Manchester police chief and Rochdale MP slam The Times over “sex grooming” headline

Chief Constable Ian Hopkins

Greater Manchester Police’s Chief Constable has criticised The Times newspaper after Rochdale was referred to as a “sex grooming town” following the death of an imam.

Ian Hopkins has written an open letter to the editor of The Times after an “appalling” headline in the aftermath of Jalal Uddin’s death.

The national newspapert published the headline: “Imam beaten to death in sex grooming town”, which went out on the print editions.

It was later changed online to “Imam beaten to death in Rochdale”.

Chief Con Hopkins has urged The Times to apologise, claiming the headline could have caused “community tension”.

MP Simon Danczuk
MP Simon Danczuk

Rochdale MP Simon Danczuk dubbed the headline “disgraceful and insulting”.

Chief Con Hopkins wrote: “The headline has no relevance to the horrific murder of a former imam in Rochdale.

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“GMP and community leaders have been working hard to ensure all communities in Rochdale are kept informed of efforts to bring the offender to justice.

“We have strong relationships with communities in Rochdale and I have received much feedback about the outrage that the article has caused.”

He said deaths such as Mr Uddin’s ‘have the potential to undermine community confidence’ and ‘create tension between different parts of the community’.

Addressing editors at The Times, he added: “Your headline and its irrelevance to this case has the potential to cause community tension.

“It is also offensive to the thousands of peaceful, law-abiding Muslims and non-Muslims living Rochdale, who are shocked by this murder.”

He said detectives “remain open-minded” about the circumstances surrounding Mr Uddin’s death, saying they have ‘not ruled out’ that it “may be racially motivated”.

Imam Jalal Uddin
Imam Jalal Uddin

But he added: “At this stage, we don’t have evidence to suggest it is either.”

Rochdale MP Mr Danczuk accused The Times of conflating Mr Uddin’s faith, past grooming scandals in the town, and his death.

He said: “There’s nothing, from what I’ve heard, to suggest any connection between child grooming and this death.

“This is some of the worst journalism I’ve ever seen – it’s Islamaphobic.

“They’re attempting to make a connection between his faith, naming him as a former imam, a crime that has been committed in the town, and others across the country, and his death.

“It’s absolute appalling. The Times needs to apologise – first and foremost for the sake of the victim’s family – and for the good of the people of Rochdale.

“It’s disgraceful – it’s so insulting.”

5Pillars has contacted The Times for comment.

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