COMMUNITY leaders in East Oxford and Cowley have spoken of their shock at the child sexual exploitation scandal which unfolded on their doorstep.

Hojjat Ramzy, director of the Cowley-based Oxford Islamic Information Centre, said members of the Muslim community still felt embarrassed about the Bullfinch revelations.

The seven men, who were of Pakistani or north African origin, were jailed for a minimum of 95 years in 2013 for grooming, abusing and prostituting six young girls, mainly in East Oxford.

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He said: “The community was completely shocked. We could not believe that some of our Muslim young brothers could be so dreadful and could do these actions.

“If they do this, they are going out of the realm of Islam. They are not Muslim anymore. It’s totally wrong in the eyes of Islam and in the eyes of the law of the United Kingdom. But of course, it could happen in any community, it is not just us.”

Dr Ramzy said after Operation Bullfinch came to light, he supported family members of the perpetrators, who were just as alarmed about the scandal.

He added: “Unfortunately the parents are victims as well. It was not their fault that their child did this.”

But he said he was shocked after hearing the Serious Case Review revealed another 367 Oxfordshire youngsters had been identified as being abused or in danger of being groomed.

He added: “Abusing a child is the most evil thing one can do. The police did not take action. They must change their tactics and believe these little girls. If they had believed these girls, this would not have happened.”

Imam Monawar Hussain, founder of The Oxford Foundation which works with vulnerable young people, said he was saddened by news of the “disgusting” child sexual exploitation cases.

The father-of-six, who has lived in Cowley for the last 25 years, said: “People could not believe that this could have happened here in our city and I think people were totally shocked. I think it has taken time for people to come to terms with what has happened.”

Imam Hussain said he believed Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire County Council had learnt from mistakes but said it was “absolutely critical” more work is done.

He added: “It’s important that they listen very carefully to the young people and don’t disregard them. Clearly this is something that is happening in our community and no one is immune from it.

“We have to do everything we can to ensure that this kind of thing does not happen.”

County councillor for St Clement’s and Cowley Marsh Jamila Azad said families in the area are still concerned no staff have been disciplined or been held accountable for neglecting the young victims.

She added: “I think it’s appalling that it was not picked up by police and social services and people who were safeguarding children.

“They should have investigated and believed the girls. They had gone missing hundreds of times and it had been reported but no action was taken.”