UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday said that a high proportion of men involved in gang-based child exploitation in the country are of Pakistani descent.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today, Javid – who has Pakistani heritage – said that ignoring the ethnicity of abusers gives “oxygen” to extremists.
The home secretary had faced backlash for a tweet earlier this year referring to “sick Asian paedophiles”. He said that he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave “no stone unturned”.
When asked by the British-Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie, who was guest-editing the programme, whether he was concerned that his comments may have fuelled hate crimes, he said that he was “very much aware of the need for politicians to be careful with their language”.
Grooming gangs have recently been convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.
“There could be – I’m not saying that there are – there could be some cultural reasons from the communities that these men came from that could lead to this kind of behaviour,” Javid said.
The home secretary has called for research into the “characteristics and contexts” of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.
“When I am asking my officials to go away and do research to look into the causes of gang-based child exploitation, then I want them to leave no stone unturned and to look at everything,” he added.
“For me to rule something out just because it would be considered sensitive would be wrong,” he said.
“If I had ignored it, or been seen to ignore it, that is exactly what I think extremists would like to see in this country. It would give them oxygen and I refuse to do that,” he said.