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Sexual abuse cases in Britain puts Pak community in spotlight

A man took her to a dingy room and said she had to give something in return.

Written by Associated Press | Rochdale | Published: July 3, 2012 1:17:14 am

She was a lonely adolescent girl: No friends,no boyfriend,not much of a relationship with her parents. So she felt special when a man decades older paid attention to her,bought her trinkets,gave her free booze.

Then he took her to a dingy room and said she had to give something in return. His demands grew: Not just sex with him,but with friends. It went on for years,until police charged nine men with running an underage sex ring.

The story of Girl A,as she became known in court,is tragic,but it has also become explosive. Because there is no getting around it: The girls are white,and the men who abused them are Asian Muslims,mostly Pakistanis raised in Britain. And it’s not just Rochdale,roughly a dozen other cases of Asian Muslim men accused of grooming young white girls for sex are slowly moving to trial across northern England,involving several hundred girls in all.

The case has stripped away the skin to expose the racial sores festering beneath. It is also feeding an already raw anger against the Asian Muslim minority,in a movement led by far right groups at a time when the economy is stalled.

“You can’t get away from the race element,’’ says prosecutor Nazir Afzal,a British Muslim from Pakistan who brought the girls’ perpetrators to trial.

Nearly 1 million Pakistanis live in England,far more than in any other European country,with about 25,000 settled in the greater Manchester area that includes Rochdale. They face hard times now. They have been hit by a double-dip recession.

Mohammed Shafiq,a British Pakistani who directs the Ramadhan Foundation in Rochdale,has angered some in his own community by suggesting that police at first did not pursue the case of the Girl A and 47 other victims aggressively for fear of appearing racist because of an obsession “with the doctrine of political correctness.’’

The May verdict has polarised Rochdale. Pakistanis are horrified at the stigma on their community and enraged that the men claimed to be Muslim.

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