MUSLIM leaders have described comments from a Yorkshire MP as “insulting” and “deeply offensive” after he targeted the Muslim community for criticism over recent child grooming scandals.
Kris Hopkins, Conservative MP for Keighley, sparked controversy after stating a “sexist” Muslim culture helped forge the attitudes which led to the abuse of girls and women.
Speaking during a debate on child sexual exploitation in the Commons, Mr Hopkins acknowledged most child abusers were white but added that “we should not get away from the fact that gangs of Muslim men are going round and raping white kids at this moment in time”.
The MP said his predecessor, Ann Cryer, had been right when she previously spoke out on grooming and added: “The victimhood that ran through the community gave an excuse for not facing up to the problem. I went to lots of public events to discuss the issue, but all I heard was that Ann’s constant comments undermined the community.
“The community failed to face up to the core issues that Ann was putting out there. The reality is that the problem has not gone away. Ann Cryer was right. Since that time, many more children have been abused because of the failures of the agencies and of the communities to address what was happening.”
But Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, said Mr Hopkins had adopted a broad-brush which unfairly maligned all Muslims.
“There’s a real fear that by using the language he’s used, he’s tarnishing the whole community. To suggest all Muslims are going round raping white girls is deeply offensive,” he said.
Mr Shafiq pointed out there were already a project organised by local Pakistani-origin men in Mr Hopkins’ constituency tackling the issue of grooming and he also criticised the MP for failing to focus on the plight of the victims.
Bary Malik, external affairs spokesman for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association in Bradford, said Mr Hopkins’ comments showed he was “ignorant” of the community within his own Keighley constituency.
He said: “Of course sexual exploitation of any sort is an offence and we strongly condemn that - but to stick a label on the whole Muslim community is not acceptable. He has offended almost every Muslim in the country.
“It’s insulting. People will be thinking if you go to Keighley you will find gangs of Muslim men ready to rape white women.”
Mr Hopkins drew a direct connection between Muslim men grooming girls and how he perceived women were “treated and valued by Muslim men”.
He said: “I want to challenge the behaviour that says, ‘I embrace and honour my family, my grandmother, my mother and my sister; you are my blood, I love you and I have great affection for you,’ when that passion, love and affection does not address the inequalities those women and girls have to endure.
“Fundamentally, there is a sexist behaviour by some Muslim men towards women. We talk about institutions and commissions and all the rest of it. Fundamentally, as leaders, we need to challenge the behaviour that is going on.
“They are part of British society, but there is behaviour that is unacceptable.”
Mr Hopkins concluded his speech by saying: “I want people in my town to be successful, but they must understand the values that we live by.”
Speaking after the debate, the MP added: “I do understand that some people will regard much of what I had to say as contentious. However, I believe it is fundamentally important to have the debate around these issues so that we can affect positive change, particularly in Keighley.
“Now is the time for political and community leaders in the town to step forward, show strength and address the challenges we face.”