British Muslim leaders condemn grooming in sermon
A sermon condemning the sexual grooming of young girls was delivered yesterday at 500 mosques across Britain after a series of trials in which men predominantly of South Asian origin were convicted.
The speech highlighted how the Koran condemns all forms of sexual indecency and urged Muslims to protect children and vulnerable people who live in their communities.
The move follows cases in Oxford, the central English town of Telford, and Rochdale in northwest England, involving Asian men convicted of sexually abusing girls, although police chiefs have stressed that grooming is not restricted to a single ethnic or religious group.
On Thursday, seven members of a paedophile ring who forced often vulnerable girls in the university city of Oxford to have sex were jailed, five of them for life.
The sermon was organised by the not-for-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and was read out by imams in around 500 mosques nationwide.
The group said the sermon was supported by leading Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board and the Islamic Society of Britain.
TAG spokesman Ansar Ali said: "We have been horrified by the details that have emerged from recent court cases and as Muslims we feel a natural responsibility to condemn and tackle this crime."
He said the issue was "much more complicated" than simply blaming Muslim men.
"Sexual grooming and child abuse afflicts all sections of society and is perpetrated by people of all ethnic groups."
The gang's five-month trial heard that they exploited at least six troubled girls as young as 11 in Oxford, plying them with drugs before forcing them to perform sex acts. Brothers Akhtar and Anjum Dogar were jailed for life on Thursday by a judge at London's Old Bailey court along with Kamar Jamil and brothers Mohammed and Bassam Karrar.
Two more defendants, Assad Hussain and Zeeshan Ahmed, were jailed for seven years each.
Four of the victims, who were abused between 2004 and last year, had lived in state-run children's homes.
The trial heard that the girls, aged between 11 and 15 at the time of the abuse, were repeatedly and violently raped, beaten and in one case forced to have an abortion at the age of 12.
The men - of Pakistani origin except the North African Karrar brothers - were found guilty last month of a catalogue of crimes including rape, trafficking and organising prostitution.