LONDON (AFP) - A sermon condemning the sexual grooming of young girls was delivered Friday at 500 mosques across Britain after a series of trials in which men predominantly of South Asian origin were convicted.
The speech highlighted how the Koran condemns all forms of sexual indecency and urged Muslims to protect children and vulnerable people in their communities.
The move follows cases in Oxford, the central English town of Telford, and Rochdale in northwest England, involving Asian men convicted of sexually abusing girls, although police chiefs have stressed that grooming is not restricted to a single ethnic or religious group.
On Thursday, seven members of a paedophile ring who forced often vulnerable girls in the university city of Oxford to have sex were jailed, five of them for life.
Five of the gang were of Pakistani origin and two were of African origin.
The sermon was organised by the not-for-profit group Together Against Grooming (TAG) and was read out by imams in around 500 mosques nationwide.
The group said the sermon was supported by leading Muslim organisations such as the Muslim Council of Britain, the Mosque and Imams National Advisory Board and the Islamic Society of Britain.
TAG spokesman Ansar Ali said: "We have been horrified by the details that have emerged from recent court cases and as Muslims we feel a natural responsibility to condemn and tackle this crime." He said the issue was "much more complicated" than simply blaming Muslim men.
"Sexual grooming and child abuse afflicts all sections of society and is perpetrated by people of all ethnic groups."
The sermon urges anyone who sees an "evil action" to act or speak out.
It was written by Alyas Karmani, an imam and youth worker in Keighley, West Yorkshire, a town with a large Muslim population.
Imam Karmani told the BBC that there was a "profound disrespect culture" in the treatment of women.
"Access to pornography, which also objectifies women, is creating a culture where men are now ambiguous when it comes to the issue of violence against women," he said.