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Labour MP Sarah Champion has been forced to step down after speaking out about the growing epidemic of sexual grooming in this country. Champion was the MP for Rotherham, a constituency that, between 1995 and 2013, saw 1,400 children raped, abused, trafficked and tortured by gangs of South Asian men. Champion’s crime was to simply state the facts as they are: “Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.”

Critics, including Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and fellow colleague Naz Shah, claimed that Champion’s article in The Sun included “statements that incite Islamophobia and stigmatise entire communities.”

While the Left’s desire to gloss over hard evidence and facts where minorities are involved is, by now, expected, what is incredibly disturbing is a new debate that seems to be emerging from the ranks. One particularly disturbing line of argument taken by Sean O’Grady in his Independent article titled “Let’s not feel sorry for Sarah Champion – she knew exactly what she was doing”, seems to openly dismiss the importance of empirical evidence and scientific, academic research. In his article, O’Grady makes several statements, including:

“The real point though is this. Even if you agree that there is a problem with some Pakistani men, what are supposed to do with this insight?”

“Saying that there is a problem with some men of Pakistani origin doesn’t actually get us anywhere with these crimes, or force a single arrest or rescue a single girl.”
“We don’t actually need a racially focused debate about this any more than we need one about shoplifting or corporate corruption, because it misses the point.”

Not only is this line of argument ridiculous, it is factually incorrect. If a certain crime file indicates that one sub-section of society is over-represented in the offender profile, it is our academic inclination, human interest, and most importantly our moral duty to investigate the common denominator, whatever it may be.

And in fact, our research at Quilliam has shown the exact opposite of O’Grady’s argument: race is a central factor in this crime profile, not only when it comes to the offenders but also as it relates to the victims who largely belong to the same demographic of young, white and female.

The lack of a serious discussion on the nature of these crimes has led to a void in the public dialogue that has been repeatedly exploited by far-right groups who wish to demonise entire communities. The broad paintbrush used by the far-right then results in an equally ridiculous outcry by the far-left. An analytic and objective approach to the issue at hand is imperative in order to move towards a solution.

An upcoming Quilliam report will look to shed more light on the issue, but here a glimpse of what we have found so far: Asians or British Asians make up 6.9 per cent of the UK population, yet they’re found responsible for almost half, 46 per cent of child sexual exploitation (CSE) crimes.

Yet a Home Affairs Select Committee report into localised grooming claimed that “the vast majority of convicted child-sex offenders in the UK are single white men.” The report goes on to say in passing that there seems to be a “widespread perception” that the majority of perpetrators are of Asian heritage, and concludes that “there is no simple link between race and child sexual exploitation.”

Indeed there is no “simple link” between ethnicity and grooming gangs, but rather a deep, complicated relationship that British Pakistani men share with their adoptive homeland.

Over 60 per cent of the British Pakistani population is from the Mirpur District of Kashmir, a largely rural area of Pakistan where regressive attitudes towards women, sex, and relationships still persist today.

Arriving in the UK in the 1950s to fulfil a growing demand for labour, British Pakistani men have a relatively short history with Britain, and 60 odd years of living in the UK may not be sufficient to shed deep-rooted cultural and social practices through the passing of time and generational shifts.

The phenomenon of “gangs” further confirms that these offenders gravitate towards each other based on a shared ideology, separate from their collective criminal leanings. This is in stark contrast to individual offenders, the majority of whom are white men, who don’t share their activities or movements with others as they do not expect to receive a sympathetic response.

What we need now is an open and honest debate that is grounded in facts, without the irrational fear of hurting the sentiments of the British Pakistani community. If, as the facts show, there is an over-representation of Asian men in child sexual offences, wouldn’t the Pakistani community be the first ones to want to identify and eradicate this epidemic from their ranks? Who do we benefit other than the vile creatures who exploit our children by forcing ourselves to wear blinkers?

Burying our heads in the sand certainly does nothing to help the young girls who suffer at the hands of these monsters. It does nothing for the 14-year-old who was held in a flat and forced to perform sex acts on five different men, for the 15-year-old who was inflicted with an internal injury so severe by two men in a park that she had to spend several days in hospital.

It is exactly this kind of ill-informed rationale that results in the 13-year-old who was plied with vodka and found in a house with a large group of Asian men after neighbours heard her screams, yet when police arrived they arrested the child for being drunk and disorderly, and did nothing to question the men.

Muna Adil is a researcher at Quilliam International.