Paul Sheehan’s
book Girls Like You is released tomorrow. The book concerns the Pakistani “K” brothers who sexually assaulted a
number of young girls, one of whom was from a Muslim background. The book
covers the strategies used by the boys to disrupt court proceedings. It also
discusses the victims’ awe-inspiring bravery during and following the
hearing.

The apparent
purpose of the book is to expose what Sheehan calls a “cultural time bomb” –
Muslim males sexually assaulting young girls as part of an allegedly uniform
Muslim cultural practice. The boys
claimed they committed these crimes for cultural reasons. Wajiha Ahmed, general
secretary of the Pakistan Association of Australia and herself a lawyer, was
quoted in the Daily Telegraph
immediately following the trial refuting any such suggestion. That this thesis
might prove offensive to at least one of the victims doesn’t seem to concern
Sheehan, keen to “expose” the alleged risks Muslim communities pose to Western
countries everywhere.

I managed to
get a sneak preview of the book. It wasn’t hard to find basic errors which even
the most elementary of research could have corrected. Immediately
following the cover page, Sheehan states that it is customary in
Pakistan to name all male children
“Mohammed”. I was born in Karachi, and I grew up with many Pakistani
Muslim boys. Only a minority are named “Mohammed”.

Sheehan
frequently describes Pakistan
as being part of the Middle East. A bit like
locating Israel between the
United States and
Canada. Sheehan
describes the common Pakistani dress of shalwar kameez as being an Arabised
half-sari peculiar to Pakistani
Muslims. Try telling that to the Hindu Bollywood actresses who wear the shalwar kameez all the time. Or maybe
Sheehan wasn’t watching the closing ceremony of the Commonwealth
Games.

Sheehan also
states that Urdu is the language spoken by India’s Muslims.
Had he done his research properly, he would have realised Muslims in India
speak many languages, including Punjabi and Bengali. Only a minority of
Pakistanis speak Urdu as their first language.

Trivial
errors? Maybe. But they illustrate a poorly researched work critical of a
culture Sheehan hasn’t bothered to understand. Yes, there are
Pakistani/Muslim men who sexually abuse women (Muslim or otherwise). But nothing
is achieved for victims of sexual violence by attributing violent aberrant
behaviour to an entire culture.

Peter Fray

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