by Denis MacEoin
Newcastle upon Tyne is a small city in the North-East of England which, in 2017, was acclaimed the best city in the UK in which to raise children (London was the worst). Imagine, then, the shock when the city again became national news on August 9 when a trial at the Crown Court ended in the conviction of 18 people for the sexual grooming of children. Juries “found the men guilty of a catalogue of nearly 100 offences – including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply – between 2011 and 2014.”
Of the 18, one was a white British woman. The rest were males of Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Indian, Iraqi, Turkish and Iranian backgrounds, all with Muslim names.
Newcastle has a fairly small Muslim population, quite unlike those in other northern and Midlands towns such as Bradford, Blackburn, or Dewsbury. Based on the 2011 census, Bradford’s Muslim population reaches 24.7%, that of Blackburn 27.4%, and that of Dewsbury 34.4%. The highest in the country is only fractionally larger – the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, at 34.5%. The lowest out of 20 local authorities in England and Wales was the London Borough of Hackney with 14.1%. Newcastle’s Muslim population is much smaller, at 6.3%. The city boasts around 15 mosques, the vast majority of which are located in the less prosperous south-west sector. The Central Mosque (Masjid-at-Tawheed) is run by the Jamiat Ahle Hadith, a radical Pakistani religious movement and political party. The Islamic Diversity Centre is also connected to a fundamentalist organization based in London. Finally, only 2 terrorist offenders have ever come from Newcastle (see p. 932 in link).
Compared with many other places, Newcastle does not figure high on any list of radical Islamic activity, even if it has a moderate share of fundamentalists. Indeed, following the revelation of the grooming gang in August, a representative of the local Muslim community, city councillor Dipu Ahad, said to the national press that local Muslims were “absolutely disgusted” by their crimes and feared a possible backlash.
It would be churlish and inaccurate to assume that the entire Muslim community of Newcastle, or even a minority, view such criminal activities as acceptable. Islamic law and ethics would condemn the actions of these men as immoral and anti-Islamic. At the same time, efforts by Ahad and others to divorce Muslim grooming gangs from Islam itself raise deeper questions. As in earlier grooming cases, it was important to ask how the crimes had gone unmentioned by those members of the Muslim community who would be closest to the men involved. Ahad said that “fellow Muslims should not feel the need to “apologise” for grooming gangs. He added, “Did the white community come out and condemn the crimes of Jimmy Savile?”
Savile was one of the most popular characters in the UK in his day, awarded an OBE and knighted by the Queen for his services to entertainment and charity. His overwrought celebrity status, his image as a person of good works and compassion served to cover a long career as Britain’s greatest sexual predator, who had preyed on at least 500 women and girls, some as young as two. But he was a national celebrity, not a member of a small “white community” that might have been aware of his depredations and capable of alerting the police.
Ahad’s reply was an ingenious way to deflect the question of whether Muslims had covered up the crimes by failing to pass on even suspicions of illegality out of feelings of solidarity with members of what they might see as a beleaguered community. This same question has frequently surrounded cases of terrorism by Muslims — cases that go unreported by the often tight-knit communities.
Like Ahad, Chi Onwurah, the Labour Member of Parliament for Newcastle Central, tried to diffuse the concerns by diminishing any responsibility for the Muslim community. She said:
“those who sought to use the abusers’ Asian or Muslim backgrounds to create division were putting other girls at risk. Assuming that grooming and child abuse is [sic] prevalent in one group helps potential abusers hide in plain sight if they are not part of that group.
“Crimes of sexual exploitation can be and are committed by members of all communities and indeed it remains regrettably true that sexual abuse is most likely to come from within the family circle.”
However, another city councillor, Greg Stone, from the Liberal Democrat party, took a more robust approach. He saw problems precisely in places that the leftist Ahad and Onwura chose to draw attention away from:
“No one wants to demonise a particular community but the fact that his is happening again and again in the same circumstances and communities is a fact we cannot ignore.
“I think there needs to be a national approach – this is happening in too many places for it to be local circumstances.”
He said sexual exploitation would not “go away until we ask difficult questions”, adding:
“I don’t think we can eliminate the scale of abuse, which has national implications, unless we ask some tough questions of the Pakistani and Bangladeshi community in particular.”
