Attempts to ignore the race of the men convicted of sexual exploitation in Rochdale are 'fatuous' and worrying, the chair of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission has said.
Trevor Philips said that the cultural background of the Asian men involved in the sexual grooming, abuse and rape of young girls in Rochdale and Oldham was a factor in determining the crimes they committed and should not be ignored.
On Saturday another nine Asian men were arrested as part of a sexual grooming inquiry.
It follows last week's conviction of nine men, eight of whom were Pakistani and one man who was from Afghanistan, who were sentenced as a separate investigation, after Liverpool court heard they abused girls as young as 13.
One of their victims had told police officers that she was being abused more than four years previously.
The conviction of the men kickstarted a fiery polemic, after presiding Judge Gerald Clifton told the defendants: "One of the factors leading to that was the fact that they were not part of your community or religion."
Phillips is the latest voice to add volume to the debate. He predicted a "national scandal" if the authorities had not originally acted for fear of upsetting Muslim communities.
He told the BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show he believed that the Asian communities in Rochdale "are closed communities essentially."
He said he feared people knew that the girls were being abused but didn't say anything "either because they're frightened or because they're so separated from the rest of the communities they think 'Oh, that's just how white people let their children carry on, we don't need to do anything’.”
The Independent Police Commission is currently conducting an internal inquiry into why the abuse went unprosecuted in 2008.
Community leaders and politicians have insisted that senior police officers stayed mute for the sake of political correctness, fearful of stoking racial tension in towns already struggling to cope with multiculturalism.
However Nazir Afzal, the head of the CPS in the NorthWest and the man responsible for deciding to prosecute the sex gang said that it was not a matter of race. However his view is increasingly becoming a lone voice.
"All of these people had one thing in common, they were all men. Most of them were taxi drivers but nobody is talking about the fact that this is an issue for the taxi driver communities."
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