The revelations of child abuse by gangs of mostly Muslim men in Rotherham together with the rise of the Islamic State (Isis) terrorists have severely tested relations between British Muslims and the rest of the British population. Islamophobes of the far right and some others who should know better have encouraged the falsehood that these crimes arise from Islam itself, rather than from the same evils that lie behind such acts committed by anyone else.
Britain has had an ingrained paedophilia problem since at least Victorian times. As one leading expert stated in a Newsnight interview, this is not just a problem of some Muslims of Pakistani heritage. The fact is that there is not a hamlet, village, town or city in this country that does not have a problem with paedophilia. Continuing disclosures about various celebrities, politicians, teachers and others are witness to this. And the failure of the authorities to act for many years is a stain on the police, local authorities, Home Office and all political parties.
But notwithstanding all that, the Muslim community too must tackle head-on those instances of paedophilia that occur within it.
The English Defence League, Britain First and the other tiny groups of racists have tried to exploit the Rotherham scandal, but over the years dozens of extreme-right activists have been convicted of violent and sexual crimes against children. In our study of the terrorist far right in Britain, Lone Wolves: Myth or Reality, we found that people who were making bombs to attack mosques and other community buildings were also abusing children in some way or another.
When Stephen Lennon, the former leader of the EDL, was adopted by the publicity seeking Quilliam Foundation, he went on about how he cared for his family. He did not mention, and nor did they, that he had been sent to prison for a violent attack on an off-duty police officer who had tried to stop Lennon beating his partner. Most of these thugs have no moral compass whatsoever.
Currently Government is panicking over the threat posed by returning British Isis fighters who may have taken part in mass killings, torture, rape and the selling into sexual slavery of women prisoners, the crucifixion of Christians and the destruction of places of worship including Muslim ones. But we want to know what is going to happen to those brave young Muslim men and some women who travelled to Syria to oppose the barbaric regime of the Syrian dictator Assad.
During the Spanish Civil War from 1936-39, Britain opposed intervention, which left the democratically elected republican government to bleed to death, while Hitler and Mussolini armed General Franco, the Fascist aggressor against a lightly armed legitimate government. Tens of thousands of men and women from dozens of countries volunteered and became part of the heroic anti-fascist International Brigade.
The British Government banned these volunteers from travelling to Spain and many were held in Fascist concentration camps when the Republic fell. They received an enormous welcome on their return home and many joined the British Army.
What will happen on the return of those who have fought with enormous courage against Assad and Isis? Will they be treated as potential terrorists, like the Isis supporters? In fact these people have the potential to show positive leadership to young Muslims.
I have no problem with the security services detaining returning Isis fighters if they have killed, tortured and raped, provided there is evidence and proper court process, rather than a witch-hunt by the right-wing media who have far too much influence on the present government.
If common sense had prevailed and the blind hatred of the USA by some on the left could have been suspended when Parliament voted against military intervention in Syria last year, tens of thousands of people might still be alive and not living in desert camps thousands of miles from home. In a recent editorial I wondered how many of these misguided MPs and marchers get a good night’s sleep, with over a quarter of a million dead in Syria and millions displaced across the region.
But the Home Secretary does not have only Islamist potential terrorists in her sights. Theresa May has also promised to pursue Nazis. The problem is that the Home Office and counter-terrorist police have little concept of where on the far right the real danger lies. One spokesperson recently referred to Combat 18 (C18), a group that no longer exists in the UK, never actually had members and, according to Searchlight and a World In Action TV documentary, was a honey trap set up by MI5. During C18’s reign of terror people were beaten, shops firebombed and riots sparked at football matches. C18’s unrestrained operations inspired people such as David Copeland, the London bomber who directed his attacks at the black, Muslim and gay communities in London in spring 1999 before he was caught.
Power on the extreme right in Europe and beyond has shifted. Our investigations have revealed the links internationally between far-right groups, often well-financed, some of which are backed by Putin’s Russia, Assad’s Syria and the Iranian regime.
The Muslim community, the good, the indifferent and the ugly, will all come under fire if we allow religious and race haters to thrive.
Gerry Gable MA (Crim) DUniv,
Editor/Publisher Searchlight magazine, now in its 51st year