Ex-MP backs Muslim peer over 'girl grooming' by Asian men

A Yorkshire campaigner and former MP is backing a Muslim peer who has sparked controversy with suggestions the problem of grooming of young girls by Asian men is fuelled by unhappy arranged marriages.

Lord Ahmed of Rotherham is reported to have blamed arranged marriages to cousins for prompting some Pakistani men to target vulnerable young girls for their sexual needs.

Ann Cryer, former Labour MP for Keighley, who has campaigned against forced marriages, said she agreed with the peer's comments which followed a spate of high-profile court cases where groups of Asian men have been sentenced for grooming girls in Derby and Rotherham.

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Mrs Cryer said: "You get an unhappy marriage. They stay together because of pressure within the family and sometimes living with the family. So the young man is seeking his pleasure elsewhere – that can be a girlfriend in another part of town or in extreme circumstances it can be the position we see in Derby.

"I do not think the position of grooming young girls is typical of the Asian community but it is an off-shoot of other things such as bringing girls and boys in from their village of origin who are totally lacking in any similarity at all."

Mrs Cryer said if parents in Bradford and Keighley decided to stop bringing in people for arranged marriages from outside the UK and instead arranged marriages within the settled community, the position of the Pakistani community would be "massively improved" within a few years.

The former MP said she thought Lord Ahmed was expressing the view of "probably the vast majority of Pakistanis in this country."

She added: "However those same people dare not speak out because they know they will be given a very hard time by elders and those who want the status quo to continue because of their position."

Lord Ahmed said some Pakistani men were forced into marriages and were not happy – married to girls from overseas with whom they do not have anything in common, and they have children and a family.

"But they are looking for fun in their sexual activities and seek out vulnerable girls," he added. "I get a lot of criticism from Asian people who ask, 'How can you say this about Asian men?' But they must wake up and realise there is a problem."

He added: "While I respect individual choice, I think the community needs to look at marriages in the UK rather than cousin marriages or economic marriages from abroad."

The comments come just weeks after former Home Secretary Jack Straw sparked a fierce row by claiming some young men of Asian origin regarded young white girls as "easy meat" for sexual exploitation.

As the comments provoked outrage from some charities, Keighley Tory MP Kris Hopkins joined those calling for the issue to be debated and discussed.

Mr Straw spoke out after two men of Asian origin were convicted of raping and sexually assaulting girls in Derby and were given indefinite jail terms.

Earlier this month a judge banned five Asian men convicted of grooming girls for sex in a Yorkshire town from any contact with females under 16 when they are finally released from jail.

The men, all from Rotherham, were sentenced to a total of 32 and a half years in prison last November, after they were found guilty of having sex with vulnerable girls, one of whom was only 12.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, has commissioned an assessment into "on street" grooming leading to abuse and exploitation.