The names of seventeen men and one woman who have been found guilty of grooming vulnerable women and girls in Newcastle:

Mohammed Azram, 35 of Croydon Road, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, sexual assault, supplying drugs to a victim
Jahanghir Zaman, 43 of Hadrian Road, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape, supplying drugs to a victim
Nashir Uddin, 35 of Joan Street, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Saiful Islam, 34 of Strathmore Crescent, convicted of rape. Jailed for 10 years
Mohammed Hassan Ali, 33 of Bentinck Street, convicted of sexual activity with a child, supplying drugs to a victim. Jailed for seven years
Yasser Hussain, 27 of Canning Street, convicted of beating, possession of drugs. Jailed for two years
Abdul Sabe, 40 of Dean House, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation, drugs offences
Habibur Rahim, 34 of Kenilworth Road, convicted of causing or inciting prostitution, drugs, sexual assault, trafficking within the UK for sexual exploitation
Badrul Hussain, 37 of Drybeck Court, convicted of drug offences
Mohibur Rahman, 44 of Northcote Street, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Abdulhamid Minoyee, 33 of Gainsborough Grove, convicted of rape, sexual assault, supply of drugs
Carolann Gallon, 22 of Hareside Court, pleaded guilty to three counts of trafficking
Monjour Choudhury, 33 of Phillip Place, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Prabhat Nelli, 33 of Sidney Grove, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim
Eisa Mousavi, 41 of Todds Nook, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, rape, supplying drugs to a victim
Taherul Alam, 32 of Normanton Terrace, convicted of conspiracy to incite prostitution, supplying drugs to a victim, attempted sexual assault
Nadeem Aslam, 43 of Belle Grove West, convicted of supplying drugs to victims
Redwan Siddquee, 32 of West Road, pleaded guilty to causing or inciting prostitution, supply or offering to supply a class B drug

You can read for yourself what these sick perverts did to young girls as young as 13 but, according to a large number of callers to the Radio Five Live phone in I am listening to, there is no need to mention the ethnicity or the religion of the perpetrators. Apparently, there are issues relating to cultural matters. Really? What sort of culture promotes rape, human trafficking, the incitement of prostitution and drug supply?

I read that the men are from a “wide variety of backgrounds”, which include Bangladeshi, Pakistani, Indian, Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish. Unless I am very much mistaken, this “wide variety of backgrounds” covers Muslim men from mainly Muslim countries. It is unlikely that this is a coincidence.

Apparently, we should not refer to the religion of these men because they are simply criminals. I would be able to see that argument if this was a one-off incident involving Muslim men, but it isn’t. The concerning aspect is that whilst the men involved are in a minority, it’s a worryingly high minority.

What good does it to pretend there is not a problem with a certain group of men within the Muslim religion, because there plainly is? If a Roman Catholic priest buggers young boys, we don’t ignore his religion for fear if upsetting other Catholics, do we? If there is an issue, then we deal with it. Appeasement doesn’t work.

I am not anti-Muslim as such, although I do regard it as a bigger problem than other religions. Most Muslims are peace-loving people who work hard and play by the rules. We should be no more reluctant to acknowledge that fact than to express our concerns about the ones who don’t. In fact, I argue for a secular society in which everyone is free to preach their own religion and everyone else is free to not believe in any religion. As long as the devout do not affect in any way the way in which I live my life, I don’t care what they do within the privacy of their own four walls or their church/mosque/synagogue/temple. But I do care about granting privilege to people of faith.

Look at our gutless reaction to the Muslim outrage concerning the publication of Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses? Even the likes of Norman Tebbit condemned Rushdie for having the brass neck to write a work of fiction which offended Muslims. Well, hang on. In a free and open society, a secular society, no one is beyond criticism, no one is beyond ridicule or satire. Charlie Hebdo is the price we pay for freedom. No one should try to take it away in any way.

I do not know why certain groups of men feel the need to abuse girls and women in the way these Newcastle men did. Is it, in any way, a matter of sexual frustration and oppression, given the nature of the religions they follow? Catholic priests are supposed to be celibate, something I regard as wholly unnatural. Who finds the prospect of a life of abstention from sex and alcohol, for example, an attractive proposition? Okay, some will, fair enough, but if you are forced to behave in a certain way, could it not affect your emotional feelings? We don’t seem to be able to discuss this, but isn’t it a fair question?

Neither do I look at every Muslim man and think, “Oh, he’s bound to be a paedophile who grooms young girls for sexual purposes.” That would be silly. Some of my best friends aren’t Muslims, but I have known a few over the years and whilst I do find their religion bizarre (to be fair I find all religious belief bizarre, but some more than most) they were “normal” enough, whatever normal is, and happy, content and peaceful. Clearly there is a small but significant minority who act outside acceptable guidelines. What, I repeat, is the point in pretending that their religion is irrelevant? A group of British Asian men, who are Muslims, have committed awful crimes on an industrial scale.

If there is an issue with people who rape young girls and women, involve themselves in human trafficking, lure them into prostitution and supply them with illegal drugs, then let’s address it. Don’t tar all Muslims with the same brush but let’s deal with the bad ones.