There is growing resentment in UK of the way that some militants from minority groups are exploiting the reluctance of the police, social services and the law to target known extremists for fear of being labelled racists.
For almost four years, until 2010, a total of 47 white teenage girls, some as young as 13, were systematically abused, raped, given drugs and alcohol and passed around a group of men who used them as sexual playthings in the northern industrial town of Rochdale. Many people knew what was going on. Their parents, health workers and teachers warned the police. Social workers urged the council to take action. Yet nothing was done. The reason was that all the men exploiting the girls were of Pakistani origin. And neither the police nor social workers wanted to stir up racial tensions by accusing a particular ethnic group of sexual abuse. Eventually, the scandal was made public - largely by newspapers reporting what was happening. And last week, the last two of nine men involved were sentenced to jail sentences of 14 and 18 years for the worst case of child abuse any town in Britain has seen since the Second World War. The scandal has caused outrage. The head of children's services in the Manchester area has resigned. The leader of the council has also left. The police have admitted a terrible lapse in their behaviour. But what has caused even more concern, across the country, is that too many people involved were afraid of confronting the obvious problem: within the Muslim immigrant community, there was a belief that the girls were "white trash", legitimate targets for men who would not dare to commit such abuse against Muslim girls.
Last week also saw the end of a legal farce involving militant Muslim extremists who are accused of recruiting young men for terrorist actions against Britain and America but who managed to manipulate the legal system for more than eight years to avoid being extradited to America to face trial. The group included the most notorious terrorist active in Britain - Abu Hamza, an Egyptian asylum-seeker who became leader of a militant faction at a mosque in London and who is accused of links to al-Qaeda and of organising the killing of Westerners in Yemen. The familiar preacher of hate messages, who lost both hands in an explosion while making bombs and used a hook instead of one hand, avoided arrest for years, although his activities were well known. Even the Queen is said to have privately asked why he was not in jail. His lawyers insisted that Abu Hamza's human rights were being violated because he was the victim of Islamophobia. Again and again, they found and used legal loopholes to appeal against the extradition order. The British authorities found themselves powerless to put him on a plane and send him out of the country. It was only last week that the head of Britain's Supreme Court denounced the delays as ridiculous and he was finally deported, with five others, to face trial in America. Are "human rights" and political correctness killing justice and fair play in Britain today? Many Britons now think so. There is growing resentment of the way that some militants from minority groups are exploiting the reluctance of the police, social services and the law to target known extremists for fear of being labelled racists.
It is not only Muslims who are avoiding prosecution. Gangs of Romanian gypsies have recently been coming into central London to beg and steal, sleeping rough or setting up camps in parks and on open spaces, including traffic roundabouts. They have been arrested again and again, and sent back to Romania. But as soon as they return home, they set off again for London. Britain's border guards appear powerless to prevent them entering the country, as they claim that as European Union citizens they are free to travel to Britain without visas.
And one of the greatest social problems of all - the growth of gangs on inner city housing estates and the knifing by teenagers of other teenagers from rival gangs - has been made more sensitive and difficult to combat because those involved, both murderers and victims, are almost always young blacks and immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean. Some years ago, the police set up a special unit to deal with "black on black" crime, targeting especially anyone carrying a gun or a knife. But their attempt to control gang culture by stopping and searching black youths at random in the streets has been denounced as racial profiling. And as a result of political agitation and lawsuits, the police can no longer carry out these random searches. Meanwhile, the killing of young black gang members continues. In a particularly shocking case, a 15-year old schoolboy was stabbed to death in 2010 during the evening rush hour on the platform of Victoria station, one of London's busiest, in front of hundreds of commuters. This time, however, the police and the law cracked down hard. At a trial six months ago, an 18-year-old black girl was sentenced to 12 years in a young offender institution - making her the thirteenth person convicted of involvement in the boy's stabbing. Altogether, the gang members responsible have been sentenced to a total of 124 years. The Government has expressed concern that all these incidents are likely to make race relations much worse in Britain. It has appealed to community leaders to do more to root out extremists in their midst, report suspects to the police and stop hiding behind accusations against the majority of racism or Islamophobia.
Many British Muslims have been horrified and ashamed by what happened in Rochdale. They have said there needs to be a complete change of culture among young Muslim men, especially in their attitudes to women. But it is much harder to change habits of thinking that are often deeply ingrained in families that still retain much of the culture of Pakistani villages. Many young women of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin are still forced into marriage to cousins, or promised to relatives when they are only children. A shocking case earlier this year of parents who killed their daughter because she has become too "Western" and would not marry the man her parents had chosen for her has highlighted the difficulty. After years of vainly hoping that Muslim leaders would do more to prevent forced marriages, the Government recently announced that this would now be treated as a crime. In response also, the Government is trying to cut immigration from Asia, especially Afghanistan, India and Pakistan, and reduce the number of people seeking asylum in Britain. Often asylum-seekers have to wait months in special camps to receive permission to stay. But also there has been a growing number of asylum-seekers, especially from countries with rougher cultures such as Afghanistan, who have stabbed or shot people when they get into an argument.
Many people on the Left, who have traditionally supported political correctness as a way of protecting minorities from discrimination, are becoming disillusioned. They say that this attitude only encourages racism and right-wing politics among the white working class. And the constant complaint by extremists that their "human rights" are being abused is provoking growing anger among the judiciary. Unless unscrupulous lawyers stop exploiting appeals to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg to overturn judgments made in Britain, a growing number of Britons will soon lose faith in the European Convention on Human Rights, which was largely brought into being by British politicians after the Second World War. It was meant to be a modern foundation for civil liberties in Britain. Increasingly, it is being seen as a licence for extremists to escape punishment.