CAIRO – As British authorities and media keep focused on a model of grooming involving white victims, a new report has warned that pedophile rings of Asian men who groom and sexually exploit children have been targeting Muslims within their own communities as well.
"I knew we would uncover cases, but I was shocked at the numbers coming forward and the horrific nature of the crimes," Shaista Gohir, chair of the Muslim Women's Network UK, based in Birmingham, told The Guardian.
"What we discovered is that these sexual predators will target any girls who are vulnerable and accessible, regardless of their background, ethnicity or faith."
The report, Unheard Voices: the sexual exploitation of Asian girls and young women, said most of the victims were aged under 16 and two thirds of them were from Pakistani families.
It added that Asian girls, including Muslims, are under-reporting abuse to police and authorities because they fear not being believed, or because they are threatened with bringing shame and dishonor on their families.
Made over a five-month period, the study also shows that offenders will target vulnerable youngsters of the same ethnicity - but rely on the Asian and Muslim culture of honor and shame to mask their vile crimes.
Although there has been a series of high-profile British court cases in which men of South Asian heritage were convicted of sexually exploiting vulnerable white girls, authorities are failing to spot cases in which men target girls from their own ethnic group.
"Blackmail was a key factor in these girls complying and not speaking out, and the shame and honor card was used time and time again," Gohir added.
The cases detailed in the 126-page report included females aged from nine to 30. They came from London, the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Lancashire.
"It's a worrying figure," said Gohir.
"This was a small-scale, unfunded study. If we managed to collect so many case studies in a short space of time, what is the reality? It is likely to be far worse."
In 2012, nine Britons of Pakistani and Afghan descent were found guilty of exploiting girls, who were all white, in sexual activities in Rochdale and Derby in return for drugs and alcohol.
Last June, seven men who abused girls as part of a sadistic sex grooming ring based in Oxford were also jailed for life at the Old Bailey.
Two of the men were of east African origin and five of Pakistani origin.
StereotypingSue Berelowitz, the deputy children's commissioner, said the report echoed the commission’s fears that victims who did not fit the most recognized model were being missed.
"One of these myths was that only white girls are victims of sexual exploitation by Asian or Muslim males as these men only abuse outside of their own community, driven by hatred and contempt for white females,” Berelowitz said.
“This belief flies in the face of evidence that shows those who violate children are most likely to target those who are closest to them and most easily accessible.”
She added that the children's commissioner inquiry into gangs "uncovered many ethnic minority victims and we became extremely concerned by the failure of agencies to seek out and identify these children".
According to official statistics, the majority of child-sex offenders in Britain are white men.
Statistics offered by Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre say that in 2012, 97% of identified victims were also white.
"Stereotyping victims or offenders is inaccurate and creates unnecessary risks – this report illustrates this point clearly," a spokesman said.
Honorary president and Muslim Women's Network UK co-founding member Baroness Haleh Afshar OBE (Order of the British Empire) agreed.
“These case studies indicate that, contrary to media studies that accuse Muslim men of grooming non-Muslim girls, the majority of the abusers were from the same ethnic /faith background as the victims and perpetrators targeted girls that were most vulnerable and accessible to them,” she told The Daily Mail.
“Like their non-Muslim counterparts some of the victims were silenced by fear of violence against them or their family, others had an emotional attachment to their attackers and others feared that they would not be believed by their own family and others.
“In addition, the attackers relied on the deep sense of honor and shame in their family and community to silence and control their victims.”
Britain is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly 2.7 million.
The majority of the multi-ethnic minority has Indian, Bengali and Pakistani backgrounds.
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