Dr Martin Parsons is a former aid worker in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Yet another gang of ‘Asian’ men has just been convicted of grooming white girls for sex. Sarah Champion, the Labour MP who to her credit has pursued this scandal relentlessly since she was elected in the wake of the Rotherham grooming scandal, has said:
“I think what we need to acknowledge and be very upfront about is that in all of the towns where these cases have gone on the majority of perpetrators have been British Pakistani. Now one of the things, for example, on the news last night, there was a picture of 18 of the people that were convicted, there was no comment that 17 of those were clearly Asian men. And it just pains me that this is going on time, and time and time again and the Government aren’t researching what is going on, you know are these cultural issues? Is there some sort of message going out within the community? We have got now hundreds of men, Pakistani men, who have been convicted of this crime, why are we not commissioning research to see what is going on and how we need to change what is going on?”
In fact, one only has to look at some horrifyingly similar occurrences that have been going on in Pakistan for many years to answer that question. Pakistan is a country which I love. However, every country and every culture has its dark side, including our own. When I lived in Pakistan, there was only one occasion that genuinely shocked me. I was on a bus in Peshawar, and overheard the two men next to me – who wrongly assumed that I couldn’t understand their language – boasting to each other that they had just got the equivalent of £70 for a boy they had sold to a shopkeeper, almost certainly for sexual slavery. I knew there was little I could do, even if I followed the men: the police would do nothing, except possibly take a bribe from them.
Who are these children who are abducted in Pakistan? A high proportion are from the country’s Christian and Hindu minorities who are regarded as inferiors by a great many, though by no means all, Pakistani Muslims. In fact, most abductions occur in the Punjab and Sindh province, where the majority of the Christians and Hindus respectively live. A 2014 report by a Pakistani NGO highlighted how these abductions are justified by forcing the victims to convert to Islam, which then enables the perpetrator to escape justice:
“Cases for forced marriages and conversions can be distinguished by a specific pattern or process: Christian girls – usually between the ages of 12 and 25 – are abducted, converted to Islam, and married to the abductor or third party. The victim’s family usually files a First Information Report (FIR) for abduction or rape with the local police station. The abductor, on behalf of the victim girl, files a counter FIR, accusing the Christian family of harassing the willfully converted and married girl, and for conspiring to convert the girl back to Christianity. Upon production in the courts or before the magistrate, the victim girl is asked to testify whether she converted and married of her own free will or if she was abducted. In most cases, the girl remains in custody of the abductor while judicial proceedings are carried out. Upon the girl’s pronouncement that she willfully converted and consented to the marriage, the case is settled without relief for the family. Once in the custody of the abductor, the victim girl may be subjected to sexual violence, rape, forced prostitution, human trafficking and sale, or other domestic abuse.
The prevalence and incidence of forced conversion and marriage are difficult to accurately estimate due to reporting deficiencies and the complex nature of the crime. Estimates therefore range from 100 to 700 victim Christian girls per year. For the Hindu community, the most conservative estimates put the number of victims at 300 per year.”
So great is this problem that if you ask Pakistani Christians what injustices they face in their country they are likely to say i) the blasphemy laws ii) the abduction, rape and forcible conversion of Christian girls.
There have been attempts to tackle it. Last November, the provincial assembly in Sindh unanimously passed a bill prohibiting ‘forced conversion’, but it was withdrawn in January after pressure from Pakistan’s Council on Islamic Ideology, who regarded it as unislamic.
Similar abductions of non-Muslim girls also happen in other countries with large non-Muslim minorities such as Egypt, but they seem to be particularly prevalent in Pakistan. There are a number of reasons for this, but the Council of Islamic ideology’s objection to the Sindh law hints at one. In the textbooks of classical Islam, such as the Hedaya taught in Pakistani madrassas, Christians are stated to be dhimmis – inferiors who are allowed to live provided they are subservient to Muslims. Hindus are not even given this status, and it is specifically stated that the evidence of neither is accepted against a Muslim. There are other factors – such as sharia provisions relating to marriage presuming a girl’s consent – unless she specifically states otherwise. However, the bottom line is a widespread cultural attitude that non-Muslims are inferior to Muslims. It is that which creates the seedbed out of which a small minority to commit – and continue to commit – these heinous crimes.
It’s time to call a spade a spade, ditch the political correctness and recognise that we need to tackle this as both a safeguarding issue at home and a foreign policy issue overseas.