Communalising crime: 'Love jihad' in India, now 'Sex jihad' in Britain

Love jihad in India; Sex jihad in Britain splashed on the front page might make for a juicy headline. It might also fit the narrative fashionable in certain quarters that Muslims the world over are in jihadi mode and that anything they do (make love, have sex) is with an eye on jihad.

But the fact is that what’s supposed to be happening in India is very different from what happened in Britain. Yes, "happened " ; not happening as media reports misleadingly suggest.

The scandal was first exposed in 2010, and five men of Pakistani origin, found guilty of a series of sexual offences against girls as young as 12. They were jailed. The reason why it is in the news again is that an official inquiry into the failure of police and social services to take action has submitted its report now. Some 1,400 girls from the north England town of Rotherham were sexually exploited between 1997 and 2013, and the inquiry found “blatant’’ collective failure on the part of the police and other local authorities to stop it.

A more important point to be made, however, is that the label “sex jihad’’ is wrong because the scandal had nothing do with religion except that the perpetrators happened to be Muslims, and their victims were vulnerable white girls. It was a ghastly sex crime in which these men took advantage of hapless young girls and subjected them to horrible sexual abuse after befriending them by plying them with gifts, alcohol and drugs. The victims have given detailed and harrowing accounts of their ordeal. But none has said that they were ever asked to convert to Islam.

 Communalising crime: Love jihad in India, now Sex jihad in Britain

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.

So, just to clarify it was not a case of proselytization and these men were not on a mission or jihad to spread Islam. The so-called "love jihad" in India, on the other hand, relates to allegations of Muslim men seducing/marrying Hindu women on false pretext with a view to converting them.

Let's, therefore, not lump what happened in the UK with India’s “love jihad” row and present the two as part of some sort of a well-organised global pan-Islamic plotto convert non- Muslim women using love and /or sex.

I don't remember the term "jihad" being used in relation to this scandal at the time either by the British media (not even by the likes of The Sun and The Daily Mail) , the police or right- wing political groups such as the BNP or EDL ( the English Defence League ) which thrive on targeting Asian, especially Muslim, communities .

Some have started to refer to it as “jihad’ now to chime with the current mood where any act of Muslim madness ( and admittedly there's too much Muslim madness raging around the world ) is promptly termed as “jihad”. It is also important to point out that although this particular case involved Muslim men it has since emerged that there are also "grooming" gangs of white men operating in many areas.

The inquiry, which was set up after an expose by The Times newspaper, has documented shocking accounts of how gangs of British-Pakistani men picked up lonely teenaged white girls from shopping centres, pubs and other public places and “groomed’’ them by giving them presents, buying them drinks, and getting them hooked on drugs. They were then sexually abused not only by their "groomers" but passed on to other men. The inquiry found that some were “doused in petrol and threatened with being set alight, threatened with guns, made to witness brutally violent rapes and threatened they would be next if they told anyone”.

A number of victims did go to the police, but no action was taken. Social services too turned a blind eye. Police have claimed that they didn't act for fear of being accused of racism because the men were Asian. But this is nonsense and, as critics have pointed out , it is clearly an excuse to cover up their failings.

The Times columnist Janice Turner wrote in a hard- hitting article (Town That Didn't Think its Lost Girls Worth Saving) that it "wasn't political correctness but callousness that abandoned vulnerable children to the Rotherham sex abusers".

And why this callousness? Because the victims were from poor working class -- and often broken homes -- and were not considered worth the effort to save them.

When a reporter asked a mother of one of the victims why the authorities did nothing she said, "Because they thought they were dirty little slags."

According to Turner, who grew up in a town next to Rotherham, it is a "desperately poor" area with scarce resources to spend on police and social services. So, they didn't really want to acknowledge the problem because that would have meant doing something about it.

"Why pull your town apart ...why look into your darkest places for a bunch of girls who should have been in bed ( whey were hanging around alone in malls and pubs ). Let them live in the shadows ...Who cares about the slags ?" was pretty much the attitude, Turner wrote.

None of this, of course, diminishes the enormity of the appalling acts of those depraved men and they have been justly punished. In the prevailing climate filled with so much jihadi propaganda it is easy to see a jihadi intent into any unacceptable Muslim behaviour. But let's avoid giving a communal or racist twist to what was essentially a criminal act.

That being said, yes, there is "sex jihad" reportedly going on. But it is happening in the wilds of Syria and Iraq where apparently women are being forced to marry Islamic State militants or have sex with them. There are also reports of women from Britain, Australia,Tunisia and Malaysia having travelled to Iraq and Syria to serve as 'comfort women' for jihadis in what has been termed as "sexual jihad."But, here, too there is no conversion involved. So, in a sense, India's "love jihad" is a stand- alone phenomenon.

And as more sober analysts have pointed out, it ultimately boils down to the issue of patriarchy. Not only has the term "love jihad " been invented with a mischievous political motive but the problem has been exaggerated to provoke sectarian passions .

Meanwhile, given the amount of love, sex and jihad being attributed to them, Muslims may soon have to carry a disclaimer around their necks: "My name is Khan — and like all normal people I do make love and have sex, but I don't do love or sex jihad".

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Updated Date: Sep 11, 2014 21:28:27 IST