The case of the 1400 girls that were beaten and raped over a period of 13 years in England horrified the civilized world. That such an event could go on at all, and then further, left unchecked by police has rightfully enraged the citizens of England and abroad.
Presumably, actions will being taken to right the wrong that was done to the girls and to prosecute those responsible. As part of the process, people are analyzing what could make people commit such atrocities on young children, and how could the police avoid taking action for so long.
Any decent analysis will examine the history of the cases and look for trends: time; place; individual; community; backgrounds; people and friends involved; etc. Common themes will certainly emerge. Some will be important and others less so.
At this point, reporting from some media outlets consider certain characteristics of the assailants important while others avoid them. Consider:
- The Telegraph. Initial articles mentioned that the men were from “Asian gangs”. Later editorial-news clearly stated that “All but one of the perpetrators were Muslims of Pakistani heritage”.
- The Wall Street Journal. The initial two stories mentioned the “Pakistani origin” of the attackers, but did not mention their religion. The third article did not specifically say that they were Muslim, but said that the Muslim community condemned the crimes, adding a quote from a member of the Muslim community that the attackers “are not Muslims.” In the fourth article, it declared that “the abusers were of Pakistani and Muslim origin”.
- The Guardian. First described the attackers as “Asian”. Later articles mentioned the “perpetrators in the town mostly being Pakistani taxi drivers.” Editorials in September reverted back to saying the rapists were “Asian”.
- The New York Times. Has referred to the perpetrators as “men of Pakistani heritage”. To this day, none of their news accounts mention that the attackers were Muslim.
There was an evolution of the news flow in the more conservative papers: first the men are described as “Asian”, then “Pakistani” and finally “Muslim”. There are several reasons why this evolution may have occurred: more information about the perpetrators gradually became known, or the relevance of the additional information was viewed as more important as time went on.
The Telegraph and the Wall Street Journal added information that the attackers were Muslim. The Guardian held off, and only obtusely referred to their Islamic faith in an article on September 2nd where it reverted back to describing the attackers as “Asian” but the “growing influx of the far right” had expressed its anger at the “Muslim community”. The New York Times has avoided mentioning the religion of the rapist in any manner.
By the beginning of September, the common religious background of the attackers was well reported. One must therefore conclude that the New York Times deliberately decided to not point out the attackers religious background because they felt it was not relevant to the story (but somehow their Pakistani heritage was).
Was the fact that the men were Muslim relevant to their actions? Was the fact that they were Muslim relevant to their community’s failure of reporting their actions? Was their religion a factor in the police not investigating the many reported cases? Was there an important distinction between being Pakistani and Muslim? Was this simply a gang that happened to be both Pakistani and Muslim and the religion and heritage of the people had only to do with their kinship and nothing to do with the attacks or cover-up?
Perhaps the investigations will resolve the questions. It will be interesting to see if a divide between conservative and liberal papers shields the perpetrators faith (but not heritage) at that time.