Sajid Javid, Maajid Nawaz & “Quite Probably the Worst Piece of Research I’ve Ever Read.”

By J.Spooner & J.Stubbs

When first we embarked upon our joint-effort to objectively analyse Quilliam’s 2017 “grooming-gangs” report, we were not sure if any more than a dozen people would ever read it. In stark contrast, Quilliam’s “grooming-gangs” report was released to much fanfare but zero scepticism. Their press-releases were reworded uncritically and passed-off as news. Their findings — whether contrived or not, dovetailed neatly into the prevailing narrative being heartily spun by the major media gatekeepers.

Several front page splashes and a lengthy Sky News TV segment all helped to perpetuate the stereotype of the Asian immigrant, being morally stunted and predatory from their questionable cultural influences and their ‘dangerous’ Oriental religiosity. What was once was confined to BNP rallies and their Holocaust-denying magazines was now being beamed into homes of millions of families. The baton of the far-right had been picked up by Quilliam’s researchers, Haras Rafiq and Muna Adil, and carried into the mainstream.

Neither Rafiq nor Adil were any more qualified to produce such a report than Nick Griffin or any other race-baiting pseudo-academic. Where they differed, although irrelevant, was in their ethnic and religious background, which afforded the Quilliam pair an assumed but false leverage. Their collective inexperience in the field manifested itself into an extensively error-ridden and dangerously incompetent report.

Real Life Consequences

What began as a genuine attempt to counter perceived (by us) racist propaganda from a perceived (by us) mercenary lobby-group quickly morphed into a passion-project. ‘Grooming’ or CSE related crimes are deplorable, the trauma long-lasting and the theft of childhood innocence from the victims is heart-breaking. Using these children as pawns for political leverage is unconscionable.

And it is under this cloud of racially-charged and media induced hysteria that Home Secretary, Sajid Javid emerges. Little more than one-hundred years after extra-legal lynchings were being carried out on black men suspected of crimes against whites; Javid announces his intentions to investigate the “ethnic origins” of both the perpetrators and the victims. The current US justice system and its virtual racial caste structure should be taken as a cautionary tale. More worrying still, is that the Quilliam Foundation are taking credit for their deeply flawed report having influenced the Home Secretary into taking this course of action. Co-author Muna Adil was explicit, their report had “led the way”:

This has been echoed by Quilliam’s Chairman Maajid Nawaz, who has publicly backed the research and become its number one promoter by repeatedly referring to it on major media platforms such as Sky News’ The Pledge and on his own prime time LBC Radio show. He claimed the Home Secretary’s decision to research the ethnicities of this type of offender was exactly what “we” (Quilliam) had “hoped to achieve” by releasing their report.

This is highly problematic. Quilliam’s report is not peer-reviewed and is co-authored by a pair who have, together, amassed a combined total of zero days of education, training, field research or experience in the very specialised field of child sex exploitation (CSE). Furthermore and quite predictably, it has been ripped to shreds by experts who have read it.

The Verdict is in, as the Experts Speak Out

Jessica Eaton is a Speaker, Author & PhD Researcher in Psychology of Victim blaming, VAWG (violence against women and girls) CSE, CSA & Trauma. She is the Founder of and The Eaton Foundation. Her influential work has changed the field of CSE and continues to influence professionals and organisations. In 2017, she conducted and published three major pieces of work in CSE and was the author of ‘Working Effectively to Address Child Sexual Exploitation: An evidence scope’. In 2018, her work expanded from the UK to include contracts in USA, Australia and New Zealand. Eaton has commented that Quilliam’s report was “shown to have issues with data analysis and collection” and further clarified that:

“the majority of all child sexual abuse (organised and individual) is carried out by white British people. The media have deliberately ignored this.”

Dr Ella Cockbain is a lecturer in Security and Crime Science at University College London (UCL) whose research focuses on serious and organised crime and its prevention, especially human trafficking, forced labour and child sexual exploitation. Her doctoral research (2009–2013) focused on the internal trafficking of British children for sexual exploitation and she has (co-)authored some of the first academic studies on the topic referred to by media as ‘grooming’. Her research focused on six of the earliest and largest such investigations to date: Operations Retriever (Derby), Span (Rochdale), Engage (Blackburn), Wheat (Manchester), Central (Rotherham) and Chalice (Telford). Furthermore, one of Cockbain’s 2012 research studies was used in Quilliam’s own report, which cherry-picked specific statistics from her work without providing the necessary context for them.

It is fair to say that she has been relentless in her recent criticism of Quilliam’s report and its authors, even going so far as to compare the report to and using the same propaganda tactics as a 2012 BNP leaflet. In general, her concern is for the:

“whole swathes of children & young people affected by CSE whitewashed out when the whole focus is on ‘Asian gangs’.

However, she did level specific and scathing criticism of the report to its authors. Blasting Muna Adil, she said:

“Despite multiple claims to be ‘academic’ & ‘evidence-based’ it was rambling & incoherent, no actual research in it, gross show of ignorance of basics of science. Sensationalist tripe hidden behind a paywall.”

Cockbain continued, later expanding on her earlier criticism to Baroness Hussein-Ece:

“but this blew me away by how misinformed,confused & inaccurate it was. Full of spurious claims & ‘evidence-based’ badge was insulting. Felt like a desperate bid to make splash not genuine attempt to advance knowledge/find solutions.”

