LONDON - Muslims across Britain heard a sermon on Friday urging them to help prevent a recurrence of recent high-profile crimes such as organized child rape and the gruesome murder of a soldier in London, which have put their community in the spotlight.
Congregations in around 500 mosques heard the sermon arguing that Muslims must speak out following the conviction of men of Pakistani and east African origin on Thursday for running a child sex ring in the city of Oxford.
The case, where seven men were convicted of offenses including child rape or sexual activity with children, followed others in Derby, Rochdale and Telford in which Muslim men, usually from Pakistani and South Asian backgrounds, were found guilty of 'grooming', or luring children into sex rings.
The murder of soldier Lee Rigby outside London's Woolwich barracks last month, which is being treated as terrorism, has prompted a series of demonstrations against Islam and a rise in Islamophobic attacks, including suspected arson at an Islamic center in London.
"The combination of publicity from a number of these cases hitting the headlines in a short space of time and the fallout from the Woolwich case will create a major challenge for the Muslim community," the sermon read.
"With so many individuals from a Muslim background involved in such crimes, we have a responsibility to condemn this," congregations heard, as they were encouraged to take action to prevent such acts.