The former shadow minister for Women and Equalities made headlines when she spoke out after 17 men of Asian backgrounds were convicted of offences related to child sexual exploitation in a series of trials.
In an August 2017 column for The Sun newspaper, titled ‘British Pakistani men ARE raping and exploiting white girls — it's time we faced up to it', Champion highlighted the "common ethnic heritage" of the abusers, and warned citizens and authorities alike failed to tell the truth about child abuse due to fears of being labelled racist.
"Britain has a problem with British Pakistani men raping and exploiting white girls. There. I said it. Does that make me a racist? Or am I just prepared to call out this horrifying problem for what it is? For too long we've ignored the race of these abusers and, worse, tried to cover it up. No more. We have to have grown-up conversations, however unpalatable, or in six months' time we will be having this same scenario all over again. The irony of all of this is that, by not dealing with the ethnicity of the abusers as a fact, political correctness has actually made the situation about race," she wrote.
Fittingly, her comments led to accusations of "industrial-scale racism" and "inciting and inviting hatred against minorities" from activist charity Just Yorkshire.
"Either Sarah Champion has been deliberately reckless in her comments published in the Sun, or worse she has through her actions compromised the very voices of victims she claims to champion — by making grooming an issue of race rather than the systemic abuse of vulnerable children and young people the state failed," the group said in a statement.
Whether accurate or not, Champion has allegedly received a flurry of death threats ever since, forcing Scotland Yard's counterterrorism unity to increase her security risk level, and advise her to accept extra protection.
South Yorkshire council's former deputy leader Jahangir Akhtar has reportedly labelled Miss Champion an "ogre" in correspondence seen by The Times newspaper, and warned "if Labour wants to keep her seat, they need to get rid of her pretty quick". Momentum supporter Taiba Yasseen is seen as a potential successor — she has publicly criticized Champion for "betraying an entire ethnic group".
Yasseen was shunted from the Rotherham council cabinet in May for undisclosed reasons, although supporters of Champion claim it was prompted by concerns she was trying to discredit the MP for her own ends.
While Champion's comments have proven highly controversial, and most unwelcome to her Muslim constituents, Rotherham was home to the "biggest child protection scandal" in UK history, with organized child sexual abuse continuing almost unchallenged by legal authorities from the late 1980s to the early 2010s, with up to 1,400 children affected. The abuse included gang rape, forcing children to watch rape, dousing victims with petrol and threatening to set them on fire, threatening to rape victims' mothers and younger sisters, and trafficking them to other towns. Several victims also became pregnant —one aged 12.
However, prior to the case making national headlines, the town had never been publicly associated with organized child abuse — although local government agencies there knew about local grooming gangs as early as 1996, when Rotherham council conducted an investigation into organized grooming. Its resultant report identified most perpetrators as Pakistani Muslim men — Kurdish Muslims and Kosovan Muslims were also acknowledged to be responsible.
A 2013 independent inquiry attributed official failure to address abuse in Rotherham to a number of factors relating to race, class and gender. These included contemptuous and sexist attitudes toward mostly working-class victims, fear perpetrators' ethnicity would trigger allegations of racism and damage community relations, the Labour council's reluctance to challenge a predominantly Labour-voting ethnic minority, and a desire to protect the town's reputation.
Peter McLoughlin, author of the 2014 book Easy Meat, has noted one of the "defining features" of grooming is the ethnic/cultural homogeneity of the gangs, and the refusal of members of their community to speak out about or condemn their behaviour. Moreover, gangs are typically made up of brothers, and/or members of an extended family, who all take part in the grooming and/or rape of young girls.
"In Britain, sexual abuse of children mostly involves white men — but the UK is 90 percent white. With grooming gangs, the prevalence of Muslims is so out of proportion with their numbers in Britain, ethnicity becomes highly significant. This reality must be addressed first and foremost when dealing with this crime. Islamic backgrounds dominate the profiles of ‘localized groomers', suggesting Muslim culture finds this crime far more acceptable than do other ethnicities in Britain," the author previously told Sputnik.