The continuous reports of gangs being discovered up and down the country has left the Muslim community in general, and the Pakistani community in particular, in such a state of shock that it will take a while to find words which can adequately explain what has happened.
While it is a truism that only a rapist is responsible for carrying out the disgusting act, people do not act in a vacuum. They are products of the social environment that they live in and are influenced by those around them which forms their mindset. There is no doubt in my mind that the attitude of many first generation immigrants that we were only here in the west for the short term has perpetuated a totally wrong attitude to the second and third generations, many of whom do not identify with any other country other than the western one they were born and have grown up in. Since the early generations only identified with their country and culture of origin, this led to an identity crisis – shunned by the elders for not being traditional enough yet still seen as outsiders due to the colour of their skin.
Just as we were grappling through the racialist and ethnic identity issues, and just about getting over them, enter Osama bin Laden and 9/11 which changed the lives of Muslims in the West forever. Now it was no longer just about whether you looked like you were from Pakistan, but if you looked Muslim. The debate had shifted from the racial to the religious. Bali Bombings, 7/7 and all that followed just served to strengthen this agenda.
This might be the clue into now in the media when the issue of rape gangs comes up, not only is their ethnic identity – mainly Pakistan the media would have us believe – but also their religion – Islam – also comes under fire. Law abiding Pakistanis and Muslims are now expected to apologise for crimes they did not commit and evils that they have no relationship with. The terms of the debate have changed, we are told, and this is what we have to do. Conversely, when it is discovered that people of other races and even those who walk the corridors of power are involved in similarly depraved acts, there is no mention of either race or religion. However I digress.
Back to the issue of abuse and the questions nobody is asking. Yes those carrying out rapes are abhorrent and must be punished severely; yes the victims are never to blame; and yes some people’s attitude in court has been downright disgusting; but questions must be asked.
The first and most important question that must be asked is why there are so many vulnerable young women in society that become easy prey for such disgusting people. Surely this raises questions about the role of the family, the council, the social services as well as the government as a whole – an uncomfortable question that nobody really has any answer to.
The second question is with regards to the mentality that these young men have. Where did they get it from? Who is preaching this kind of nonsense? Why has this become acceptable? If this attitude is being preached from the pulpits and/or in the home, then we need to get to the root cause of where it is coming from and destroy its roots. If young men genuinely believe that by doing something which is not only illegal but ethically and morally depraved, they have done nothing wrong then we need to get into their minds and find out why.
Coming back to the issue of vulnerable young women, it is very clear that the current model of society has failed spectacularly. We live in a disjointed world where the paradox is that while we are increasingly connected to each other, we are also more and more distant. It is commonplace to be having conference calls with one participant in Australia, another in the UK and a third in the US, while members of a household living under one roof do not even see each other for days let alone know what the other is doing.
Human beings are social animals, and for all the emphasis on individualism, still have a need of belonging. When individuals do not receive it from the family, they go to seek it elsewhere. Those coming from broken homes especially so and young men take advantage of this situation with the result in front of us.
It is imperative to consign the nonsense of individualism to the dustbin of history by placing emphasis on strong family values, beginning with the importance of marriage, building a home, responsibilities of parenthood and rights of children. The religion of Islam, as propagated by the Holy Prophet Muhammad and protected by his holy progeny, has placed emphasis on these very issues. The reason is obvious; without a strong family unit, society will breakdown and vulnerable people will increase. Another reason that is becoming increasingly clear is that where the family unit exists, a strong bond of love and compassion emanates not only between them but towards society as a whole.
Perhaps this is why the religion of Islam has commanded us to follow a family in order to learn our religion and that the Holy Prophet asked for no reward or recompense except the love of his family:
Say, [O Muhammad], “I do not ask you [in return for Islam] for any recompense [but] only love for my nearest kin” (42:23)
The solution therefore to this ongoing crisis is thus twofold. Firstly, we need to return to family unit and strengthen it to try and eliminate the large number of vulnerable people in society, and give them the belonging that they are entitled to; secondly, we need to focus on the realities of life, second and third generation immigrants are here to stay and that means that we have to treat this as our country and invest in the future if we are to survive. None of this will happen overnight, but then Rome was not built in a day. The key is to recognise our ailments and work towards rectifying them as commanded by the Holy Qur’an:
(13:7) “Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”
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