Today
Fri 22 November 2019
Subscribe

CJ Werleman on how women are weaponised in racist myths as victims of Muslims, with the result more women are subject to racist attacks.


A soon-to-be-released report by the Commission for Countering Extremism will confirm what civil rights activists have been warning for the past decade or longer: that the far-right poses as protectors of women to target Muslims.

In an exclusively obtained advance copy of the report, The Independent has revealed the crucial finding that the far-right is exploiting concerns about the safety of women and children as a means to draw in “white communities who would normally support” its ideology and divisiveness and, as a result of this, it is exacerbating widening social divisions within the broader population.

Women represent almost 80% of victims in Islamophobic attacks, with Anglo-Celtic men representing 98% of attackers.

“Many protesters were not motivated by hate; they had concerns about their safety and the safety of those in the community,” said the Commission for Countering Extremism. “Far-right agitators exploited these local grievances. Members of the movement had links to banned group National Action. The shared belief of these figures and groups was their antipathy towards minorities, immigrants and particularly Muslims.” 

Citing prominent far-right individuals and political parties, including Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – known as ‘Tommy Robinson’ – and UKIP, the authors of the report claim that supporting rallies are used to “spread anti-Minority and anti-Muslim agendas”.

If you like this article…

Digital edition from £29. Print edition from £36.
Join News Club for events and interviews in London.

… to help us commission more great journalism every day.


False accusations and conspiracy theories that posit Muslims and/or men of Pakistani background as the primary perpetrators of sexual crimes against underage girls, otherwise known as victims of “grooming gangs”, has become the central narrative underpinning the far-right’s propaganda against Muslims and immigrants from Muslim-majority countries.

It is a conspiracy theory that gained traction in the broader British community when Qulliam, a think tank started by Maajid Nawaz – who has journeyed from cavorting with violent Islamic extremists to lauding anti-Muslim extremists – published its report Group Based Child Sexual Exploitation: Dissecting Grooming Gangs, claiming that 84% of grooming gang offenders are of “Pakistani origin with Muslim heritage”.

Quilliam’s findings were splashed across the front pages of major newspapers in the UK, affirming a phony narrative about Muslim men stalking young white girls because of the apparently “backwards” sexual norms prevalent in Asian culture. It is a narrative which takes hold easily in the minds of those who hold a nostalgic view of the British Empire’s ‘glory days’.

By posing as protectors of women, the far-right is echoing colonial-era propaganda, specifically tropes portraying British men as liberators of the “dark continent” or – what Ella Shohat better describes as a “rape and rescue fantasy” – one that “catalyzes the narrative role of the Western liberator as integral to the colonial rescue fantasy”.

The problem with the claim made by Quilliam that 84% of grooming gang perpetrators are Muslims and/or men of Pakistani origin is that it is patently and demonstratively false.


Nazir Afzal, the former Chief Prosecutor for north-west England where some of the grooming gang cases took place, says that practical not cultural reasons not cultural reasons explain why Asian men are over-represented in so-called grooming gangs, citing the “night-time economy” as the primary variable.

“Where you have Pakistani men, Asian men, disproportionately employed in the night-time economy, they are going to be more involved in this kind of activity than perhaps white men are,” he says. “We keep hearing people talk about a problem in the north and the Midlands, and that’s where you have lots of minicab drivers, lots of people employed in takeaways, from that kind of background. If you have a preponderance of Asians working in those fields, some of that number, a very small number of those people, will take advantage of the girls who have moved into their sphere of influence.”

The Labrador dog breed is responsible for the greatest number of dog attacks on humans in the US – not because the breed is predisposed to such behavior, but rather because Labradors are the most common breed of dog in the country.

The far-right contorts such information and data to make a case that Muslims and Asian immigrants are inherently threatening to women specifically and the greater British society more generally. When it is not performing rhetorical gymnastics to stir fear and hatred of the foreign ‘other’, it is willfully and conveniently ignoring other points of data – including a report published by the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command, which found that 100% of recorded group offenders who abuse children because of long-standing paedophilic interest are white.

When a woman claimed that she had been gang-raped by Middle Eastern migrants in Sunderland, far-right agitators, including ‘Tommy Robinson’, held rallies urging for measures to “improve the safety of women and children locally”, according to the Commission for Countering Extremism’s report. “However, their rhetoric targeted ethnic minorities, despite nearly 85% of people convicted of sexual offences in 2018 in the Northumbria Police force area being white.”

Moreover, if far-right individuals are genuinely concerned with the welfare of women and not fixated instead on their hatred of Muslims, then they must explain why it is that women represent almost 80% of victims in Islamophobic attacks, with Anglo-Celtic men representing 98% of attackers, according to a study by the Islamophobia Register.

The UK’s Lead Commissioner for Countering Extremism, Sara Khan, told The Independent that “hateful extremism” was allowing far-right groups and individuals to make the “moral case for violence”.

“From inspiring terrorist attacks, to hateful extremist groups engaging in persistent hostility, we are grappling with what is a global challenge,” she said. “If we are to be successful in reducing the extremist threat in our country, we must focus on challenging hateful extremism. My report shows the destructive effect it is having on the lives of individuals, our communities and wider society.”

More stories filed under Reportage