Sadly, if there is one town which has become the focal point for the press and for child sexual exploitation – it is sadly the town of Rotherham. Many residents speak disparagingly about the way that their town has been viewed by people across the country, including extremist and far right groups overseas who regularly cite the town as an example of what they say has gone wrong with ‘multi-culturalism.’

Many of these online social commentators have never stepped foot in Rotherham to see a local population which is trying to get on and move past the vile commentary circulated by some, where Rotherham is quoted by far right groups as being the ‘grooming capital’ of the country. This narrative by far right sympathisers is used time and time again to promote bigotry against residents whose heritage is of a Pakistani Muslim background. Yet, in all of this, the town of Rotherham is still recovering from the wide scale abuse of young women that took place.

We understand the mistrust and frustration that Muslim communities feel locally in Rotherham. This has been highlighted through a statement on the British Muslim Youth’s web-site. Some of this feeling has come about due to the following reasons:

— Arrest warrants being issued after the recent Britain First demonstrations in Rotherham, where young British Asians of Pakistani heritage feel that they have been unfairly targeted for defending themselves from far right sympathisers who attacked them with bottles.

— Ongoing concerns about attacks on taxi drivers in Rotherham and where the perception has been that victims do not seem to get justice in cases which have involved some violent activity.

— A strong sense of distrust that has been rapidly building over community policing and the perceived lack of action on hate crime cases.

— Concerns that local British Asians of Pakistani heritage feel that they are made to feel a sense of ‘collective guilt’ over the grooming scandal when they tell us that they have stood up and actively demonstrated against child sexual exploitation.

— A sense of lack of strong and sustained engagement between South Yorkshire Police and the local British Asian community.

Given the focus by far right groups on the town and the breakdown in policing and community relations, we believe that immediate steps need to be taken by local organisations and by the police to bridge the divide. For our part, we are providing hate crime training to Rotherham residents this week and we will try and provide some re-assurance about the need to report in hate incidents and crimes that affect the British Asian community of Pakistani heritage.

Tell MAMA remains committed to the residents of Rotherham and we will work with local partners and civil society groups in ensuring that communities feel that their voices are heard on issues of anti-Muslim prejudice. We have also been active in recording incidents of anti-Muslim hatred and in supporting victims in the local area.