As often cruelty to women happens not only behind closed doors, but in the public square, we can only guess how this display affects both women and men. Sons see how their mothers are treated; this too doubtless informs their behaviour.
It is important not to assume that the members of British grooming gangs consider themselves jihadis entitled to capture non-Muslim girls. They do not even appear at all pious. But knowledge of such practices is likely to have some impact on Muslims coming from countries where some form of slavery or indentured servitude still exists.
Sadly, in the case of Britain's grooming gangs, religious ideology does not play a role in forbidding child sexual grooming. It is important to examine just how crucial a factor this seems to have been in community silence about them.
In the West, women's dress, behaviour, and rights to autonomy have been freed from religious control only in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the rise of the suffragettes, feminism and the availability of safe contraception. Pictured: Suffragettes on way to Boston, sometime between 1910 and 1915. (Image source: George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress)
Men, after a certain age — as nature seems to have intended to preserve the human race — are often sexually attracted to women. Women, similarly, are often sexually attracted to men, even if many cultures try to keep that proclivity a closely-guarded secret.
Different cultures handle human sexuality in different ways, presumably to avoid the potential social disruption it could create. This control has traditionally been affected by religious doctrines, laws, and patriarchal priests, ministers, rabbis, muftis and other clergy. In the West, women's dress, behaviour, and rights to autonomy have been freed from religious control only in the 20th and 21st centuries, with the rise of the suffragettes, feminism and the availability of safe contraception.
Judaeo-Christian culture has involved restrictions of this kind, with monogamy enforced, adultery condemned, divorce often hard or sometimes impossible to obtain even for women suffering physical and psychological abuse, a lifetime of childbirth and nurturing, often while turning a blind eye to men's sexual independence. Changes that have taken place in Western culture for the past century are unlikely to undergo much reversal in the years to come. Most women today in the West dress as they choose, some modestly, others in inviting ways. Women insist on civil rights, play increasingly important roles in politics, business, the military, education, and all professions, and there are even female members of the clergy in many churches, such as the Anglican Church and the synagogues and temples of the Jewish Reform and Conservative movements.
This is the new, Western world in which immigrants from other cultures now live, some with relief, others too bewildered to find safe pathways through which to negotiate their way between our freedoms and their inherited assumptions about women, their place in society, and their sexuality. Nowhere is this dilemma sharper than between Muslim immigrants in the West and the democratic values they encounter.
In part, this is because traditional and current Islamic culture with regard to sexuality differs markedly from that of the West. As in the Judaeo-Christian universe, women are restricted and men are given superior rights, but Islam, both as a religion and a culture, has a very different set of rules and legal codes for relations between the sexes, both in the obvious ways (burqas, niqabs, and hijabs) and in less familiar concepts. It is possible that these differences that go far to explain why child sexual grooming gangs and the collective sexual harassment of women have taken hold in some places.
Here are a few of those differences. Shari'a law allows a man up to four wives, but women only one husband. Shari'a law also allows a man the right to have sexual relations with as many slave girls or concubines as he can afford (hence the sometimes massive harems kept by Muslim rulers, officials, and wealthy men). Shari'a law also allows a man the freedom to divorce a wife sometimes by as little as saying three times “I divorce you”. The practice was outlawed in India only this year, and rights for divorce are much harder for a woman to exercise.