Posts Tagged ‘Saima Afzal’

Muslim Feminist Saima Afzal on Islamic Grooming Gangs, Political Corruption and Anti-White Racism

June 26, 2022

One of the people Ed Hussain speaks to in his book Among the Mosques A Journey Across Muslim Britain is Saima Afzal, one of the first two Muslim women elected to Blackburn with Darwen council. Previously, all the Muslim councillors had been men and there had been considerable opposition to women standing. Afzal is described as having experience as an activist and police adviser, focusing on women’s rights and religion among Lancashire’s ethnic minority communities, for which she was a awarded an MBE 2010.

She was forced into a marriage at a young age in Pakistan, a marriage which she rejects as invalid and views her husband as her abuser. She has therefore campaigned against forced marriages, as well as honour-based violence, female genital mutilation, Child sexual exploitation and been involved in issues such as sexuality within Islam and children’s rights in Islam, as well as a number of other issues issues prevalent with communities in which human rights and religious beliefs are irreconcilable. She has set up and runs two organisations which do this, Saima Afzal Solutions and SAS Rights. She is concerned with women’s issues and wellbeing not just in Islam, but in all religions including Christianity, Skihism and Hinduism. She’s been criticised for not wearing the hijab, and there was intra-Asian racism against her election to the council, as the local Asian elders wanted a Gujarati woman. Hussain questioned her about the Muslim grooming gangs, to which she answered

‘What’s worrying us professionals in the field, and what the academic studies don’t explain, is why Asian or Muslim groomers operate are operating in gangs. White groomers often work alone. Don’t underestimate for a moment that White girls are seen as ‘easier’ and ‘available’. But Asian and Muslim girls are also victims of these criminals and perverts. Only the Asian girls don’t talk. There’s more fear, shame and dishonour of the family involved.’ (p. 83.)

She complains that ministers and officials do come up from London for what she calls ‘photo ops’ and ‘tourist fashion cohesion’ ‘because as outsiders they take photos with people of all colours and pretend that all is well. All is not well’. She then talks about how she’s been rejected for these photo shoots because she didn’t wear a hijab, an attitude that is no different from that of the Muslim elders. She also describes how one candidate endorsed by Muslim Council of Britain didn’t shake her hand or make eye contact when he met her, because he’d been advised not to by the council. This was because she was not considered sufficiently Muslim for her refusal to wear the hijab. She also talked to Hussain about other incidents of abuse within the Muslim community, which had to remain confidential. And she also described how the local government was empowering Muslim clerics and community leaders, who claimed to speak for the entire community, as well as corruption and an attitude of ‘Asian votes for Asians’ which means that certain candidates were re-elected.

On the subject of children, she talks about how one local headmaster withdrew girls from swimming lessons because he considered the swimming costumes inappropriate. She also told Hussain she was working on issues relating to the nikah, or Muslim marriage contract, and rulings about couples cohabiting rather than being married.

‘Finally she explains that racism is not a one-way street in the communities she works with. Muslim leaders often decry ‘Islamophobia’, yet frequently refer to White British people as ‘goras’, a racist term’. (p. 84).

This is all very important, especially her comments about the grooming gangs. Elsewhere in the anthropological literature about European Islam researchers have noted that there is an attitude among some Muslims that western women are viewed with contempt by some Muslims because of their sexual freedoms, an attitude that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown also commented on the Independent when she was worth reading. And much of the criticism about the grooming gang inquiry is that its range has been very restricted so that it doesn’t go far enough. As for the local and national authorities, I got the distinct impression long ago that they really don’t want to investigate and reveal some of the negative issues in minority ethnic communities and especially Islam because it threatens the image that everything is otherwise well in these communities and with multiculturalism.

I strongly believe that the left should be open about these issues and should tackle them. It’s partly a matter of simple honesty and doing the right thing, but also because, if the left doesn’t, then they’re going to be exploited by the real bigots and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL.