Claiming that race was not a factor in the Manchester sexual grooming case is “fatuous”, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission has said.
Trevor Phillips told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show the fact that the victims were white and their abusers were Asian must not be ignored.
He said it would amount to a “national scandal” if authorities failed to intervene in such cases for fear of “demonizing” the Muslim community.
Echoing comments made by Mohammad Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation, Mr Phillips added that the “closed community” the men came from may have turned a blind eye to their activities, either out of fear or because the girls were from a different community.
The gang of 9 men, ranging in age from 24 to 58, were convicted in Rochdale last week of sexually abusing the vulnerable girls – one as young as 13 – after plying them with drinks and drugs.
Judge Gerald Clifton told the men that they had treated their victims as “worthless and beyond all respect” at least in part because “they were not of your community or religion”.
Police officials and politicians have insisted that race was not a factor in the case.
Keith Vaz, the chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee and one of the most prominent British Asians in Westminster, said: “There is no excuse for this kind of criminality, whoever is involved in it, but I don't think it is a particular group of people.”
Speaking after the men were convicted, Steve Heywood, Assistant Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police said: “It just happens that in this particular area and time, the demographics were that these were Asian men.”
"However, in large parts of the country we are seeing on-street grooming, child sexual exploitation happening in each of our towns and it isn't about a race issue.”
Mr Phillips had a different view: “Anybody who says that the fact that most of the men are Asian and most of the children are white is not relevant – that's just fatuous.
“These are closed communities essentially and I worry that in these communities there are people who knew what was going on and didn't say anything, either because they're frightened or because they're so separated from the rest of the communities they think 'Oh, that's just how white people let their children carry on, we don't need to do anything’.”
- Vijitha Alles