As faith organisations of Asian origin register complaints about the proclivity of western media – especially groups in the UK – to clump crimes by a particular ethnic faith community into a broader classification, namely ‘Asian,’ the British Pakistani Christian Association joins the clamour for improved vigour and responsibility to thwart the impunity that perpetrators have gained through statutory authority fear of being labelled racist. Complaints arose after articles exposing the Telford grooming gangs (click here) chose to list the perpetrators as Asians rather than Pakistani Muslims (click here).
Mr Chowdhry, Chairman of the BPCA wrote a complaint to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO) this morning that read as follows:
As a Christian of Pakistani origin, I know it is better to be vulnerable than critical and so that is very much the place from where I speak. Moreover, I also know the incredible freedom that comes by knowing the truth and addressing the facts gravely required: meeting them squarely with a reasonable and actionable response. When we face facts – the ones that grieve us most – we can be agents of healing and correction setting what is broken and bringing back function to what has become maimed.
Factual information is something that we expect from the media and perhaps it can be their greatest gift to the public. Therefore, I need to ask the members of the press why they are trimming those facts and, in the process, further marginalizing British Christians of Pakistani origin, who in coming to the UK bring a heartfelt appreciation for the rule of law and protections afforded us here.
How is it acceptable in this day and age to patronise religious sentiments by allowing these gangs to be demographically designated solely by their ethnicity and not as they self-identity? Members of these gangs identify themselves as Muslim therefore that is how they ought to be described. If an offender were Catholic, or any variety of Christian certainly they would simply be described as such (click here) and if their abusive behaviour was in its context and organized around their faith, as these gangs are, there would be no reason why it shouldn’t be mentioned so that it could be properly addressed in the multi-faceted aspects of community life and not hidden under the veil of religion.
Authorities have been more afraid to be called racist, than of exhibiting poor performance and in doing so are allowing victims to suffer brutal and ignominious attacks that have destroyed their lives. Similarly the media is prone to overgeneralize ethnic communities and this leads to needless stereotyping of all “Asian” diaspora within the UK.
Lack of clarity in this regard disrespects the responsibilities we and our progenitors undertook when they landed on these shores. such a position also fails to recognize valid issues and archaic attitudes that exasperate the problem of gender violence and sexual exploitation within our borders. This wilful blindness inhibits the development of much needed solutions that we as a nation in our various municipalities must be able to address. The media must meet this challenge by reporting truthfully, accurately and fearlessly.
“By not adequately identifying the perpetrators we allow the abuse to continue unabated, and unaddressed. We must stop dancing around the critical factors and trying more to soften the impact of these crimes on those committing them rather than focusing on those suffering.
We continue to hope for better from the communities that shelter the operation of these gangs, because they are included in our British family. The inference that these British citizens “do not know better” or that their crimes should in someway be tolerated because they hold a faith that holds different standards to British culture is unacceptable. This overlooking of specific details and overgeneralizing by ethnicity categorically infantizes “Asians” as if expecting no better from an entire continent and is very insulting to the human decency of any group of people. It is no kindness but only goes to show the unfortunate extent of racial prejudice.
In other news coverage the spurious general usage of “Pakistani” further fails to recognize the religious diversity within the Pakistani diaspora. The rather carelessly rendered blanketing statement “Pakistani” to identify these gangs essentially treats religious minorities, such as we are, as if we do not even exist. Ostensibly the press has also used the term “Pakistani” as if all Pakistanis are the same religion, as if no further clarification was needed to delineate who these gang members have been all along. Pakistani Christians are maligned and some come to harm in Pakistan, why should we as émigré and native-born British be marginalized in this manner?
Being from Pakistani origins, but of a minority faith, we at BPCA strongly object to being lumped in with these criminal elements simply by virtue of our ethnic origins as it leaves us vulnerable when racism is reinforced by the misinformed terms of the conversation. British Pakistani Christians want to talk about these issues and we want them addressed firstly because we are fully contributing members of British society, but also because it is not only white girls and women who are targeted for trafficking, but British girls and women who deserve our care and whose bodies should be respected many of them notably from the Sikh community (click here).
“Pakistani’s from religious-minorities understand the ongoing harm that is perpetuated by less than benign commentary denying the harsh reality of the sexual exploitation they face. What is happening now on Britain’s shores and in our Boroughs is just more of what happens to our faith community back in Pakistan. Our families came here to be free and live in a democratic country therefore we demand that our children – all British children – be protected by the law of the land and this not be inhibited by personal sensibilities. Accordingly, we kindly ask members of the media to report frankly the events as they have happened without shrinking detail. The rapists who spearheaded these grooming gangs were Pakistani Muslim in origin and should be labelled as such.
How can the British public lend our support to those resilient citizens like Ruswana Bashir who bravely has spoken up about abuse even within the British Pakistani Muslim community, where the common acceptance of predators’ whose immediate re-entry into social circles allows them to reoffend (click here), while the victims are shunned as having brought shame, if we cannot even state the facts?
How can we as a larger community invite our Muslim friends and neighbours to take some positive action to improve the current situation if we cannot refer to the gangs by the proper identifying factors? I am keenly aware of the ire raised by honour culture and the prescribed shame factor (click here) but it is time to break the silence. The media must do their jobs and no longer mince words.
Please sign our petition (click here)