By Richard North
Watching the guilty men and women dive for cover over the Rotherham
affair, I begin to wonder whether their incompetence and neglect stems
from their own inadequacies, or from a more profound ignorance on key
issue surrounding the vexed subject of immigration in the UK.
What got me thinking is my own experience as a Roman Catholic boy who
grew up in the Jewish Orthodox part of Stamford Hill in North London.
As the only gentile in our street, from a very early age I got to see a
great deal of one immigrant community and how integration worked (and
My mental construct was further fortified by being English in a
Catholic school dominated by Irish immigrants, and then seeing the
Jamaicans moving in. Then, not content with that experience – and after a
year living in the Middle East – I eventually moved to my present
address in Bradford. There, I have lived for over thirty years,
observing the immigrant community there – much of it Kashmiri, from the
northwest reaches of the Indian sub-continent.
On top of that, I am a political researcher – with a particular
specialty in politico-military affairs, and wrote a book on the 2003
British occupation of southern Iraq. I then went on to research the
background to the Afghani war, studying not only the politics, but the
tribal and religious background.
None of that makes me an expert in a fiendishly complex subject, but
it certainly gives me a different perspective on the Rotherham sex-slave
scandal, and one that very much differs from those who would attribute
the scandal to Islam.
As to the role of religion in such matters, I have come up with some
observations which would suggest that the causal factors are far more
complex and subtle than most would allow, which possibly make religion
only an incidental and relatively minor factor.
In the first instance, it is probably no coincidence that the men
involved in the Rotherham incident, and many of the other similar
incidents reported, were Pakistani, many of them actually Kashmiri.
In this, there is an important but often understated cultural
heritage, based on the fact that these men come from tribal societies,
and not just "tribes" in the sense of a grouping of people. Their
particular tribal style is nomadic, which confers a form of governance
which differs substantially from the structure of "settled" tribes.
The settled tribes adopt hierarchical structures, with powerful
chiefs and councils of elders who exert a degree of control and
discipline which carries over into immigrant communities. Those with
nomadic origins lack this framework of community discipline and, as
immigrants, find themselves without effective societal restraints.
There is also legacy of the Raj here, where the British colonial
presence set white men as a superior caste, and their women – wives and
daughters – as unattainable presences is a society where mixed marriage
and even cohabitation was a social taboo. For Asian men in the home
countries, therefore, sexual relations with white women were nothing
more than an unattainable fantasy.
As immigrants into the UK, with weak societal constraints, such men
are nevertheless bound by traditions that prohibited casual acquaintance
with members of the opposite sex within their own communities. In that
context, the sexual mores of "liberalised" white women provided an
easier means of attaining sexual gratification.
This has been made even easier in these decaying northern towns,
where there has been a breakdown of family values and structures, as the
old industries disappear and any element of social cohesion fades
away. The female children of dysfunction families become easy prey to
Asian men, seeking to fulfil their own fantasies.
Into this potent mix, we then had the bizarre situation which made
this affair possible. At the very time when they were most needed, the
very mechanisms in the host country which might have imposed discipline
on immigrant communities, and protected the weak and vulnerable, were
themselves coming under sustained attack.
Partly as an over-reaction to the institutionalised racism of the
'50s and '60s, and partly because "race relations" had become a
lucrative industry, with Rotherham alone spending more than £300,000 a
year on employing diversity officers, local authorities and the police
came under enormous pressure not to discriminate against immigrant – and
especially coloured – communities. Behaviour that would not be
tolerated amongst the indigenous population was thus given a free pass
when perpetrated by Asians.
Into this, there was one final element which has scarcely been
recognised at all – the inadequacy of official complaints systems and
the inherent bias in the way complaints were treated. When the system
went off the rails, there was no mechanism for ordinary people to make
their concerns heard.
In this, it is hard to find a specific causal relationship with
Islam. One clue is that on the Indian subcontinent the settled tribes
tend to opt for the hierarchical Hindu religion. Islam has a structure
where every Imam is master of his own house and which is particularly
attractive to nomadic tribes. For the same reason, it appeals to the
dispossessed and rootless. In otherwise, the religion is an effect, not a
In Bradford and elsewhere, though, we are seeing the emergence of a
cultured, educated and often professional Asian middle class, for whom
fundamentalist Islam has no attractions. Their women – intelligent,
educated, liberated and independent – often holding down demanding jobs
in medicine, the law or other professions.
For these women, the male-dominated tribal culture which demands of
them that they are obedient chattels is an anathema to them. Some Asian
men – often with less developed nomadic backgrounds – are unable to
deal with these emancipated women. It is these who turn to
fundamentalist Islam, a losers' creed for inadequate men who are unable
to deal with the demands of modernity.
A cultural offshoot that hates and fears its own women, and then gets
its sexual gratification from abusing the women of another race, is a
sterile creed that is going nowhere. It can destroy, it can cause
endless misery, but it cannot build or create. Hence, fundamental Islam
is the religion of losers. It is attractive to them because they were
losers first, and can eke out justification for their actions in an
ancient script. It is not the cause of their inadequacies. It is a
symptom of them.
But it survives and prospers, not because of its own inadequacies,
but because of ours – reinforced by that profound ignorance which
plagues our officials and administrators.