A Labour MP has launched a fierce attack on a colleague’s claim that most men grooming children for sexual abuse are Pakistanis, branding her “irresponsible”.
Naz Shah accused Sarah Champion – Labour’s equalities spokesperson, with responsibility for how to prevent abuse – of making “blanket, racialised, loaded statements” that would set up stigmatised Pakistani boys to fail.
In fact, the Bradford West MP said, the vast majority of abusers are white men – including, as recent scandals have revealed, football coaches and entertainers.
Ms Champion, a shadow minister, hit the headlines when she warned people were failing to tell the truth about child abuse because they were afraid of being called racist.
It was “predominately Pakistani men” who were involved in such cases “time and time and time again”, said the MP for Rotherham – a town where a notorious grooming gang was exposed.
Ms Champion followed up her comments with a column in The Sun newspaper, under the provocative headline: “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls – and it’s time we faced up to it.”
“Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls.
There. I said it,” she wrote.
But, in an article for The Independent, Ms Shah said: “Such an incendiary headline and article is not only irresponsible but is also setting a very dangerous precedent and must be challenged.”
She argued that nearly 90 per cent of child abusers are white men, but “we wouldn't suggest that white people ‘are raping children’ and or use the whole community to describe the actions of a few criminals.
“That would not only be horrific but simply put, it would be ridiculous,” Ms Shah continued.
“I also have two sons. Blanket racialised loaded statements like these set them up to fail before they even reach their teenage years.”
The MP said she had received death threats for challenging “patriarchy and misogyny” in her Pakistani community, but added: “What I won’t accept, or tolerate, is a narrative that demonises every Pakistani man as a rapist.”
“By focusing entirely on one community it is taking the focus away from the fact that vulnerable young girls of all ethnicities are targeted by men,” she added.
The shadow minister for women and equalities also urged the Government to commission research into the crimes and said she “hadn’t slept” over criticism she could face over her comments.
The convicted men in Newcastle were mostly British-born, from Iraqi, Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iranian and Turkish communities.