Saturday 22 October 2016

Great evils like sex abuse must not be covered up because of racism fears

Published 15/01/2016 | 02:30

Police in Cologne detain a supporter of German anti-immigration movement Pegida during a protest in reaction to mass sexual assaults on women in the city on New Year’s Eve – assaults that police were initially reluctant to report. Photo: Reuters
Police in Cologne detain a supporter of German anti-immigration movement Pegida during a protest in reaction to mass sexual assaults on women in the city on New Year’s Eve – assaults that police were initially reluctant to report. Photo: Reuters

Over the past two years, a string of child sex abuse scandals have come to light in the UK. I am not referring to those involving celebrities such as Jimmy Savile, or to the clerical abuse scandals, but to scandals centred on towns such as Rotherham in northern England.

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An official 153-page report written by Alexis Jay, a former chief inspector of social work in Scotland, found that a minimum of 1,400 girls were sexually abused and exploited over a 16-year period by gangs of men.

The report was released in 2014 and found that local authorities, including Rotherham Metropolitan Council, had failed to end the abuse and sometimes turned a blind eye to it.

Why was this? The report gives a major reason for the appalling failure by the authorities. "By far the majority of perpetrators were described as Asian by victims," it says. This meant that "several staff described their nervousness about identifying the ethnic origins of perpetrators for fear of being thought racist".

Reacting to the report, British Home Secretary Theresa May blamed "institutionalised political correctness" for the unwillingness of police, social workers and local politicians to act.

She told parliament that "for reasons of political expediency and ideology" the authorities were "unwilling to confront the fact that the abusers were of Pakistani heritage".

The report found examples of "children who had been doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone".

Jay said: "They were raped by multiple perpetrators, trafficked to other towns and cities in the north of England, abducted, beaten and intimidated." She said girls as young as 11 had been raped by large numbers of men.

A second report, the Casey Report, dealt with the behaviour of Rotherham Council. It said the council had a culture of "political correctness, incompetence and cover-up" that "allowed gangs of Asian men to get away with child abuse for years".

Like the Jay Report, it found that officials would not "tackle difficult issues for fear of being seen as racist or upsetting community cohesion".

The Casey Report prompted the cabinet of Rotherham council to resign en masse.

Rotherham is not an isolated example. Very similar scandals in other towns such as Rochdale and Oxford have also been uncovered.

In the case of Oxford, another element was at work - a reluctance on the part of social workers to be seen as being "judgemental" towards under-age sex.

The investigation into the Oxford scandal reported a "professional tolerance" towards under-age sexual activity.

The 'Daily Telegraph' noted a "widespread belief that the children's 'self-determining choice' should be respected in sexual matters, pointing specifically to the way contraception is readily distributed to girls from a young age". In other words, a fear of being considered racist combined with tolerance towards under-age sex to leave thousands of young girls all over the UK open to sexual abuse and exploitation.

This totally contradicts the widespread myth that more liberal attitudes can only result in less abuse and exploitation in the sexual sphere.

Indeed, the reluctance of the authorities in places such as Rochdale and Rotherham to act is reminiscent of the attitude of the church when it covered up its own scandals: there was a desire to protect what were seen as higher values in the case of the church and its teachings; and in the case of the local authorities it was "multiculturalism".

What happened in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere is also similar to what happened in Cologne and in other European cities at the turn of the year, namely widespread sexual abuse of women (not minors this time) by mainly Muslim men, not of Pakistani descent but North African or Middle Eastern, some of them refugees.

The initial reluctance of the police and the media to report what happened stemmed from the same motive that prevented the authorities in the various English towns acting when faced with their scandal - a desire to avoid an outbreak of racism or a fear of being accused of racism themselves.

When there were riots in mostly Muslim-dominated parts of Paris and other French cities a few years ago, the French media downplayed what was happening at first for fear of inciting racism.

A similar fear has allowed jihadism to grow in cities such as London, Paris and Brussels.

The reluctance to report is in some ways understandable, but is also completely indefensible because it is allowing great evils such as sexual abuse to take place.

Imagine for the sake of the argument that instead of it being gangs of men of "North African appearance who were guilty of assaulting women in Cologne and elsewhere, it was gangs of "men with Irish accents".

Imagine that this was a pattern repeated in city after city over a protracted period. Would it be acceptable that a fear of inciting anti-Irish feeling would lead to a cover-up by the authorities of what was happening?

Would it be enough to simply point out that "the vast majority of Irish men are not like that"? I don't believe so.

If a minority of Irish men were found to be disproportionately guilty of this kind of offence wherever they went, it would be incumbent on Irish people to wonder what was going on and to ask whether there was something in Irish culture that was responsible for this and then to do something about it.

It would also be absolutely acceptable for non-Irish people to ask the same questions. If this spilled over into anti-Irish racism, then that would have to be dealt with as it occurred. Let's remember that a fear of sparking anti-Catholicism and anti-clericalism did not prevent a thorough investigation of clerical sex abuse scandals and their causes.

What we are witnessing at the moment is the tendency found in all ideologies to protect their reputations and their highest values from harm, even to the point of ignoring or wishing away or even facilitating terrible wrong-doing.

In this case, the value of multi-culturalism and "tolerance" is being protected, but at an enormous cost to real people, primarily women and children. What happened in Cologne is awful. What happened in Rotherham and Rochdale is horrendous.

We, and this includes Muslims, have to be brave enough to ask hard questions about what is happening. These include hard questions about aspects of Muslim male culture and about the extreme reluctance on the part of many multiculturalists to face hard facts.

Irish Independent

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