Perhaps there is nothing that can better describe the horrific revelations that emerged as a result of the recent Rotherham scandal in the United Kingdom than the famous Arabic saying: “The excuse is uglier than the sin.” Indeed, to learn that as many as 1,400 children were sexually abused between 1997 and 2013 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, is a rather disturbing matter in both scale and scope.
However, what is more disturbing is to learn of the likelihood that in many of these cases, the British authorities failed to act to protect these innocent children because the suspected perpetrators were of Pakistani origin and as such, officials were concerned about being branded as racists.
Let us get one thing straight though: While there is no doubt that these findings are certainly alarming, the hesitation of the British authorities may not be that surprising to many observers!
After all, we are talking about the same country that had allowed — in the name of tolerance — someone like “hate preacher” Abu Hamza Al Masri to lead public sermons, which attracted people like 9/11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and failed shoe bomber Richard Reid.
For years, the likes of Abu Hamza — who in most cases, arrived to the UK on asylum, lived off benefits and enjoyed the kind of freedom that they could only have dreamt of back in their home countries — propagated anti-western ideas, incited hatred amongst people of different beliefs and called for jihad until an Islamic state is formed.
Of course, none of this was happening in secret. After all, such outrageous sermons, protests and calls for jihad were all being made in public and right under the nose of British security forces, who — probably in the name of tolerance, political correctness and fear of being labelled as racists — failed to stop this systematic and continuous public radicalisation campaign.
The result? British families are waking up today in cities like Cardiff to watch their children appearing on a video by Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), talking about the virtues of jihad and decapitation!
Now, please do not get me wrong. British tolerance is certainly a value to be cherished and to be proud of. However, like any cherished matter, it should be safeguarded and protected from those who seek to take advantage and abuse it.
The idea is simple: There should not be any tolerance for intolerance and there should definitely be a clear distinction between freedom of expression and using that same freedom to make outright calls for committing crimes in the name of religion.
Similarly, there should be no discussion at all when it comes to the absolute rule of law. Indeed, there should be no arguing that the law applies to all and there can be no exception or room for “cultural differences” when tackling a crime, no matter what it is and no matter what the ethnicity of the perpetrator or the victim is.
We should all remember this when we read comments by Denis MacShane, the former MP for Rotherham, who recently admitted that he may not have done enough to curb child sexual exploitation by Asian men in his constituency. “I think there was a culture of not wanting to rock the multicultural community boat, if I may put it like that,” he added.
Once again: Murderers, rapists and paedophiles come in all colours, religions and races (and so do their victims). And if Rotherham is anything to go by, then the police should also ignore crimes committed by white supremacists and must turn a blind eye to any act of hatred committed in the name of any religion.
Remembering this is extremely important when we take into consideration a recent statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron, who said: “We cannot stand by and allow our openness to be confused with a tolerance of extremism or one that encourages different cultures to live separate lives. Adhering to British values is not an option or a choice, it is a duty.”
These comments from Cameron are spot on. However, in terms of the required change in attitude, many may argue that such comments are too little, too late.
For their part, Asian/Muslim communities in the UK must continue to publicly condemn the atrocious crimes that went on in Rotherham and distance themselves from the sick individuals who have committed them. More importantly, there ought to be a serious review of the performance of British security forces as it is simply unacceptable for a concern over political correctness to be used as an excuse not to pursue a clear-cut case of criminal activity.
Faisal J. Abbas is the editor-in-chief of Al Arabiya news channel’s English service. You can follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FaisalJAbbas