The issue of domestic trafficking and sexual exploitation has never been so well published within the British media as in recent weeks. Yet it seems for all the wrong reasons. The tragic situation of young white girls being groomed by Pakistani men has turned into a squabble about cultural sensitivity – derailing any chance of a discussion around the real issue… what can people in the Muslim community, in any community, do to increase awareness of human trafficking and sexual exploitation? Or I guess one step before that – how do people start a conversation in their community?
Although the comments made by the former home secretary and MP for Blackburn have sparked controversy, as a member of the Muslim community it has provided me with a platform to reflect on ways to deal with a crime that exploits and preys on many young vulnerable girls in the UK and around the world.
As citizens of this country and globe, we all have a shared responsibility in eradicating injustice and in becoming active advocates for those who are vulnerable and victims of abuse. Instead of playing the blame game and indulging in the finger-pointing culture that has become all too common, we need to encourage and empower communities with the knowledge and skills to make the sanctity of life our highest priority. The fact that slavery and exploitation persists to exist is a representation of all our failures, as individuals and as part of the wider society, regardless of racial demographics and religion.
As practicing Muslims are fully aware, Islam prides itself as the religion of peace, equality and justice. The Quran, as a guide, attests rivers of verses promoting justice and the sanctity of human life. All the finger-pointing in the world should not hinder us from fulfilling our obligated duty of justice. Instead, we should all be asking ourselves of how we can contribute to a safer community that protects its vulnerable inhabitants and safeguards it from the harm of evil-doers.
How can we empower communities to deal with controversial topics such as trafficking and sexual grooming? Amongst the bickering of racial tension and controversy, there is a need in promoting greater awareness of such issues.
There is clearly a culture of silence amongst many ethnic groups that play dangerously into the hands of criminal perpetrators. As a British-born Muslim, I am fully aware of the dangers of silence within my own community that places many young girls at risk. I have lost count of the number of times I have witnessed young men waiting outside school gates in flashy cars plying young girls with sweet words and an offer of a ride home. Contrary to current media suggestions, these are young Muslims girls who are targeted for grooming and sexual exploitation.
As the crime of trafficking and sexual exploitation is becoming more talked about topic in media, there is a fear that the recent comments made by former home secretary Jack Straw has dangerously simplified the issue. Grooming and exploitation is something that is not alien to one particular group, but could affect anyone – white, black or Asian.
The topic in discussion should not be one of ethnic sensitivity, rather one that embraces and engages every ethnicity, culture and religion to uphold the justice that protects all the citizens of this country. As a first step, I feel there is a need to engage community leaders dedicated to promoting greater awareness, and begin a process of talk that highlights the dangers of trafficking and the vulnerability of girls in a positive pro-active manner.
My personal action is to start that conversation, I am starting right now with this blog and I encourage everyone including community leaders from every faith background to get involved and help to put an end to grooming and exploitation of young girls.
By Mohammed Khan