“There is a tendency among many Muslims to look upon such [white, working class] women as inferior, as ‘sluts,’” writes one commentator as he assesses the operations of a recently-convicted child sex ring in the UK.
Seemingly, this writer, Brendan O'Neill, editor of a British online magazine, made this remark in an attempt to deviate away from the “cowardly” British reporting on the case as he had been referring to; suggesting that mainstream news reports were spinelessly unable to write on the group’s religion, almost not wanting to tread on anyone’s toes.
But could his sweeping comment about the Muslim view on “white” women could be far too “brave” a remark? (If that.)
The child-grooming gang, made up of nine Asian Muslim men, became a first in UK history to convict the men of sex trafficking within the country. Pouring down against a backdrop of multicultural and immigration political debates in Britain, the case brought on harsh criticism of the how gutless public debate in Britain has become, and has therefore encouraged such brash opinions to come out.
Indeed, it’s sensitive territory for the media; not wanting to offend the masses and influentially push the religion card at the wrong moment, but sadly it’s being pushed already, by the perpetrators themselves. The men, aged between 22 and 59, had mostly admitted to selectively choosing white, British schoolgirls for sex; to rape or exploit as prostitutes.
Phrase it like that and all sorts of racial assumptions will pop up in your mind. And those who have made the link are not only high-brow, middle-class British journalists ready to pounce on stories which they can dramatically slant towards the Right; using the race issue to cook up topics related to immigration, multiculturalism and crime.
Instead of imprudently using a term like “sluts,” a Muslim cabinet minister has hit out at Pakistani men in particular who see white girls as “fair game.” The frequently outspoken Baroness Warsi, a co-chair of Britain’s Conservative party, urged Muslim leaders to address the public debate roused by the Asian gang’s trial and ensure that men who regard white women as “third-class citizens” are isolated by their communities.
Drawing parallels with Laura Mulvey’s theory of the Male gaze, we should begin to discuss the suggested “Asian Muslim gaze,” as I’d like to phrase it. The term allows us to explore how Asian (according to Warsi) and/or Muslim (according to O’Neill) men are being accused of having such a warped “gaze” towards women who are not part of their communities.
One British Muslim imam attempted to shed light on the lives of British Pakistani men in particular, explaining that they are split across “two worlds” while living in Britain. Imam Alyas Karmani says one world is encompassed by a socially conservative family and business life, while the other is interaction with the “sexualized, material and lust-driven English lifestyle.”
And so it is when both worlds collide, that societal troubles brew.
“Many of these men do not understand what is appropriate behavior in wider society and what is not,” says Karmani. “They are so lacking in social skills – because relationships between men and women in Pakistani culture are characterized by a real formality – that they can misconstrue an ordinary conversation with a white girl in their taxi and think she is indicating that she is open to a sexual advance when that is not what she means at all.”
“Others cannot resist the temptation aroused by women – and young girls – whose cultural assumptions are so alien from their own.”
This insight from a straight-talking British imam would provide a more logical (whatever “logic” denotes here) conclusion as to why the Asian child-sex ring did what they did; they targeted the most vulnerable. But it isn’t as simple as that.
This reasoning is reminiscent to the kind used to explain why sexual harassment happens around the world, across borders. Men who do it blame the way the woman was dressed, how she walked, talked; condoning their act on the basis that they were provoked or enticed.
In Britain, if sexual harassment and other sexual crimes by minority groups are stemming from the concept of “access and opportunity,” those who seek girls that are most easily accessible and vulnerable, then surely this transcends race/religion boundaries.
Yes, I’m pushing the “child sex abusers come from all backgrounds” argument, a statement made by Police chief Steve Heywood after the nine men were convicted. He also felt the need to mention that his force was investigating other cases of on-street grooming which did not involve British Pakistanis.
Why? Because the ultimate danger is that if only one ethnicity becomes part of an ideological nationwide manhunt for sex offenders, then many could become aware of a risk one particular group poses, missing out on other societal dangers.
Any colorful society will pose all kinds of colorful threats; a rainbow of “gazes.”
(Eman El-Shenawi, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)