Police seek talks following Rotherham Muslim boycott

image copyrightBritish muslim youth
image captionAround 300 people met at the Unity Centre in Rotherham on Monday to discuss the boycott

Police are seeking urgent talks with leaders of Rotherham's Muslim community over a boycott of the force.

Rotherham Muslim Community Forum Alliance (RMCFA) announced it would "cut all lines of engagement" with South Yorkshire Police from Monday.

Force Ch Supt Jason Harwin said he was "surprised" that the issues had not been raised before.

Rotherham Muslims are said to have felt "demonised" since the publication of the 2014 Jay report.

The report said 1,400 children suffered sexual exploitation in Rotherham between 1997 and 2013, predominantly by men of Pakistani-heritage.

Unprecedented Islamaphobia

British Muslim Youth announced the boycott on behalf of RMCFA, saying Islamaphobia was at "unprecedented levels in Rotherham" and Muslims felt "unprotected" by police.

The statement, which followed a meeting attended by about 300 people on Sunday, said 14 far-right demonstrations since the Jay report had "zapped poison into our local community".

Ch Supt Harwin agreed that hate crimes had increased.

image copyrightSouth Yorkshire Police
image captionSouth Yorkshire Police Ch Supt Jason Harwin said police "recognise that the last 14 months have been very difficult for all communities in Rotherham, and particularly for the Muslim community."

He said: "We've been meeting with leaders, organisations and mosques and they've not raised these issues, particularly boycotting police.

"We need to sit and talk. I've already asked some of the individuals to meet with us.

"If communities don't engage with police, that's putting more people at risk."

Police 'deflecting' criticism

RMCFA accused South Yorkshire Police of "deflecting attention from their own failures" by using the Jay report to scapegoat Muslims.

It said: "Over the last 14 months, the Muslim community has time and again condemned wholesale child sexual exploitation brought to light.

"However, the findings of the Jay Report cannot and must not be used to scapegoat and discriminate against the entire Muslim community."

The group said all Rotherham's Muslim organisations, religious or secular, were asked to cut lines of engagement and communication with South Yorkshire Police, and any which did not adhere would also be boycotted.

This did not include reporting crime or 999 emergency calls, the RMCFA said.

image captionRotherham MP Sarah Champion said she was "very pleased" that the issue had been raised, but was "not sure that a boycott is the right way forward."
image captionVakas Hussain of British Muslim Youth, one of the groups in the alliance, said it was a "drastic step" but not one which was taken lightly

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