Dr Waqas Tufail, Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University, UK.
In March 2019 in Christchurch, New Zealand, an Australian white supremacist carried out a massacre of 50 Muslims in two mosques in the city. It was widely reported in the aftermath of this atrocity that the perpetrator had the phrase ‘For Rotherham’ emblazoned on his weaponry. This seemingly made reference to a child sexual abuse scandal that had taken place in the town of Rotherham in the UK. This scandal referred to revelations that groups of men had been sexually abusing scores of young girls over a period of several years. The crimes led to widespread outrage, and the resultant media and political discourse placed a predominant focus upon the ethnic and religious background of the perpetrators. This racialisation served to both decentre from public debate the primary issue of preventing sexual violence against young girls and women and emboldened racists and fascists in their targeting of Muslim communities. Multiple interviewees from within Rotherham have spoken of the town being 'under siege' from organised fascists who have ‘radicalised’ local whites to turn on their Muslim neighbours. This climate has resulted in a marked increase in racial tensions, evidenced by numerous episodes of violent anti-Muslim racism. Located within a national and international context of rising nationalism and violent anti-Muslim racism, it is argued that the racial landscape within Rotherham has been transformed. This paper also addresses some of the complex and inherent tensions that exist for feminists and anti-racists in the context of sexual abuse scandals involving ethnic minority perpetrators and argues that the narratives of liberal elites play a key role in legitimising forms of anti-Muslim racism more readily associated with neo-conservatives and the far-right.
Dr Waqas Tufail is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Leeds Beckett University, UK. His research interests primarily concern the policing, racialization and criminalization of marginalized and minority communities and the lived experiences of Muslim minorities. Waqas is a Board Member of the International Sociological Association (ISA) Research Committee on Racism, Nationalism, Indigeneity and Ethnicity, serves on the Editorial Board of Sociology of Race and Ethnicity and is co-editor of Media, Crime, Racism (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018).