Religious groups criticise Labour leadership's 'unacceptable' treatment of MP Sarah Champion

Religious leaders representing Sikh, Hindu and Pakistani Christian communities have written a joint letter condemning the Labour leadership's response to a controversial article by the Rotherham MP Sarah Champion.
Sarah ChampionSarah Champion
Sarah Champion

Writing in The Times, the group praises Ms Champion for "speaking an inconvenient truth" in her column for The Sun, while accusing some within the party of attempting to "smear" her.

The intervention follows the MP's resignation from her position as Shadow Equalities Secretary in response to the backlash over her suggestion that Britain "has a problem with Pakistani men... exploiting white girls".

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It also comes after a Labour councillor who came to Ms Champion's defence - Amina Lone - was subsequently deselected.

Signatories of the letter include Lord Singh of Wimbledon, of the Network of Sikh Organisations, and Wilson Chowdhry, chairman of the British Pakistani Christian Association.

The group writes: "We commend Sarah Champion and the Muslim councillor Amina Lone for speaking up on a clear trend in criminality; the conviction of men of largely Pakistani Muslim heritage in sexual grooming cases.

"For decades Hindu, Sikh and Christian organisations have raised concerns about grooming gangs... The common denominator is that victims almost always tend to be non-Muslim girls.

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"We are dismayed by the Labour leadership’s weak response. We are not willing to see the betrayal of victims, who are being sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.

"It’s not racist or Islamophobic to raise a matter of significant public concern. Smearing those speaking an inconvenient truth is unacceptable.

"Champion is undoubtedly right that we cannot ignore the race of the perpetrators, but neither can we ignore the fact that victims of sexual grooming gangs are almost always non-Muslim."

Ms Champion has been a strong voice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation since her election in 2012.

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Her Rotherham constituency was left reeling by revelations of long-running child sexual exploitation between 1997-2013, with the 2013 Jay report concluding that around 1,400 children were the victims of grooming gangs.

Her resignation last month gave rise to speculation that she was actually sacked by the party leadership.

This has repeatedly been denied by Jeremy Corbyn and his team.