In October 2013, the BBC screened an extraordinary account of the last days of Tommy Robinson as leader of the English Defence League. His journey began with a chance encounter with Muslim commentator Mo Ansar, and led ultimately to the doors of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank.
His position vis-à-vis Islam morphed over that time from a stock ‘Islam is evil’, to a more nuanced one, wherein he still considered parts of Islam/the modus operandi of many Muslims to be incompatible with modern Britain, but saw that street violence was the wrong tool for change.
One particular point that had led to his hostility, was that of ‘grooming’. It is a fact that the practise of targeting vulnerable girls, enticing them with gifts, drink and drugs to create a dependency - the quid pro quo for which soon becomes sex – is a UK crime disproportionately carried out by Pakistani men.
For Tommy Robinson, the reason for this was Islam itself: “There is a terrible view in Islam of women, especially non-Muslim women.” The same opinion was echoed by others, such as when Mo Ansar met with families of grooming victims: “The men in those (Islamic) families are using Islam as an excuse to treat the females in their family like that…they say, ‘within our religion, this is what we can do’ ”.
I’d like to posit another theory, and in the spirit of a picture painting a thousand words…
The above serves as a cartoon reduction of Islam, through Western eyes. It shouts its message of violence, of male domination and female subjugation. For many, it captures the very essence of Islam; a perfect distillation. Moreover, it then becomes legitimate to view every Muslim through these terms – indeed, it soon becomes impossible to view a Muslim outside of such terms. And now moving on…
The above serves as a cartoon reduction of the West, through Muslim eyes. Its messages are crystal clear: of decadence, drunkenness, money and privilege, reckless abandonment – and an advertised sexuality. When white woman are harassed, or otherwise receive 'unwelcome attention' when travelling to Muslim countries, it's because the guys offering 50-cent camel rides cannot view white women outside of such terms. But what the disproportionate grooming of British girls by Pakistani men also shows, is that many of these men, either born or long since settled in the UK, also cannot view white women outside of such terms.
In both cases, myopia is made possible when the ‘other’ remains unknown, or where the only exchanges are trivial. So whilst the Pakistani groomer may encounter white women in his day-to-day business, those transactions cannot challenge his world view. And thus his entry point into this subterranean world, is a complete disconnect from the wider society in which he lives. It is his isolation - not his religion - that keeps the 'fantasy' of white women burning in his mind.