Following the publication of The Times article on Wednesday 25th July by Andrew Norfolk, we, the women at Apna Haq felt obliged to speak out in defence of JUST Yorkshire, as our silence would harbour an untruth.
We wish to make it clear, that in September 2017, it was Apna Haq, along with other people, groups and organisations that invited JUST to help the seldom heard Pakistani community of Rotherham have their voice heard. We also wish to make it clear, that the ensuing Temperature Check Report, would never have been written by JUST, but for the SUN opinion piece in August 2017 by Sarah Champion herself. It was an opinion piece that led with the headline “British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls… and it’s time we faced up to it”, a headline that Sarah herself finds abhorrent and has unreservedly apologised for.
Furthermore, since her article was published in the SUN newspaper, Sarah has sought to distance herself from it, and in doing so stated to the Guardian “…the Sun decided to make the headline and opening sentences highly inflammatory and they could be taken to vilify an entire community on the basis of race, religion or country of origin,”.
In considering the impact of this headline, we reflect on the following part of the IHRA working definition to define anti-Semitism;
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews. (IHRA Definition)
If that definition was used to assess the SUN headline from a race or islamophobia perspective, there could only be one conclusion.
In the light of this definition, which gives rise to an act or expression of anti-Semitism when expressed against Jews, we hope it becomes evident why, when an identical expression was made in respect of the Pakistani Muslim community, in Sarah’s opinion piece, the community felt it necessary and essential to understand the impact of those comments, and commissioned JUST to write the report. We ask, if the IHRA working definition leads to an act of anti-Semitism, shouldn’t the Labour party or ‘we’ the people apply the same principle to the SUN headline too?
We hope this clarifies and places in context the consternation and upset, that Sarah’s SUN opinion piece caused, and that The Temperature Check Report, was a considered, mature and evidence based response to that opinion piece.
Since Wednesday 25th July, we have witnessed in the national press, the vilification of good people, men committed to human rights for all, and fighting injustice. Today we have made a decision to stand with them in solidarity, and speak the truth.
Nadeem Murtuja, the acting director of JUST has been supporting victims of sexual abuse and CSE, since the charity moved into Rotherham. We, as an organisation have referred and continue to refer specific cases to JUST for his advice and support. We hope everyone who reads this, will take some time to reflect upon and allow those words, ‘…supporting victims of… CSE…’, to sink in.
JUST and the authors of the report, devoted months of painstaking work to produce The Temperature Check report. They did this without any cost to the community, motivated simply by the betterment of all of the diverse people of Rotherham, CSE victims included; we as a domestic violence organisation understand all too well, that the danger of focusing on one ethnicity is to ignore other victims, and their perpetrators who do not fit the ethnic or racial offender profile.
The Temperature Check Report culminated in a community event, that produced one simple, but overarching recommendation – Build Bridges and Move Forward Together. We feel compelled to ask, who in Rotherham does not desire that, and does that not help heal hurt and unite the divisions contributed to in part, by Sarah’s SUN opinion piece.
The JUST Temperature Check Report is the only report of its kind in the country, which has concerned itself to understand the impact on the Pakistani community post the CSE era. Apna Haq again feel compelled to ask, was that really their job? Why did the Council, the Government Commissioners, or any of the other statutory bodies abrogate their responsibilities, or even fail to be inquisitive to understand the impact on the Pakistani community of Rotherham?
Since the Andrew Norfolk story on Wednesday 25th July 2018, the SUN headline of August 2017 has been repeated in every ensuing press release – we are appalled and we query why, those in power have been conspicuous in their silence and In their failure to condemn it and the sentiment expressed in it.
We note that Dr Waqas Tufail (who had no current involvement in JUST, or in the writing of the report) and Nadeem Murtuja, the subjects of the most pointed vilification and threats, have chosen to remain silent, in an act which has shielded us, and the other grassroots organisations and people, from similar attack. Apna Haq however, can no longer sit in silence, and allow the facts to be distorted, of a town where there has been the horrific, racially motivated murder of an elderly Muslim man, brutal assaults on Muslims, 16 anti-Muslim right wing marches and 1500 victims of CSE.
We believe it is important to reflect dispassionately and intelligently, on why these people and JUST are having their reputations smeared by prominent journalists. We consider it as equally abhorrent that Sarah Champion MP is being threatened and intimidated. We ask, isn’t it time for the healing and support to begin? Does Rotherham and all its communities not deserve this?