Indeed, if we look at a list of 265 convictions for grooming gangs and individuals in the UK between November 1997 and January 2017 (and if we add on another 18 for the recent Newcastle gang), we will note that more than 99% are for Muslim men, mainly young men in their 20s and 30s. On June 2, 2017, it was reported that another 165 suspects had been identified in Rochdale in West Yorkshire, all described as “Asians”, a code-word for Pakistani Muslims. Some days later, on June 9, fourteen Pakistani men appeared at Oxford Crown Court charged with child sex abuse.
Like Rochdale and Oxford, several towns appear more than once in different years as centres of Muslim grooming gangs. Rochdale itself saw convictions of a total of 41 men from 2010 (twice), 2012, 2013, and 2016 (twice). It is hard to escape the conclusion that there is an endemic problem both with Muslim men and the communities from which they emerge. The police, social workers, the courts and other authorities who for so many years did their best to cover up the identity of the criminals, allowing them to carry out their sexual abuse for so long, were in the end forced by some determined investigators to take action that exposed the Islamic origins of the vast majority of offenders. But, as some statements about Newcastle have shown, there is still a remarkable reluctance to pinpoint features of Islamic doctrine or Pakistani, Bangladeshi, and other cultures as the trigger for this behaviour.
Perhaps that influence is best summed up in the following remarks made by Badrul Hussain, a member of the Newcastle grooming gang, when speaking to a female inspector on the local Metro service who asked to see his ticket:
“All white women are only good for one thing, for men like me to f*** and use as trash, that is all women like you are worth.”
It is, however, not just white (that is, non-Muslim) women whom Muslim men hold in such contempt. This abuse starts at home in Islamic countries in the treatment of Muslim women. Its roots lie in aspects of Islamic law and doctrine that are retained in the 21st century despite having been formulated in the 7th century and later. These include polygamy for men, the permission for men to buy and sell women as sex slaves/concubines, divorce laws that discriminate against women, the insistence that women must cover their bodies and even faces, the discriminatory rules for a woman’s inheritance (“The male takes a share equal to that of two females”), the high and escalating practice of honour killings in Muslim societies, including communities in the West (with 58% carried out because young women were “too Western”), the extreme incidence of female genital mutilation (FGM) in Muslim countries and Western Muslim communities, the astonishing level of child marriage (as permitted by shari’a law), and legislation that blames and punishes women for the “crime” of being raped.
Beyond all this, actual attitudes revealed in regular events show a more immediate impact on women’s lives.
An Australian report from 2014 records the treatment of women under shari’a law as applied in Indonesia’s Aceh province, the only part of the country (which has the largest Muslim population in the world) where full enforcement of Islamic legislation is permitted. Focusing on the treatment of women, it features an interview with one commandant of a shari’a enforcement patrol, Captain Ibrahim Latif. Speaking of a young woman who was gang-raped by vigilantes allegedly because she was found alone with a man, he declares:
“She didn’t ask them to do it, but she encouraged it. She encouraged the men because she was wearing super-sexy [he uses the English words] clothes. I think any normal man would have been provoked”.
Under his jurisdiction, women covered from head to foot are arrested on the streets (as shown in the film) and shamed or caned for what are deemed “inappropriate” clothing. The young women interviewed all loathe the treatment meted out to them for the most minor infringements. But female members of the shari’a patrols have internalized the notion that women are to blame for crimes such as rape. One says, “crime happens because we [women] invite it”, and another comments: “if the man doesn’t see anything, he won’t be aroused. It’s up to us. It’s the women that invite it. The curves of their body can arouse men’s lust” — even though any Western man looking any of the well-covered girls who are being hauled over and berated would have difficulty in detecting any curves at all, much less being sexually aroused by them.
The idea that a man is not responsible for rape or other sexual assault and that women bear the blame for such a crime goes far to help explain why Muslim men in Britain and elsewhere may feel themselves justified in grooming and sexually abusing young women and girls far less well covered.
Pakistani attitudes are even more important in understanding what happens in the UK, which houses the largest number of Pakistani immigrants in Europe. In 2012, Atlantic magazine reported on “Six Stories of Abuse, Shame, and Survival” concerning women in Pakistan:
“According to a 2011 poll of experts by the Thomson Reuters Foundation Poll, Pakistan is the third most dangerous country for women in the world. It cited the more than 1,000 women and girls murdered in ‘honor killings’ every year and reported that 90 percent of Pakistani women suffer from domestic violence.”
The author, Zara Jamal, herself a woman of Pakistani background, says:
“A difficult irony for women in Pakistan is that, should a victim speak up about physical or sexual abuse, she is seen as having lost her and her family’s dignity. Many rapes go unreported as the victim fears she will become worthless in Pakistani society”.
