Community silence starting to break over abuse in Lancashire?

On foot of the conviction of nine Asian men in Liverpool on Monday here’s a long and considered piece by Michael White on the difficulty of tackling a particularly pernicious problem

Writing in Tuesday’s Times, Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Rochdale-based Ramadhan Foundation, reports how elders in his own community have shrugged their shoulders at child-sex grooming by young men, sometimes aware that it is shameful, sometimes inclined to keep silent rather than do the BNP’s work for it, sometimes inclined to blame wider British society for the over-sexualisation – good point – of the young.

Shafiq himself has been campaigning in vain for years and now declares the taboo broken. Good. He also reports that 59 of the recent spate of 68 convictions have been of men of Pakistani origin. He praises the courage of the girls who spoke out to give evidence and reminds Lancashire Muslim community elders that they are “no different from our own wives and daughters”.

That’s an important point because the trial again made clear that the convicted rapists did not regard their victims as such. Quite the opposite, they were trying to square their highly conservative cultural traditions, those of rural Pakistani villages, often their religious piety too (one of the rapists was revered for his knowledge of the Qur’an), with their need for off-the-books sex. Poor English girls plied with drink and threats were one solution.

This “otherness” is crucial to most forms of cruelty down the ages. Once the perpetrator has established the less-than-human inferiority of their victim – Yids, Polacks, niggers, pakis, chinks, abos, kaffirs – then anything is permissible. The British empire did its share, as do most empires past and present. To the litany of familiar abuse can now be added Lancashire girls.

Indeed. That would be one of those dark places in Ireland I mentioned yesterday

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty