major police investigations have taken place into similar types of sex abuse involving groups of men picking up young girls. Of the 52 suspects charged, 83 per cent were Pakistani, 11 per cent Asian other, and six per cent white British. That’s around 40 Pakistani men convicted of a crime that looks a bit like the one the Rochdale nine were convicted of.
So while there is definitely a specific problem in specific areas in specific communities, is it really a problem common to British Pakistani culture as a whole? Yes, some Pakistani men – in Rochdale or Burnley or Derby or wherever – no doubt do view British white women through the prism of their particular culture, one still dominated by conservative traditions. And given the enthusiasm with which sections of the British establishment have used Islam to denigrate native British culture (including the Tory MPs who once wrote to the Spectator claiming to agree with an Islamist’s claim that Britain was decadent), no doubt a fair few Muslim men do feel superior to white Brits. But the moment the crimes of individuals are translated into the crimes of a culture, in which every person is then rendered suspect, all perspective is lost.
Yet perspective is the one thing that is difficult to obtain when it comes to viewing a crime that, in its specifics, does seem to have an ethno-cultural dimension. And the reason for this is that the real object of fear, the white working-class Brit, obscures the view. Here we come to the second flight of fancy. Because to state baldly that a racial demographic is present in this peculiar type of sex crime is seen as too risky, too inflammatory. It could, in short, turn a white Brit racist.
So in response to Martin Narey, the ex-head of Barnado’s, who claimed, rightly as facts go, that Asians ‘are overwhelmingly represented in the prosecutions for such offences’, Labour MP Keith Vaz, chair of the home affairs select committee, was quick to spot the racist lynch mob forming: ‘It’s totally wrong to say that [the crime is carried out by a particular ethnic group], because you open up a Pandora’s box as far as race relations is concerned and I don’t think that’s necessarily what we want.’
Note that Vaz didn’t say it was wrong because it was, well, untrue; he said it was wrong because of the effect it might have on ‘race relations’. That is, it could provoke a racial conflict. Likewise, the Guardian’s Michael White was eager to explain why there has been so much elite reluctance to call a spade a spade: ‘At one level we can understand why. The [British National Party], English Defence League and other professional racists are keen to get their crowbars into cases such as this.’ And presumably, if the BNP, which lost almost all its councillors in last week’s local elections, or God forbid, the mighty, hundred-strong EDL, ‘get their crowbars’ into the case, then white working-class Britain, the agglomerate of unthinking dupes that it is, will be powerless to resist.
If there’s one thing worse, then, than excitedly playing up the sex-pest threat posed by the entire Pakistani community, it is downplaying the capacity of ordinary white Brits to judge for themselves whether a smattering of admittedly miserable sex-abuse cases damns a whole section of society. And here we get to the unsavoury irony of this whole pussyfooting, not-in-front-of-the-children approach to the Rochdale nine. Because to the extent that these sex abusers did view white girls as inferior, morally dissolute creatures, they did so, in part, because that is indeed how members of the political and media class tends to view white working-class Brits. That is, with disdain.
Tim Black is senior writer at spiked.