Braverman's racist grooming gangs comments are a distraction

Suella Braverman renews racist 'Pakistani grooming gangs' rhetoric amidst UK government's failures to protect children
6 min read

Mariya bint Rehan

04 April, 2023
Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s statements about ‘grooming gangs’ are a racist dog whistle & an attempt to distract from the Tories' failures. They have been in power for years yet child sexual abuse persists in the UK, argues Mariya bint Rehan.
Suella Braverman said that that “vulnerable white, English girls” were at risk from British Pakistani males who she describes unequivocally as possessing “cultural values at odds with British values”, writes Mariya bint Rehan.[GETTY]

Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s trademark, unapologetically false and racist brand of rhetoric was once again broadcast in homes across the country this Sunday morning in a watershed moment for British racism. On both BBC and Sky News, speaking without irony about the government’s plan to tackle child sexual abuse, Braverman went to great lengths to stress that “vulnerable white, English girls” were at risk from British Pakistani males who she describes unequivocally as possessing “cultural values at odds with British values”.

According to Braverman, these men perceive women in a “demeaned and illegitimate way, and pursue an outdated and frankly heinous approach in the way they behave.”

Braverman’s comments, which are shocking in their force and unambiguity, are amongst the most targeted and hateful comments made by a Government official, and directed at any one racial group, in recent years. They are also entirely characteristic of a Government which continues to use hateful and perverse tactics as a smokescreen to their shocking record on education, health, housing, crime – and by even their own ultimate determiner of success, immigration.

It has turned the dial of racial discourse back decades and signals the coming of a dangerous era by which previously unacceptable and outlawed speech that is false and defamatory by nature becomes the lifeblood of an incapable government.

Going almost entirely unquestioned in her assertion that the racial make up of a group is directly related to criminal and deviant behaviour is the exact definition of a eugenicist racism that civilisation thought it had abolished with the advent of modern sciences. Indeed, the Conservative government continues to rehash outdated racial stereotypes as a sleight of hand tactic.

In fact, the racial hysteria and frenzy they seek to whip up, going unquestioned by a client journalism that is emboldening it, bears all the hallmarks of old fashioned British racism. Rehashing the 2010 stereotype of the ‘Pakistani grooming gangs’, the 1990s ‘Paki-bashing’ era of perceived South Asian aberrance, and a vintage mix of the Muslim male as hypersexualised, threatening ‘other’, which belies all the concerns regarding demography and nationality in modern Britain.

In true colonial nostalgic fashion, the government seems to have amped up its racism in proportion to its diversified cabinet, using the fact that it has more non-white faces in government as impunity for its increasingly hostile lines. Not to mention, they also get to pit ‘good immigrant’ groups against ‘bad’ one.

The fact that Braverman is pulling out all the stops in this instance is a testament to how the Government has in fact done very little to safeguard the vulnerable children and young people.

Furthermore, Braverman takes her irrational line of argument from a report that was widely discredited by now defunct Islamophobic think tank Quilliam, where the very specific use of the racially coded, and legally unrecognised term ‘grooming gang’, versus, for example, ‘paedophile ring’ , and other key data fiddling, presented a widely disproportionate figure of child sexual abuse offenders from a Pakistani background.

Here a very specific context of child sexual abuse is extrapolated and used to fit in neatly with anti-immigrant, Islamophobic government lines. While race is foregrounded as the driver behind these crimes in the way that, for example, the context of child sexual abuse amongst white men such as jimmy Savile, Rolf Harris and Gary Glitter in institutions such as the BBC, isn’t.

By the Home Office’s own analysis, which it reluctantly published following much pressure – having initially said it wasn’t in the ‘public’s interest’ – it concluded that there is no credible evidence that any one ethnic group is over-represented in cases of child sexual exploitation. The fact also remains, very tragically, that child sexual abuse is mostly perpetrated by a member of the victim’s family, in the their home and exists across all strata of society.

The government’s diversionary tactics do nothing to tackle this, and abhorrently work only to further obfuscate a devastating, sensitive and difficult to tackle crime. A report by the Child Sexual Abuse centre reveals the horrifying scale of the issue – estimating at least 15% of girls and 5% of boys in the UK are sexually abused. This makes Braverman’s comments all the more upsetting given the governments’ continuing ineffective governance in areas such as child protection. 

Put simply: to use a national platform to suggest a crime is of Pakistani origin when convicted perpetrators are disproportionately white,  to ignore the fact that victims are in fact diverse – children from ethnic minority backgrounds who are abused are  worryingly less likely to be identified by professionals – is doing a massive disservice to vulnerable children, and the communities the Conservatives continue to malign. It fuels a them versus us narrative which we have seen cause further damage, most recently in a case of false accusation.

The new safeguarding plans which this press tour sought to reveal, include the bizarre and anodyne ‘duty to report’ – which already exists in safeguarding structures across the country. It is simply a continuation of the Conservatives’ commitment to shallow, uninformed and tokenistic approaches to governance.

While the headlines are dominated by Sunak and Braverman’s comments on Pakistani men, hailed as a triumph of free speech and an end to political wokeness, the real issue of safeguarding vulnerable children could not be further from the attention of those in power, let alone the wider public, as the NSPPC rightly points out.

Equally, it continues to throw some of the most vulnerable communities under the bus – with ongoing threats to the welfare and safety of Muslims in particular a major concern, as the government continues to ignite the flames of Islamophobia, with very real and violent consequences.

The conservative government have long been fans of the dead-cat strategy. In this instance they have perfected their feline-fatal obsession by presenting the perfect diversion to their political crimes – by casting their favourite nefarious character ‘the Muslim’ in the spotlight, by situating the problem with their continued nemesis, political correctness, and by laying the blame squarely at Labour’s door. With strategies like these – who needs good governance?

Mariya bint Rehan is a writer and illustrator from London, with a background in Policy and Research and Development in the voluntary sector. She has written and illustrated a children’s book titled The Best Dua which is available internationally. 

Follow her on Twitter: @ummkhadijah13  

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.