Among Jamal’s stories is that of 18-year-old Ayesha, a poor young woman who had been sexually abused by a brutal father:
“I went to my uncle’s house to get more bread. I didn’t know a young man was there. In the empty home, he took advantage of me; he did things that I didn’t understand; he touched my chest. Before I could realize, there was a cloth over my mouth and I was being raped. I was having trouble walking back home; I felt faint and I had a headache. This happens a lot in villages. Young girls are raped, murdered, and buried. No one is able to trace them after their disappearance. If a woman is not chaste, she is unworthy of marriage. All he did is ask for forgiveness and they let him go as it was best to avoid having others find out what had happened. He didn’t receive any punishment even though he ruined me. People may have forgotten what he did, but I never forgot. Now, he is married and living his life happily. I blame my own fate; I am just unlucky that this happened to me.”
The rapist is forgiven and his victim, now considered unfit for marriage, is forced to go out to work to earn a pittance.
Finally, it is notable that since the post-2015 mass immigration to Europe started, large numbers of Afghans, mostly young men, have been entering countries such as the UK. Although the EU has made a deal to deport Afghan asylum seekers, migrants from that country constituted the second-largest group of asylum seekers in Europe, with 196,170 applying in 2015. If anything, male attitudes to women and girls in Afghanistan can make Indonesia and Pakistan seem enlightened.
In 2011 and again in 2013, an Iranian female reporter, Zohreh Soleimani, travelled to the Afghan capital, Kabul, where she carried out interviews and reported on the story of one young woman, Soheila, who had been imprisoned for having taken a lover and having a son with him. Soheila’s older brother had run off with another man’s wife when Soheila was five, and her father had engaged her to the injured husband, a much older man. Forced to marry him when she was in her teens, Soheila ran away and lived for three and a half years with Niaz Mohammad, a cousin. They fell in love, but her father found them and took Soheila to prison himself. She and Niaz were both sentenced to six years in prison. Many young women in Afghanistan are in jail for such moral “crimes”.
In the first of two interviews, Soheila’s father, a grizzled old man who looks as if he is in his eighties, states:
“Our religion of Islam does not let a woman do whatever she wants. Under Islamic law, a daughter must marry whomever her father chooses. Islam says whenever a father wants to marry away his daughter – 8, 9, or 10 years old, it doesn’t matter. The woman belongs to him. And a woman has no right to refuse.” 
Now, Afghan civil law currently permits a woman over 18 to marry whom she pleases. The problem with both marriage and divorce lies elsewhere, in traces of shari’a law combined with tradition-soaked tribal or customary law. Soheila’s father dismisses civil law and insists that the laws he follows give him absolute rights over a daughter who “belongs to him”.
In 2013, Soleimani found Soheila living in a safe house, but unable either to go free with her would-be husband (Niaz Mohammad) or to return home. She had once gone to her father and produced divorce papers from a civil court, but he had rejected them and she was beaten by him, her brother, his wife, and an uncle. She was told never to return, but her father made one concession: he said he would accept her again if she killed her son. Yes, you read that correctly: she could return home if she killed her small son.
In a further interview with the father and Soheila’s brother, the father says they will track her down and kill her even if she goes to America. ‘Wherever she is found, she will be killed’. He then addresses Soheila:
“If you love him, go to Niaz Mohammad. With all the strength that God has given me, I will ask God, ‘Before they take another step, God, kill both of them.'”
On a final visit, the brother states that he had already engaged his own daughter to an older man when she was three days old. Asked what he would do if she too ran away from such a marriage, he is as direct as his father: “I will kill her”.
Some of this seems as if taken from a horror story in which men are the unchanging villains and women the eternal victims. Certainly, it is not hard to understand why men coming from these and similar backgrounds, propelled by Islamic and traditional attitudes, unable to cope with the sight of a lightly dressed woman, teenager or little girl, and taught that women are their property, zealous of their personal or family honour, and never taught self-control, assuming male rights over all women, and contemptuous of non-Muslim women on the grounds that all non-Muslims are the inferiors of all Muslims, choose to groom, traffic, and rape vulnerable females living in their own towns.
 See John L. Esposito (ed.), “Ahl-i Hadith”, The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, Oxford, 2014
 A left-wing member of the Labour Party who is known for his pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel activities.
 Only ten of these may have been Muslims: four are unnamed and described as men of “no fixed abode”.
 Strictly speaking, shari’a law requires the woman to give consent, though in practice this is usually obtained under pressure.