Not all Muslims remained silent about the grooming gang problem. We have already seen how the new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, a Muslim of Pakistani origin, took rapid action to open an enquiry into the crimes. A number of Muslim organizations and individuals have spoken out against the gangs, and condemned them for bringing their faith into disrepute. The integrative Islamic Society of Britain (ISB), for one, has spoken out strongly about grooming culture.
In May 2013, Julie Siddiqi, chief executive of the ISB, coordinated a Muslim-led coalition to campaign against offenders, known as The Community Alliance Against Sexual Exploitation, which, in turn, was launched in Bradford with the backing of the Bradford Council of Mosques. The following month, a Muslim group called Together Against Grooming (TAG) declared that a Friday prayer sermon (khutba) would be read out in around 500 mosques across the country to draw attention to the grooming issue. The sermon was written by Alyas Karmani, an imam who has a background in psychology and serves at several mosques around Bradford. Karmani specializes in sexual counselling from a non-fundamentalist perspective and has worked on a PhD entitled, “The Crises of Masculinity and Urban Male Violence”. His detailed understanding of the grooming gangs and their various motivations are perhaps the most sophisticated yet advanced by a Muslim expert and should be taken into account by any present or future investigation.
Some other Muslim organizations such as the progressive Islamic Society of Britain have sent out sermons on the same issue. There can be no question that there is an important and growing range of Muslim reaction to the shame brought on the communities by the grooming gangs and the reluctance in many places even to talk about sexual matters. This reformist activity in the migrant community needs to be encouraged and backed by government resources.
There are, however, other, sometimes deeper aspects to the problem that still remain to be explored. Not all mosques agreed to read Karmani’s sermon, and some claimed — quite incorrectly, as it happened — that the grooming issue was a thing of the past. Many of those deeper aspects are directly related to the persistence of religious fundamentalism and a wide refusal among many to integrate within British society. Despite the efforts of moderate Muslims, mosques and institutions to stop young men and women travelling abroad to take part in jihad or bring back wives from abroad, many have done so. Sermonizing, even with good intentions, may not address the underlying reasons for seemingly anti-social behaviour.