Press Release

OCTOBER 2014

 

WESTMINSTER DEBATE: WAS ROTHERHAM RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED?

 

House of Commons debate on child abuse, religious incitement and human rights.

Co-hosts , City of London Interfaith[1], The Hindu Muslim Forum[2], MACSAS[3] and the Immams and Rabbis Council of The United Kingdom[4], welcome Baroness Caroline Cox, Rabbi Jonathan Romain, David Greenwood, Bishop Jonathan Blake, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Hussaini and Satish K Sharma as panel members for the Westminster Debate, “Religious Power: Risk and Regulation”, which will take place on Tuesday 18th November, at 6pm, in the House of Commons.

With the creation of the government’s Child Abuse Inquiry[5], and the rapidly increasing numbers of child abuse victims in the United Kingdom coming to light[6], this debate will ask fundamental questions that have not yet been addressed. Rotherham[7] is largely viewed as a police and social work scandal, but the motivation behind the perpetrators is seldom discussed nor the possibility that certain interpretations of religious texts may have influenced their behaviour.

Were the perpetrators fuelled by cruelty alone, or did their motivations run deeper? Do popular interpretations of the Qu’ran give legitimacy to rape and radicalisation and if so, how can we address this phenomenon without demonising Faith? And do religious leaders have a duty of care when it comes to safeguarding their communities from harm?

Religion has long been used as a weapon to sanction violence and justify wrongdoing, often held hostage by the disillusioned and dangerous, whether in Islam, Christianity and other Faiths. Abuse within a religious setting is perhaps one of the most controversial areas within human rights law, inciting strong feeling both within the religious community and the non-practising public at large.

Religion creates a troubling paradox: the preservation of privacy within worship, and the protection of our most vulnerable in a setting where we know human rights abuses can and do take place. Can we then reconcile these two principles, and if so, how can reconciliation be achieved without compromising fundamental human rights?

Our panel members feel strongly about the issues:

Baroness Caroline Cox

“There are very real concerns in the UK over behaviour which could be deemed legally and morally unacceptable, and which has been condoned on the basis of religious beliefs, practices and cultural sensitivities. These must be addressed if we are to move forward as a truly united and democratic society.”

Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain

“The core issue here is the right to be human – to be free to be oneself and to be free from any form of abuse, mental or physical, that crushes that right. It is also about the devastatingly painful issue of the role of religion – which should be the natural protector of the vulnerable – but has sometimes become their predator. What has gone wrong and how can we set it right?”

David Greenwood, Partner at Switalskis Solicitors

“Clergy and those working for the church have a privileged status in society. They are almost universally trusted and have unquestioned access to children. Despite well publicised cases both past and present, successive Governments have delayed holding a judge-led public inquiry into clergy abuse. Now is the time to do so.”

Bishop Jonathan Blake

“The nation has lost control of religious observance. Instead of it contributing to social cohesion, it has become a threat, radicalising the young and vulnerable, impeding research and scientific innovation and promoting fantasy rather than fact. It lies beyond the reach of the civil law and leaves individual practitioners as well as established and new groups to prey upon society, abusing individuals physically, sexually, emotionally, and financially.”

Pt Satish K Sharma

“There is a flurry of activity about the subject of “tough talk” and every interfaith group is talking about “tough talk”… but when will there be a move from talking about tough talk to religious leaders actually risking TOUGH TALK? It’s clearly and obviously not in the interests of competitive religious establishments and bodies to engage in resolving their differences because those differences will cease to exist – let’s do it ourselves. If the Great British public take it upon themselves to do this directly, our religious leaders will have no choice but to follow suit – Join us in making this next step a reality.”

Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini

“In recent years in Britain, we have seen an accelerated increase in the promotion of religious leaders to positions of greater prominence, power and influence in our public and political life. This has been achieved through public funding, and yet many of these religious figure heads remain unelected and unaccountable to the public.

At the same time, we have seen a sharp rise in sexual abuse, particularly involving children within a faith context, and other forms of bullying and exploitation. This must be stopped.”

 

For further information please contact:

Natasha Phillips, Chair, Researching Reform[8]

07769 647 983

Sobk13@gmail.com

____________________________

Notes to Editors:

[1] City of London Interfaith is a charity which promotes religious harmony for the public benefit

[2] The Hindu Muslim Forum is a charity dedicated to encourage mutual understanding and respect of the beliefs and practices of religious faiths worldwide

[3] MACSAS (Minister and Clergy Sexual Abuse Survivors) is a support group for men and women who have been sexually abused by Ministers or Clergy

[4] The Immams and Rabbis Council of The United Kingdom are an organisation dedicated to Jewish-Muslim dialogue and collaboration

[5] This Inquiry has been set up to look at historic child abuse and consider whether public bodies and other non-state institutions have taken their duty to protect children from sexual abuse seriously

[6] New cases coming to light about different forms of child abuse include those related to witchcraft

[7] The number of Rotherham victims has been estimated at 1, 400 though there are fears that this figure is conservative

[8] Researching Reform is a project dedicated to child welfare inside the justice system. The project’s founder, Natasha Phillips will be chairing this debate.


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