Muslims warned of 'major challenge'
A sermon shared with congregations in around 500 UK mosques has warned that a "major challenge" will be created for the Muslim community in the wake of the sentencing of a paedophile ring made up of seven Asian men and the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
Titled "Tackling Street Grooming in the UK" the sermon, which is part of a campaign organised by Together Against Grooming (Tag), a not-for-profit cross-community organisation set up to tackle street grooming by gangs, highlights the responsibilities of Muslims to "shun evil, wrongdoing and all forms of indecent and immoral behaviour" as taught by the Koran.
It says that recent publicity emerging from cases of sexual grooming involving mainly men of Pakistani/South Asian background in various locations around the UK, as well as the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in London, could have a negative impact on Muslims.
The sermon, delivered on a Friday as it is a religious day for Muslims and consists of the Jummah Salah - or midday prayer - says: "Today I will speak to you about the subject of 'Sexual Grooming' that has been in the news a lot recently with many cases involving mainly men of Pakistani/South Asian background in Derby, Rochdale, Telford, Oxford and West Yorkshire who have been convicted of this wicked and evil crime.
"Unfortunately there are many other such cases pending which will mean that this issue will continue to be in the headlines for some time to come. The combination of publicity from a number of these cases hitting the headlines in a short space of time and the fallout from the Woolwich case will create a major challenge for the Muslim community."
The sermon will also focus on the responsibility placed on Muslims to ensure they do all they can to safeguard children and vulnerable people in their communities.
It states that if the Sunnah is being followed "then we must be at the forefront of safeguarding and protection and so we speak against sexual grooming and the abuse of girls and children regardless of who the victims are and who commits such acts."
The sermon says; "We wholeheartedly condemn the disgraceful actions of those involved in these cases and welcome the convictions in the cases that have been through the courts. We wish to show our support for the victims (madhloom) of this terrible crime, many of whom are innocent children and we wish to affirm that Islam as a religion of mercy and compassion places a strong obligation on safeguarding and protecting the weak and vulnerable from oppression (dhulm) and abuse, particularly of women and children."
It also asks congregations to heed a "call to action", so if they see anyone acting suspiciously or suspect sexual grooming is taking place they should report it to authorities. It says: "If you need any motivation other than it is the right and Islamic thing to do, just consider this - what if it was your daughter and someone you knew had not taken that step? If you report it, you will have stopped an evil deed with your action (the highest form of faith) and protected a young person from harm."
Tag spokesman Ansar Ali said the campaign was born out a feeling of "natural responsibility" to condemn and tackle sexual grooming. He said: "The Koran and traditions of our Prophet exhort us to act against evil and injustice, and create just societies. This is the start of what will be a nationwide project in which we seek to work with others to eradicate this practice from all communities."