Sajid Javid has suggested there could be “cultural reasons” men from a Pakistani background become involved in grooming gangs.
The home secretary said it was “self-evident” there are a high proportion of men of Pakistani heritage involved in recent cases and that it would be wrong to dismiss the possibility just to be sensitive.
His intervention comes after he was criticised for tweeting in October about “sick Asian paedophiles” in a Huddersfield gang, who were found guilty of the rape and sexual abuse of girls as young as 11.
- Read more
He made the comments on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, on Boxing Day, which was guest edited by Pakistani-born writer Kamila Shamsie, who predicted the rise of a working class Asian home secretary in her most recent novel.
Mr Javid said: “I’m very much aware of the need for politicians to be careful with language as well as what they do.
“When it comes to gang-based child exploitation it is self-evident to anyone who cares to look that if you look at all the recent high-profile cases there is a high proportion of men that are of Pakistani heritage.”
He added: “There could be – and I’m not saying there are – some cultural reasons from the community that those men came from that could lead to this type of behaviour. For me to rule something out just because it would be considered sensitive would be wrong.”
Sajid Javid said he took the Rochdale grooming scandal personally because it involved his home town as well as men who were from a Pakistani background like him.
Sajid Javid: I don’t regret Asian paedophile tweet
Mr Javid said: “I still go [to Rochdale] now and again because I have family there that I care deeply about.
“When I heard about – and there has been more than one case – grooming gangs where almost every individual involved is of Pakistani heritage... I can’t help noting the fact that Rochdale is a town that means something to me and I am also of Pakistani heritage.”
He added: “I think it would be true of anyone that if they heard about something – in this case bad – connected to a town that was something special to them, naturally that would be a thought in their mind.”
After a group of 20 men in Huddersfield were found guilty of rape and the sexual abuse of girls, Mr Javid tweeted: “These sick Asian paedophiles are finally facing justice. For too long, they were ignored. Not on my watch. There will be no no-go areas.”
Mr Javid also defended government action to strip offenders of their British citizenship. Asked if he was concerned about the possible lack of control over paedophiles if they returned to Pakistan, Mr Javid insisted that his responsibility was to citizens in the UK.
In August, the Court of Appeal upheld a decision to strip three members of a Rochdale grooming gang of their British citizenship.
Abdul Aziz, Adil Khan and Qari Abdul Rauf were among nine men jailed in May 2012 after being found guilty of grooming and sexually exploiting a number of young girls.
British-Pakistani author Ms Shamsie wrote her novel Home Fire, which last year won the Women’s Prize for Fiction, but she started her writing career in 1998 with her novel In the City by the Sea.
Home Fire featured a character called Karamat Lone, who like Mr Javid is Britain’s home secretary and a child of working-class Pakistani Muslim migrants, who made his fortune in the corporate world before becoming a Tory MP.