Controversy is raging in Britain over the remarks by former Home Secretary and Labour MP Jack Straw in a Friday night interview on "Newsnight". Straw was responding to the arrest and jailing of Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, for crimes including rape. The arrestees were Pakistani gang members accused of targeting white female adolescents and controlling them via alcohol and drugs before taking advantage of them.
Straw was careful to preface his remarks with the qualification that "Pakistanis are not the only people who commit sexual offences and overwhelmingly sex offenders' wings are full of white offenders." However, he went on to claim that Pakistani youth single out white girls "who they think are easy meat." Since they know that carrying on with girls from their own community will invite disapproval and retribution these men "fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet" and they find it according to Straw in white women."
Straw's remarks predictably elicited a firestorm from Muslim politicians who criticized attempts to "tarnish any community". If there was a problem it was one of criminality and to blame the Pakistani community was wrong as they were no more" capable of controlling brown criminals as white people are with those who share their color."
On the other hand Straw received support for speaking out on the problem. Former Labour MP Ann Cryer, a womens' rights activist, agreed that the criminals were a minority in the Muslim community but there was a minority that behaved improperly towards white women and "sweeping it under the carpet will only make matters worse,". Cryer called upon Muslim community leaders to take their young people in hand.
Some commentators felt that a guiding hand was not enough but there was a need to evaluate disturbing opinions amongst Muslims. Douglas Murray the director of the Center for Social Cohesion, a conservative think tank, remarked: Their [the Muslims] views about women would horrify many people. They often regard women as second-class citizens, and white girls are regarded differently as acceptable prey in a way Muslim girls aren't." Murray qualified this by saying it was a problem with a minority of Muslims, but still the problem could not be ignored.
Columnist Melanie Phillips who has written extensively and provocatively about Islam in Britain, attacked in the Daily Mail the attempt by the press to refer to the offenders as Asians, saying "this is to besmirch Sikhs, Hindus, Chinese and other Asians. For these particular gang members are overwhelmingly Muslim men. And the common characteristic is not ethnicity, but religion".
She continued, "... these gang members select their victims from communities which they believe to be ‘unbelievers’ — non-Muslims whom they view with disdain and hostility." Phillips accused British feminists and liberals of maintaining a conspiracy of silence and hurling charges of racism and bigotry against anyone protesting the phenomenon.
One surprising commentary on the situation came from Norman Tebbit who served as the chairman of the British conservative party under Margaret Thatcher. According to Tebbit the native British had to do some real soul-searching to explain why the Muslims viewed them with contempt. Writing in the Telegraph, Tebbit wrote:
"But we must not fail to look at the defects of our own society. A young Muslim man looking over the ghetto wall on a Friday or Saturday night in a northern urban area and seeing the flower of English youth, drunk, vomiting, urinating, fighting and copulating in the street might well ask himself whether it was a society worth joining."
Ed West, who writes in the Telegraph on religious affairs, shared Tebbit's position to a certain extent and zeroed in on the sexual permissiveness that had made Britain Europe's leader in teenage pregnancies. "But if more generally some Pakistani-British men see white women as easy meat, then it is because many white girls see themselves as easy meat, over-sexualised, under-educated and surrounded by a culture that sees any form of sexual repression or stigma as Victorian and oppressive."