Islam and Sexual Grooming

 

"Verily, Allah enjoins justice and excellence giving assistance and support to your family and forbids sexual indecency, wickedness and oppression of others. He admonishes you; that you may take heed"

(Surah An Nahl 16:90)

 

It can't have escaped many people's notice that the vast majority of current child grooming cases reported in the media have involved gangs of predominantly Asian and/or Muslim men. Is this a reflection of the Islamic faith or has something seriously gone wrong in the upbringing and development of these depraved individuals? Where have Muslim communities/families gone wrong? And is there any way back from this?

 

Let's make one thing clear from the outset. Islam clearly forbids such indecent behaviour. Most humans condemn this kind of behaviour so why is it happening? Why are communities remaining seemingly silent over the so-called "white elephant" in the room? I am not saying that this does not happen in Non-Muslim communities; a quick google search reveals that this is just as prevalent in other communities, however, why have so-called Muslims engaged in such indecent behaviours and why has the Muslim community been seemingly slow to react?

 

There appear to be several factors influencing the outcomes we are seeing today. Some of these are going to be covered below. These factors aren't excusing the behaviour of the individuals (they clearly should have known right from wrong) but if these factors below are addressed, it may prevent vulnerable young people in the future being exploited by people from the Muslim community.

 

Boys Upbringing

It is no secret that in some Muslim families sons are treated very differently to the daughters. However, Islam emphasises the importance of treating sons and daughters equally. For example, some will be familiar with the story of the woman who told the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) that her father had forced her into marriage with a cousin with the aim to achieve a better social standing for himself. The Prophet (PBUH) provided a very clear response indicating that this was wrong and the marriage was subsequently nullified. However, the woman then declared that she approved of her father's decision but had wanted to take this opportunity to make clear to all Muslims that men do not have power over women!

 

So despite this hadith and plentiful rulings; why is the inequality in treatment occurring? One word: Culture! Often Muslim parents who tend not be too educated in terms of deen use religion to justify the differential treatment of boys from girls. Moreover, despite this being well-known, very few members of the community and sadly even fewer Imams are prepared to stand up and challenge this behaviour.

 

Furthermore, it is not unusual to see sons being provided with freedoms that are not given to daughters. Anyone who has taken a trip down Alumrock Road (Birmingham) or Wilmslow Road (Manchester) recently will know what I mean about the freedoms given to boys in the community to do as they please with very little consequences.Quite often the mothers of these boys justify such behaviour by saying "Oh he will settle down and be a good boy after marriage...!" And yet there are many Muslim women who know that is simply not true!

 

Do these unlimited freedoms mean boys will turn to grooming? No...however unlimited freedoms without clear boundaries or discipline lead people down the slippery slope. How often do parents sit down and explain the appropriate boundaries to their sons? How often do they enforce discipline? Are they ever aware of who their children are hanging out with?

 

Are the parents of the men involved in the grooming cases partly to blame? Well if they have not imparted appropriate Islamic knowledge, created boundaries, used appropriate discipline and understood what their son was up to then the simple answer is yes - the parents had a part to play in this outcome. There is simply no excuse to not understand or be knowledgable about our deen in this day and age. Ignorance is no excuse!

 

Let's talk about sex...

Or if you're in a Muslim household...let's not and let's just pretend that babies are dropped off magically by the stork (or are bought from the hospital!)

 

In many Muslim households up and down the UK and across the globe the common approach to sex and sexuality is to treat it as though it is something "dirty" or "rude" and certainly not to be talked about (let alone thought about!)

 

Consequently most of these boys (and in fact Muslims in general) have not learnt the Islamic teachings and views on sex but are likely to have acquired their "knowledge" second or third hand which is likely to be culturally or socially biased and more than likely to be at odds with Islamic teachings.

 

For those of you who were brave enough to attempt discuss such topics with your parents (I take my virtual hat off to you), you most probably received an incoherent babbled embarassed response or (more likely) a good old scolding and a threat or two if you dared to even so much think of the topic again! Therefore, these men have grown up in a culture where their knowledge and etiquette around sex has been developed (most likely) from non-Islamic sources and is therefore incompatible with Islamic teachings.

 

Now let's look to the Sunnah - how did the Prophet (PBUH) treat such topics. Actually, most Muslims today would probably be shocked to learn that back in the day, the early Muslim community turned to the Prophet (PBUH) to discuss literally everything! For example, one of the wives of the Prophet (PBUH), Umm Salma narrates an instance when Umm Sulaim, Abu Talha's wife came to speak to the Prophet (PBUH).

 

Umm Sulaim is reported by Umm Salama to have said, "O Allah's Messenger! Verily Allah is not shy of (telling you) the truth. Is it necessary for a woman to take a bath after she has a wet dream (nocturnal sexual discharge)?" Allah's Messenger replied, "Yes, if she notices a discharge" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Book 5, Hadith 280).

 

So if the Prophet (PBUH) was not prudish about such open and valuable conversations (and learnings) why are today's parents, who are responsible for the upbringing of future Muslims, suddenly so shy?

 

The Community and All The Blind Eyes

I find it hard to believe that there were members of the community out there who knew these boys but were completely unaware (or not suspicious) of what they were up to. In that case, why did no one speak up? Islam is very clear on what one should do when witnessing an evil action (hint: you do not turn a blind eye!)

 

“Whoever among you sees an evil action, let him change it with his hand (by taking

action); if he cannot, then with his tongue (by speaking out); and if he cannot, then with

his heart (by hating it and feeling that it is wrong) – and that is the weakest of faith”

(Narrated by Muslim)

 

Why did no one consider how they would feel if these boys behaved like this towards their daughter or sister?

 

The Role of the Imams

Recently the media reported of the admirable campaign by the Together Against Grooming (TAG) Group in encouraging 500 mosques to cover this issue in their khutba (sermon) during Friday (Jummah) prayer. But why did it take so long? And what have the Imams done since that khutba? And worryingly why did every single mosque not use this khutba?

 

 

There has been a strong historic tradition of importing Imams from abroad which I believe has contributed significantly to the situation that has arisen. A lot of these imams cannot even speak English at the best of times and are more often that not, completely out of touch with the real day to day life of youngsters born and bred in the West. Consequently there is a real disconnect between the Imams and the reality of teenagers, leaving young impressionable people with no real Islamic role model, so the media neatly fills the void with the social model at the time.

 

 

The community needs to recognise that it is important that Imams are in touch with all sections of the community (Muslim and Non Muslim, Young and Old etc) and not just cater to the needs of the older generation who didn't really take the time out to learn English and are often still clinging to the cultural (and not religious) values they brought with them from their homeland decades ago.

 

Be The Change We Wish To See

Each and every one of us is responsible for ensuring that our Muslim Brothers and Sisters are on the right path. Therefore, we need to alter our own behaviours and begin to challenge some of these negative behaviours at grass roots level. Remember we have a duty to speak out and speak up...even if it goes against the tide of the community's opinion...after all which would you prefer: keeping Allah (SWT) happy or keeping the community happy?