“Words should be the avatars of the real
Not the mantras of hope
But without metaphor, mantras and poetry
How the f*** would we cope?”
From The Love Song of Homi Sidepartingwalla
One of the more appropriate appointments made by British Prime Minister Theresa May (hem) was the promotion of Sajid Javid to the home office. To say that over the last few months the Cabinet has been reshuffled would be an insult to a pack of cards. Poor Theresa has had to wrestle with political entropy — a task comparable to trying to unscramble eggs.
The most recent turbulence was caused by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers — David Davis, the Brexit negotiator, and the ambitious foreign secretary, Boris Johnson.
Earlier, her government faced the scandal of what the media called the “Windrush affair”. Home office officials, supposedly in pursuit of illegal immigrants, detained and even deported West Indians whose parents had arrived here in the 1950s at the invitation of the then British government. The pretence for this outrage was that some of these individuals had not subsequently registered their British citizenship. The scandal caused by the detention and deportation of British citizens who have lived and worked for virtually all their lives in the country caused the resignation of the then home secretary. She was sacrificed at the altar of Ms May because the dispensation under which home office officials made bold to arrest and deport this “Windrush generation” victims was initiated under the home office of Ms May in the previous David Cameron government.
Mr Javid is an immigrant of the same generation as the Windrushwalla victims. He immediately apologises to his fellow immigrant citizens and, while assuring the British public that his office would diligently pursue illegal immigrants, he specifically called off the hounding of the innocents. So the brown man deals with the outrage to blacks on behalf of the whites. Sorted!
Now Mr Javid wades into another tricky situation involving ethnicity.
In several northern cities in the past years there have been trials and convictions of gangs of men (with a couple of female accomplices) for the sexual abuse of vulnerable underage girls. Most of these girls were white and all of them vulnerable in so far as they had been abandoned by their parents and lived under the unwatchful or bureaucratic eye of the local government. Eleven of these gangs, over a hundred individuals, have been tried and jailed for grooming and paedophilia.
In the fair town of Rotherham, Sarah Champion, the member of Parliament, called attention to the fact that over 95 per cent of these criminals were immigrants of Pakistani, mainly Mirpuri origin, or they were others pulled into a network of acquaintance with them. She did not associate their criminality with their religion.
Ms Champion leads a cross-party working group of MPS whose constituencies of Rotherham, Rochdale, Oxford, Blackpool, Keighley, Telford, Bradford, Halifax, Huddersfield, Middlesborough and Newcastle upon Tyne, have been affected by this grooming and sexual exploitation of vulnerable girls by organised criminal networks.
In May, when Mr Javid was promoted to the home office, they told him that they were “alarmed by the similarity in cases across the country” and they called for research into the “common patterns of behaviour” in these cases.
Ms Champion came under attack from several pressure groups who accused her of Islamophobia. The diatribes against her were absurd. They accused her of “fanning the flames of racial hatred” and acting like a “neo-fascist murderer”. Death threats and filthy messages followed. The police put Ms Champion under the sort of security protection afforded to Salman Rushdie. In the estimation of the security services she has offended against the Prophet of silence on race and the deviant sect of opportunistic anti-racism.
Ms Champion has been a tireless critic and worker attempting to fight child sexual abuse. She was pointing to an awkward fact and calling for some official attempt to trace, analyse and attempt to confront what seems, on the surface of it, to have an obvious social if not cultural commonalty to this crime.
Writing in the Sun, a newspaper not renowned for its friendly attitude to immigrants, Ms Champion said these “assailants were predators and the common denominator is their ethnic heritage”.
Explosive words and there was explosive fallout. Nadeem Murtuja, an acting director of a charity called Just Yorkshire, accused Ms Champion of “industrial-scale racism”.
The opponents of Ms Champion have petitioned the Labour Party to deselect her and field a Muslim candidate in her place.
Mr Javid has stepped into the controversy in support of Ms Champion, who belongs to the Opposition party. He wrote to Ms Champion, saying: “The government attaches the highest priority to tackling child sexual exploitation… We categorise it as a national threat… and offences involving grooming by organised networks is of particular concern. My officials have been working with investigating officers in relevant cases and with the national crime agency, to establish the particular characteristics and contexts associated with this type of offending. Understanding more about the offender network would support a more targeted response by the police and other agencies… If there is a need for further research, we will take it forward.”
Mr Javid’s statements are full-hearted support for Ms Champion’s call for identifying the characteristics of the social and even ethnic particularities of the convicted offenders. He doesn’t mention ethnicity, social status or employment, but inevitably when and if the investigations he says he has initiated are made public, these will have to be tackled. Did the gang operate through a network of a particular profession? Were the gang members related through blood, through work or through social institutions?
All that is worth examining without being labelled racist or Islamophobic.
If an inquiry into the murderers who have stabbed and lynched Muslims in India comes to the conclusion that they were fanatical Hindus or that they belonged uniformly to certain organisations, should this be characterised as anti-Hinduism?