Sikhs Ask Media to Stop Calling Pakistani Muslim Rape Gangs ‘Asian’

An Indian Sikh priest (R) carries the Sikh holy book during a procession from the Sri Akal Takhat at the Sikh Shrine to the Golden Temple in Amritsar on April 8, 2015 on the eve of the 394th birth anniversary of the ninth Sikh Guru, Teg Bahadur. Guru Tegh Bahadur, …
NARINDER NANU/AFP/Getty Images

The Network of Sikh Organisations (NSO) has called on the media to stop referring to grooming gangs that are predominantly comprised of perpetrators from a Pakistani Muslim Pakistani as “Asian”, which inaccurately incorporates much of the British Hindu and Sikh communities.

In the United Kingdom, the term “Asian” typically refers to people from or with roots in south Asia — principally India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh — inclusive of people from the diverse range of faiths in that region, including Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus. It is also used in government reporting services to describe all those mentioned, as well as ethnic Chinese people and people from other groups from the wider Asian continent.

The NSO, a registered charity which represents some 130 gurdwaras (temples) and other Sikh organisations in Britain, made the request on Thursday after consultation with the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO).

“British Sikh and Hindu groups have consistently objected to the use of the word ‘Asian’ to describe those convicted in sexual grooming gang cases like in Rochdale, Rotherham, Oxford and Telford,” the NSO said.

Writing on the IPSO’s blog, NSO deputy director Hardeep Singh said that during a meeting with the press standards body in July 2018, they had discussed “the use of the vague and expansive term ‘Asian’, and the consequences of ‘Islamophobia’ on other groups like Sikhs, who often find themselves marginalised in press coverage”.

“Since 9/11 there have been challenges to Sikh identity, which has often been misunderstood. At times it has been conflated with the appearance of Islamists like Osama bin Laden and also with grooming gang criminal cases like Rochdale and Rotherham,” he added.

The NSO has produced guidance on the issue.

This is not the first time that the organisation, following complaints from Sikh and Hindu Britons, has criticised the media for inaccurately describing grooming gangs as “Asian”.

In March 2018, the NSO wrote that they had filed a complaint against IPSO for the leftist Mirror‘s article which used the word “Asian” six times as a “euphemism” for Pakistani Muslim in its own original, extensive expose of the Telford rape gangs which the newspaper claimed was “Britain’s ‘worst ever’ child grooming scandal”, in which some 1,000 girls were abused.

“This cowardly non-specific description of the perpetrators continues to be used in the British press, to describe men of predominantly Pakistani Muslim heritage convicted in grooming gang cases. We believe this is in part due to the fear of offending Muslims,” Mr Singh wrote at the time, adding that the word also “serves to mask the fact that girls from Hindu and Sikh communities have historically fallen foul of grooming gangs themselves”.

“The common denominator in such cases is the deliberate targeting of non-Muslim girls, which we believe should be categorised by the police as a hate crime,” he added.

The issue of gangs of predominantly Pakistani Muslim men grooming and raping white and other non-Muslim girls has been a scourge of some mostly northern English, increasingly multicultural towns for decades, with reports that underage girls were being abused as early as the 1970s. However, the issue did not come to light in the mainstream media until the first major conviction of the Rotherham rapes in 2010.

In August 2014, the Alexis Jay inquiry made a conservative estimate that 1,400 mainly white girls — later revised to over 1,500 —  had been systematically groomed and sexually abused by older Pakistani Muslim origin men from the late 1980s to the early 2010s. However, the delay in prosecutions was as a result of a lack of sympathy from police, who blamed the victims — some of whom were as young as 12 — for their own abuse, whilst council staff feared pursuing cases involving mainly ethnic minority child rapists in case it resulted in accusations of racism.

Similar stories played out with the grooming gang scandals in Rochdale and Telford.

Politicians and other prominent figures have come under criticism when articulating the racial or cultural component of such rape gangs — even if in cases they only use the euphemism “Asian”.

Labour’s Sarah Champion, the MP for Rochdale, was fired from her front bench job in Jeremy Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet for talking about the problem of “British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls” in 2017, resulting in her needing increased police security.

The counter-extremism think tank Quilliam published a study in December 2017, authored by two Pakistani heritage men, which found that “Asian” men are massively, disproportionately involved in Type One abuse (the gang rape of vulnerable girls), with just two per cent of the country’s population responsible for 84 per cent of that brand of abuse.

In responding to the revelation of the Telford grooming scandal in March 2017, former Islamist turned left-wing pundit and Quilliam founder Maajid Nawaz accused police and local authorities of being “complicit” in the cover-up of “racially-motivated sexual assault”.

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