The police should “do their duty and we will applaud them” said Abdoul Rouf, chairman of the local Bangladesh Welfare Association.
His comments come following a review of the Rochdale sexual trafficking gang published last week – a case in which eight men of Pakistani origin and one man of Afghan origin were convicted of varying degrees of child exploitation – which questioned “whether the speed of [social workers’] response was due to the concerns about a racial backlash and reprisals in the community.”
The conclusion of the Operation Bullfinch trial in Oxford earlier this month led to the conviction of seven men of Pakistani origin, for 43 cases of rape, conspiracy to rape, child prostitution and trafficking in the Oxford area.
The abuse in Oxford dates back to 2004, with police and social services crossing paths with the girls and some of their abusers several times over the years, including four complaints in 2006 alone, from young girls about the men, and another reporting the abuse in 2007 and 2008.
Juliette Ginsberg, a PPEist at St Catz, said: “It’s terrible that this abuse and violence could have been prevented at an earlier stage. Ending sexual abuse should always be the first priority for the police and one can only hope that in the future the relevant authorities will act on their suspicions as soon as they are made apparent.”
Rouf’s claims add to the growing debate on the intersection between race, religion and patterns of sexual abuse. Dr Taj Hargey, Imam of the Oxford Islamic Congregation, wrote in the Daily Mail that the abuse was “bound up with religion and race.”
He went on: “Muslim men deliberately targeted vulnerable white girls, whom they appeared to regard as ‘easy meat’, to use one of their revealing, racist phrases. Terrified of racism, desperate not to undermine the official creed of cultural diversity, they [the police and social services] took no action against obvious abuse.”
Rouf, though, does not believe that such abuse is in any way a true or fair reflection of his religion: “Sexual abuse is a most heinous crime in Islam. We have to respect women more than men.”
A second-year historian agreed: “To suggest that such a tragic and heinous crime is the product of the religious or cultural backgrounds of the offenders is wholly wrong. Their actions tell us everything about the character of the individuals, and nothing about Oxford’s Asian community.
“To suggest otherwise is to marginalise everyone within a community which is overwhelmingly peaceful and honourable in character and will feel nothing but disgust towards the guilty.”