Rotherham, Rochdale, and the Racialised Threat of the ‘Muslim Grooming Gang’
For over a decade, British Muslims have been at the forefront of political, media and societal concerns in regards to terrorism, radicalisation, women’s rights, segregation and, most recently, the sexual exploitation and abuse of young women. Demonised, marginalised and criminalised due to inflammatory political rhetoric, inaccurate, irresponsible and sensationalist media reporting, discriminatory counter terrorism policies and legislation and state surveillance, British Muslims have emerged as a perceived racialised threat. This has continued apace with the onset of the Rochdale and Rotherham ‘grooming’ child sexual abuse scandals which in popular discourse have been dominated by representations focusing on race, ethnicity and the dangerous masculinities of Muslim men. This disproportionate and racist narrative served to both frame and limit the debate relating to the sexual exploitation and violence experienced by young female victims at a pivotal moment when the issue had been brought to national attention. This article compares and contrasts the representations and discourse of racialised and non-racialised reporting of child sexual abuse and situates the ‘grooming’ scandals in the context of anti-Muslim racism. It argues that the development of the British Muslim as a racialised threat is a current and on-going legacy of colonialism in which this group experiences discriminatory ‘othering’ processes resulting in their marginalisation.