Home Secretary Sajid Javid has defended highlighting the ethnicity of some grooming gangs.
The home secretary faced criticism for a tweet earlier this year referring to “sick Asian paedophiles”.
But speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today, Mr Javid – who has Pakistani heritage – said that ignoring the ethnicity of abusers gives “oxygen” to extremists.
He said he wanted officials researching the causes of gang-based exploitation to leave “no stone unturned”.
Asked by the British-Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie, who was guest-editing the Today programme, whether he was concerned that his comments may have fuelled hate crimes, he said he was “very much aware of the need for politicians to be careful with their language”.
But Sajid Javid said: “When it comes to gang-based child exploitation it is self-evident to anyone who cares to look that if you look at all the recent high-profile cases there is a high proportion of men that have Pakistani heritage.”
Grooming gangs have recently been convicted in Huddersfield, Oxford, and Rotherham.
Mr Javid said: “There could be – I’m not saying that there are – there could be some cultural reasons from the communities that these men came from that could lead to this kind of behaviour.”
The home secretary has ordered research into the “characteristics and contexts” of gangs abusing children, arguing that ignoring issues such as ethnicity is more likely to fuel the far-right.
Sajid Javid said: “When I’m asking my officials to go away and do research to look into the causes of gang-based child exploitation, then I want them to leave no stone unturned and to look at everything.
“For me to rule something out just because it would be considered sensitive would be wrong.
“If I had ignored it, or been seen to ignore it, that is exactly what I think extremists would like to see in this country. It would give them oxygen and I refuse to do that.”
Mr Javid was also asked about the decision to strip some offenders with dual citizenship of their British nationality and deport them to Pakistan, where there is no sex offenders’ register and they may abuse more victims.
He said there was a “very high bar” on such decisions, which were usually only taken in cases of terrorism.
Sajid Javid said: “I’m the British home secretary and my job is to protect the British public, to do what I think is right to protect the British public. That’s my number one job.”