Congregations in mosques all around the United Kingdom were asked to challenge the growing trend of grooming by individuals in the community.
A sermon entitled Tackling Street Grooming in the UK was read in Friday prayers in around 500 mosques.
In terms of the sermon today 98 percent of the men in prison for sexual exploitation of children are not Muslim, but nobody attributes their religion or their race to their criminality. What this effort today has just done it’s given a fillip to the far-right to make that link. There is no link between our religion, Islam, and race and the criminality that is going on in street grooming.
Written by a Bradford-based imam, the sermon comes a day after the jailing of a paedophile ring that abused children in Oxford.
It condemns the abusers' "disgraceful actions" and calls on British Muslims to heed the Quran's ban on "sexual indecency, wickedness and oppression of others".
The sermon stated that with "so many individuals from a Muslim background involved in such crimes, we have a responsibility to condemn this. We wholeheartedly condemn the disgraceful actions of those involved in these cases and welcome the convictions in the cases that have been through the courts."
Organisers say it is the first time so many imams have given the same sermon to thousands of worshippers. But some have claimed that gangs convicted of grooming young girls are disproportionately linked to Asian Muslim men.
So how big a problem is grooming in Britain?
Figures are a bit patchy but a study by the Children's Commissioner found there were 2,400 victims in the 14 months up to October 2011.That number could be much higher now.
The report also identified 16,500 children who were said to be "at high risk of sexual exploitation" in 2010 and 2011.
A different study done in 2011 looked at 2,300 potential offenders who had been caught grooming. Of the 940 whose race could be identified, 26 percent were Asian, while 38 percent were white.
The most recent conviction was in Oxford on Thursday, where seven men were convicted for raping, torturing and abusing girls as young as 11 that resulted in five of the men sentenced to life in prison.
How big a problem is grooming in the UK? Could a sermon make a difference in addressing this practice? Or does the issue need a broader approach?
Inside Story, with presenter David Foster, discusses with guests: Julie Siddiqi, the executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain. She helped set up the case.org.uk website, a Muslim community based initiative to start the dialogue on grooming and sexual exploitation of children. We also speak to Monawar Hussain, the founder of the Oxford Foundation and the first imam to be hired at Eton College.
"We are not making this an issue of religion either, I think what we are saying today is that the sermons are being done in mosques today is just part of a wider campaign and actually all of us recognise that sexual exploitation of children ... and the way they were failed by everyone and anyone around them it seems, is a massive issue for all of us."
- Julie Siddiqi, the executive director of the Islamic Society of Britain
Source: Al Jazeera