We have already discussed how reference to ‘Asian’ grooming gangs unfairly stigmatises non-Muslim Asian communities that do not have this specific problem. We also argued that failing to even consider that the men’s religion could have had some relevance is not helpful if we want to understand and hopefully prevent these terrible crimes from happening again.

AfghanChildBride-468x303But how much of an influence can Islam truly have had? We know that the offenders are predominantly Muslim and predominantly Pakistani (i.e. from a Muslim culture), but that alone does not make this a Muslim problem. In order to be justified in speaking of ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ we cannot rely solely on statistics – we need to show that there is sufficient evidence that Islamic scripture, teaching and practice does go some way to explaining why there is this particular problem within the British Muslim community.

We are not claiming that religion is the only factor. Why exactly these men committed their crimes we may never know, but that does not mean that the role played by Islam should avoid any scrutiny. If it is an important factor then it needs to be understood.

Evidence for the argument that Islam is an important factor can be found in the fact that the abduction, rape and sexual abuse of young girls by Muslim men is recognised as a problem in numerous different countries, including Sweden, Norway, Holland, France, Denmark, Pakistan, India, Somalia and Egypt. In each of these countries the victims all share the same profile: they are overwhelmingly non-Muslim. For instance, in Pakistan the victims are invariably Christian, in India they are Sikhs and Hindus, in Somalia they are Christians and Animists, and in Egypt they are Copts.

It would be easy to argue that this can be explained by Islam’s hostility to other religions, but despite the success that some British imams have had in whipping up hostility towards non-Muslims, sectarian violence is hardly unique to Islam.

But whilst it is easy to think of any number of examples of violent crime being linked with a particular religious, racial, cultural or political perspective, the abuse of children is almost always assumed to be the work of individuals who share nothing in common with their fellow abusers other than their perverted desires. This is because it is very hard to imagine a belief system in which this sort of abuse could be in any way justified.

However, whilst not necessarily justifying these actions, it is possible to look to Islam to explain why these men all chose such young victims. Unlike in the UK, where boys and girls are considered to be children until they reach the age of sixteen, many Islamic cultures consider young girls to have reached adulthood by the time that they are nine or ten.

This is rooted in the example set by Islam’s prophet Mohammed. The Islamic texts tell us Mohammed married Aisha when she was just six years old and that he consummated the marriage (had sex with her) when she was nine.

Islamic apologists will often object to Qur’anic references, claiming that they must be understood in their historical context. But this is not how they are understood in the Islamic world. In fact, the story of Mohammed’s wedding Aisha is well-known in the Muslim world and forms the foundation for the legal age of consent (or equivalent) in many Islamic countries.

The Qur’an tells us that Mohammed was “the most excellent example for all believers” (Sura 3:21), and this is a belief that has remained central to Islamic teaching ever since. And yet Islam’s prophet, a man who set a perfect example for Muslims to follow, had sex with a nine year old.

In Britain the age of consent is sixteen, so already there is a clear conflict between the law of Islam (which relies heavily on Mohammed’s example) and the law of the land. This perhaps would not be so significant were Islamists not constantly calling for Muslims to obey the Sharia (Islamic law) rather than live according to our laws.

But the example of Mohammed, and the importance given to this example, is not the only factor to consider. We must remember also that the Qur’an dictates that women should have a second class status to men and that unbelievers should live in a state of submission, or ‘dhimmitude’. Many mainstream interpretations of Sharia Law make it very clear that any unbelievers living in a Muslim state ought to be granted far fewer rights than Muslims.

Being a ‘dhimmi’ means that any crimes committed against you are punished far less severely than they would be if committed against a Muslim (if they are punished at all). If you happen to be a woman then you’re in an even worse position.

If this is how Muslim men are encouraged to see non-Muslim women, as dhimmi who deserve little to no rights or protection, then that attitude would surely lead to exactly the sort of problem that we do have with Muslim grooming gangs.

The Qur’an also includes instructions about how a Muslim man should treat a woman that he has captured or has dominion over. In particular, it makes repeated references to that “which your right hand possess”, meaning that which you have taken by force or by other means. This applies to women in the same way as it applies to property. That “which your right hand possess” is yours to do with as you will, since Allah would not have allowed you to gain possession of it if it were not! If you can seize it, you can do what you like with it.

It is certainly possible to argue about the extent to which this attitude persists. But we need only look as far as a few examples to see how the Islamic world treats women: stoned to death for adultery under the Taliban and barely allowed out of the house in Saudi Arabia. Even in Britain, Muslim women are encased in Burqas or subjected to Sharia Law – where their testimony counts for half of that of a Muslim man.

Hostile attitudes towards both women and unbelievers have permeated Islamic culture for centuries. In Britain the Muslim community has been highly successful at resisting integration and maintaining many of its traditional cultural attitudes – both good and bad.

Given Mohammed’s personal legacy, common Muslim attitudes towards women and non-Muslims and the ever-present influence of Islamic extremism, there is more than enough reason to consider the role that Islam has played in the emergence of Muslim grooming gangs.

And yet despite all the evidence, it still remains taboo to mention Islam in relation to these crimes. The authorities may chastise themselves for being too afraid of being accused of racism, but their fixation on race disguises the fact that they’ve replaced one fear with another. Instead of the fear of being called racist, they’re now terrified of being accused of the new ultimate sin: Islamophobia.

But if we care about preventing these horrific crimes then we must not be afraid to face down these false accusations. As with all criticisms of Islam, we must make clear that our criticisms are not motivated by hate, but by love for whatever it is that we find is threatened.

Nowadays not everyone shares our love for our country. But at the very least we should hope they share our love for the innocence of youth, and our determination to do all we can to protect it.