Christchurch: Where Does this Terror Come From? Former Chief Prosecutor on Child Sexual Abuse Speaks Out on Islamophobia

A police van parks outside Makkah Mosque in Leeds to reassure worshippers, following the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand.

Nazir Afzal, OBE, decries the Far Right exploitation of the victims of child sexual abuse in Britain’s northern towns, and explains how ‘endless Islamophobia’ and propaganda provokes violence.

The Christchurch terrorist murder of 49 worshippers attending the most innocuous of events, Friday prayers, was shocking in its callousness, disturbing in its being filmed, and intended to create division as all terrorists seek to do.

It did not, however, occur in a vacuum.

The endless Islamophobia in the mainstream media, the anti-Muslim sentiments expressed by politicians and people who should know better, and the deep-seated hatred propagated by the Far Right was fertile ground for the radicalisation of those responsible.

Criminality begins and ends with the criminal and not the wider community they may come from.

I tweeted something about the words “For Rotherham” being found on one of his gun clips, but deleted it after concluding that I was giving the terrorists exactly the oxygen of publicity that they wanted. I believed then that silence was the best response. I am still torn.

Evidently, their ridiculous and deranged “manifesto” made reference to “invaders raping their women” – note how it’s okay for them to “own” women – and several references to “Muslim grooming gangs” with “Rotherham” one of those cited.

Not in Our Name

Sammy Woodhouse, the brave and articulate sexual abuse victim who brought the abuse in Rotherham out of the darkness, quickly tweeted that these murders were “not in their name,” a slogan used so often by Muslims when Islamists committed their terror attacks.

That said, I can’t ignore the continued Far Right exploitation of victims like Sammy to further their agenda of “invasion and rape”.

In prosecuting several high-profile groups of sex offenders from all communities and races, but disproportionately from British Pakistani backgrounds in relation to one model of abuse – street grooming in mainly northern towns – I have always contextualised this by referencing that the vast majority of perpetrators of child sexual abuse are white men. But, their models of abuse range from within the family, online, in institutions and in much looser networks.

I have always said that criminality begins and ends with the criminal and not the wider community they may come from. Otherwise, we would need to blame the majority communities for abusers like Jimmy Savile etc.

I have always produced evidence of the substantial numbers of victims that come from minority (including Muslim) communities themselves – most of whom do not feel able to report their crimes because of issues such as honour and the irrational reaction of their own families.

Religion and Abuse

In giving evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee seven years ago, I spoke about how ethnicity of the perpetrators was an issue, but not the issue – which was the vulnerability of the victims and how authorities charged with safeguarding them failed them.

I heard first-hand from a Far Right activist that their ultimate aim was to stop these cases so they could say “there is no justice in courts and only on the streets”

Religion had absolutely nothing to do with these offenders’ motivation. The reasons are more complex, involving demography, the night-time economy, poverty, a generation of children left behind, and much more.

But complexity is not something that racists can put on a banner, or in a tweet.

Despite this, I have witnessed different Far Right groups exploit the victims to further their narrative. They don’t care about justice for the victims – this is evidenced by the number of times that they have tried to derail a prosecution by trying to prejudice a jury so that the case cannot proceed.

Far Right Contempt of Court

Way back in my Rochdale prosecution, the BNP harassed defence lawyers outside court who then went into court seeking a “mistrial” on basis that their clients couldn’t get a fair trial.

I will say no more about more recent attempts including contempts that the courts have had to deal with and are still dealing with. The only potential losers each time are/were the victims.

I heard first-hand from a Far Right activist that their ultimate aim was to stop these cases so they could say “there is no justice in courts and only on the streets”. Sadly, for the victims of Christchurch, it was also in the mosques.

So, it comes as no surprise that the Far Right continue to manipulate these cases, continue to talk of “no justice” despite the hundreds of offenders convicted and in prison.

Their desire for a war “on the streets” is what fuels their hate and what must be challenged relentlessly.