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Straw facing backlash over claims

Former home secretary Jack Straw has sparked a backlash after claiming the the indefinite jailing of two Asian men for abusing girls aged between 12 and 18 was evidence of a specific problem among young men in the UK's Pakistani community.

On Friday Mohammed Liaqat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed at Nottingham Crown Court for raping and sexually abusing several girls, often after giving them alcohol or drugs.

They were the prime movers in a group of men who befriended girls aged 12 to 18 in the Derby area and groomed them for sex.

Mr Straw, who represents Blackburn, said such crimes were a "specific problem" in the Pakistani community which needed to be "more open" about the reasons.

But fellow Labour MP Keith Vaz, who chairs the home affairs select committee, rejected his colleague's claims and insisted the case was not symbolic of any "cultural problem".

Children's charity Barnardo's, Muslim youth group The Ramadhan Foundation and a retired police chief also said Mr Straw was wrong to highlight one community.

The judge in the case said he did not believe the crimes were "racially aggravated", but Mr Straw said he thought vulnerable white girls were at risk of being targeted by some Asian men.

While most sex offenders were white, "there is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls", Mr Straw told BBC2's Newsnight.

"We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way," he said.

Young men were "fizzing and popping with testosterone" but girls from the Pakistani community were "off limits", leading them to seek other outlets for their desires, he suggested.

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