This pulverisation of Quilliam’s report by Cockbain continued in this same vein repeatedly, unapologetically and Javid simply must take notice, for the sake of the victims; if nothing else. As an element of her tour de force, she warns us all that:

“Reducing this to ‘white girls’/’Asian men’ fundamentally misrepresents child sexual abuse/exploitation” as it “whitewashes out the experiences of numerous victims/survivors that don’t fit that mold: boys, BME, victims of familial abuse etc”.

In short Cockbain, arguably the most qualified to comment, considers the Quilliam grooming-gangs report, of which its authors appear to claim that the government is being influenced by, is:

“total tripe. Quite probably the worst piece of ‘research’ I’ve ever read.”

Keeping Them Honest

Our initial critique of the report has become a part of recent developments which has finally seen a pushback against the myth which sadly has already taken root in the British consciousness and sprouted off into the racist far-right. Thanks somewhat to a clever Twitter thread from Luke Collins, who managed to surmise some of the more glaring errors from Quilliam’s report over social media, LBC radio presenter Matthew Stadlen’s head has been turned. Finally, someone with a highly influential media platform has begun to publicly question the credibility of the now infamous grooming gang report. Ironically, Nawaz’s fellow LBC colleague is the first to ask the hard questions that other media outlets have ignored. He publicly challenged both Nawaz and Rafiq to respond to our initial piece.

When prompted by a media colleague he could not ignore to back up Quilliam’s claims, Nawaz shied away from discussing anything factual and instead pointed Stadlen in the direction of researchers Rafiq and Adil. Rafiq then similarly passed the responsibility of defending their report to Adil, informing Stadlen that she would be the one to respond to his query. Nawaz’s reluctance to discuss the results and methodology of his own organisation’s report would imply what we have suspected, every time he opens his mouth and talks about it — that he hasn’t actually read it. As stated earlier, Nawaz has used his influential television and radio platforms to repeatedly promote the results from Quilliam’s report, yet each time he does this, he amazingly manages to make an already abhorrent report even worse by consistently misquoting it.

Whenever he is talking about the results of the report, Nawaz constantly refers to group based CSE as ‘rape’. His comments include the following phrases taken from separate quotes:

Anyone who has read one report, even the Quilliam one, should clearly understand that Group-based child sexual abuse/exploitation or “grooming related offences” are not just rape. In fact, sometimes, not rape at all. Additionally, in no reports including Quilliam’s are they ever referred to as ‘grooming rape gangs’, nor ‘collective rape’. Such poor use of language on a highly sensitive topic makes Nawaz look not only unprofessional but also terribly uninformed.

And it’s not just semantics which Nawaz falls afoul on — he unforgivably conflates British Asians with British Muslims. Nowhere in any group based CSE report, including Quilliam’s own results, does it make any mention of offender religiious affiliation. Yet Nawaz consistently makes this error, fuelling further hatred at his own community by using such phrases as “South Asian British Muslim men”, “Brit-Muslim grooming gangs”, “South Asian Muslim men”, “British Muslim rape gangs” or even just simply “Muslim men” when referring to Quilliam’s statistics. Despite having a direct line to their Chairman, neither Muna Adil nor Haras Rafiq have apparently not dared correct Nawaz on his frequent, inflammatory and utterly false embellishments of their report.

From this, three possible scenarios emerge.

  1. Nawaz has read Quilliam’s report but completely misunderstood it
Despite the general dubios nature of this overall claim, no research has been done on the exact nationality of offenders. Yet that doesn’t stop Nawaz speaking directly about ‘Pakistanis’. His language on the topic has been, at best, ill informed.

Only the first scenario is even vaguely forgivable. All three mark out Nawaz as exceptionally unqualified to speak as an authority on the issue and the media simply must cease affording him the opportunity to spread his mis/disinformation. Dr Cockbain has publicly pondered whether Quilliam are desperately trying to “make waves” and it is something that must be considered, given that Quilliam are not without motive for distorting the discourse on the issue. Their report, makes the weak case that Asian grooming gangs, despite possessing similar traits as other child sexual exploitation and trafficking groups the world over, are exceptional because they are Muslim. They are Muslim ‘extremists’ and Quilliam, the business, ostensibly counters Muslim extremists for a fee. Quilliam, by poisoning the narrative with false claims are seemingly angling to provide their own remedy (Prevent 2.0?) and it is unclear if the Home Secretary is the mark or the collaborator.

Whether Stadlen follows up on his contact with Adil remains to be seen. He has since spoken about recontacting her “when I have time”. This needs to happen, and we must make sure it does. Quilliam have been running from this for too long. There have been no end of Twitter users blocked by Nawaz or Rafiq for demanding answers from the questions raised in our report. BBC presenter Nomia Iqbal has been constantly ignored by Quilliam whenever she approaches them regarding the topic.

We need to keep up the pressure on media outlets to question Quilliam and demand they publicly address why a so called ‘counter-extremism’ organisation would produce work which either deliberately or recklessly inflames tensions with Muslims and feeds Far Right extremist narratives. We have reported Nawaz and Quilliam to Tell MAMA for ‘anti-Muslim literature’ and we suggest you do the same here.

See our orginal response to Quilliam’s report here, and our subsequent challenge to Quilliam here. Please use them to publicly (but politely) demand answers from them them. They must be held accountable.