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By Jason Michael
Why is it that so much is made of Muslim rape and grooming gangs by the media and the far-right when grooming and sexual exploitation are crimes driven by the pornified demands of the West?
Every year an outstanding group of women organise an interfaith Iftar at the Hilton Hotel in Dublin, a time when people of all faiths and none can come together to break the fast with their Muslim friends and neighbours during the holy month of Ramadan. The Muslim Sisters of Éire is an Islamic woman’s organisation that has had a deep and profound impact on the life of this city thanks to its volunteers’ work with the homeless. Their work on the streets and their advocacy have been praised by the Lord Mayor, innumerable politicians, the Catholic and Anglican Archbishops, and other groups working to help the homeless in Dublin and all over Ireland.
Rough sleepers, many of whom are real salt of the earth Dubs, have referred to these women in hijabs as the “Muslim Sisters of Mary” – a beautifully odd confusion which exposes a remarkable truth; those who know them and love them most don’t see them as the tabloids’ “Muslims.” They are acceptable Muslims, dedicated and decent women who in the eyes of the people they serve have become some kind of Muslim-Catholic nun hybrid. Dublin’s Muslims have without doubt done so much to bring back to Ireland something that was almost entirely lost during the economic boom. Last year, in the depths of winter, in the middle of a homeless crisis, the only people going door-to-door to gather food and blankets in the inner city were from my local mosque.
It’s with this in mind that I felt myself getting frustrated and angry during this year’s interfaith Iftar. In one speech after another I listened to the speakers and representatives from the city’s mosques apologise for terrorism and for the atrocious reputation Islam has gained in the West. Were these people, I asked myself, living in the same West as me? Had they any clue of the high esteem in which they are held. The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin spoke, a guest from the local synagogue too, and then a Presbyterian theologian from the Irish School of Ecumenics, but none of them questioned the apologies – the meaningless apologies.
This struck me as a patronising nod to an occasion for “moderate Muslims” to “speak out.” It struck me as dishonest; as disingenuous, unkind, and fundamentally unfriendly. It bothered me. But then it dawned on me that we are indeed living in the same West, and the “western” religious guests were merely reproducing – rather than challenging – the western narrative; a narrative that says Islam is bad, is dangerous, is foreign.
At the heart of our society’s – that’s European society’s – antipathy towards Islam is the political problem of immigration and Muslim immigration in particular, stemming from European cultures’ historic Islamophobia. Our political classes have manufactured grievances against Islam to serve this political end and rallies them, through the establishment media, behind the fictive and popular causes of an Islamic terror threat and variations on the theme of Muslim rape or grooming gangs. In countries like Ireland – small, majority Christian, politically neutral, European countries – there is no credible Islamic terror threat, and for good reason. Such countries’ soldiers are not considered “invaders” in US-led invasions and occupations of oil rich, majority Muslim, countries. The “terror threat” is a fiction.
What does work, however, in Ireland as well as it does in England, Germany, and France is the presentation of Muslim men as sexual predators – as a threat to white, western women and girls. Wherever the Islamophobic far-right raises its ugly head; be that in the form of Pegida’s abortive march on Dublin or the English Defence League’s “Free Tommy” riot in London, the call is always the same: Stop the Islamification of Europe! Stop the Muslim grooming gangs!
The grooming of vulnerable children for sexual exploitation is an undeniable reality, and it is a fact that in most of the cases uncovered in England the majority of the perpetrators have been men from British-Pakistani backgrounds. But to limit our analysis of this crime to the criminals’ religions and ethnicities singularly fails to grasp the true nature and scope of the problem. It ignores the facts that most sex offenders who commit crimes against children are lone white males and that organised grooming for sexual exploitation is nothing new.
In the aftermath of the revelations of Jimmy Savile’s sexual abuse of children and vulnerable people a whole rash of cases involving organised child abuse have come to light; often implicating powerful figures within the British political establishment. The news seldom reminds us of the senior members of the EDL who have been convicted of child grooming and the sexual abuse of children. It is clear, given the demographics and the crime statistics, that the vast majority of instances of child sexual abuse and grooming are perpetrated by white men in their native countries. The double standard is maintained by the western media because it bolsters an anti-Muslim narrative that is of political value to the state policymakers who are everywhere in the West constructing a “hostile environment” for immigrants – especially darker-skinned Muslim immigrants.
In reality, the problem of grooming and sexual exploitation is driven by a pornified consumerist culture in the West that is fuelling a human trafficking crisis reaching from Dublin, across the whole of Europe and Russia, to Damascus. Nelufar Hedayat, an up-and-coming British-Afghani journalist, explores this in her documentary series The Traffickers. In Greece she follows a supply chain, involving the kidnap and exploitation of Syrian refugees; women, girls, and toddlers, leading all the way to Amsterdam and illegal brothels in every major European city.
Busy escort websites, in high demand everywhere in Europe and North America, are filled with listings of “Eastern European” and “Middle Eastern” women offering services for as little as £30. It is impossible to think that these sites, regardless of their owners’ frequent claims to the contrary, are not part of the marketplace where many of these human trafficking victims end up. Invariably these online “punter communities” give buyers the chance to rate and comment on their experiences. Here is a real example of one such comment:
I also asked her why she had services on her profile that she does not do and she replied that she did not know what was on her profile. At that point I decided to leave and I asked her for some of my money back and she refused and I left anyway.
“She did not know what [services were] on her profile.” Why, we ask, would a woman freely choosing to offer sex on an escorting website not know what sexual services were on her list of “favourites?” The answer is self-evident: She never filled in her profile – someone else did.
In the West there is an insatiable demand for sex, a demand that is perpetuating horrifying crimes against vulnerable people – men, women, and children – on a truly monstrous scale. This is not being driven by “Muslim grooming gangs.” This is a result of white European and American men’s demands, and they and our media and governments are prepared to ignore this terrifying reality in the name of a sickening racist agenda that wants to see every evil of the human condition – of capitalism – laid at the feet of Muslims – all Muslims.
We can’t simply ignore these crimes, and of course we can’t turn a blind eye to some because they happened to have been committed by Muslim men. But the fact remains that this is not a “Muslim problem.” This is crime, and it is part of an international problem involving organised criminals from every conceivable religious, cultural, and ethnic background. Owing to the assumptions of capitalism and consumerism and the wealth gap between Europe, North America and the rest of the world this is overwhelmingly a crime fuelled by white men with expendable incomes in “white countries.” Racialising this problem only to weaponise it against Muslims – because of the actions of criminals – has nothing to do with justice. It’s just racism.
Britain’s Sex Gangs (Documentary) – Real Stories