Sikh Federation U.K. asked British law enforcement officials on Feb. 29 to stop using the term “Asian” to describe the Rotherham sex grooming gang that systematically abused teenage girls in the town between 1997 and 2013.
The group is absolutely right to oppose the designation of “Asian”-- a term that, broadly speaking, refers to anyone with origins on the continent of Asia -- to a specific group of criminals, which in this case happens to include four Pakistani Muslim men from the same family and two British women.
Speaking to The Independent, group member Bhai Amrik Singh said: “One of the demands in the Sikh Manifesto that we published a year ago before the General Election was that the government should encourage public bodies and the media to abandon the use of the term 'Asian' when describing perpetrators for reasons of political correctness.”
And he’s correct. The use of the term “Asian” to describe the Rotherham sex traffickers in 2016 belies the fact that town authorities allowed the abuses to go on for more than a decade before taking substantive actions against the traffickers.
A 2014 report on abuses in Rotherham, Yorkshire, England, revealed 1,400 children had been abused, mainly by men of Pakistani heritage, according to the BBC.
There have been competing narratives as to how much authorities knew about the gang, with some people alleging a cover-up because of fears about racism. BBC also reported the subject was apparently a taboo one within the town’s Pakistani community, which contributed to a culture of silence around the grooming and repeated rapes of children that were going on.
Whether or not officials knew about the abuses taking place in the town, it is still atrocious in every way. And continuing to use the term "Asian" to describe a specific group of criminals -- who have now been convicted and given sentences totaling more than 100 years in prison -- is rubbing salt in the wound to the wider Pakistani and South Asian communities in Rotherham and throughout the U.K. who have committed no abuses.
And it contributes to the widespread perception that officials are now doubling down on political correctness after turning a blind eye for so long.
The Hindu Council UK, the Network of Sikh Organisations, Sikh Media Monitoring Group and the Sikh Awareness Society released a joint statement on the issue, saying: “Communities who themselves fall victim of this emerging pattern of criminality, should not be besmirched by the vague terminology ‘Asian’ … in order to help find a solution to the problem, we need to be clear on the identity of those involved.”
The continued use of the word "Asian" to describe the Rotherham gang ultimately solves nothing -- it only divides communities, perpetuates stereotypes and absolves officials from having to look at the specific backgrounds of dangerous criminals.