One of my daily rituals is to go for a short walk to the local park, adjacent to my house. The Werneth Park is part of Oldham’s historical legacy; it used to be the property and residence of Dame Sarah Lees, one of Oldham’s celebrated philanthropist and industrialist politicians. In 1920, Dame Sarah Lees became the first female mayor of Oldham, only the second woman in England to hold such a position. An inscription on one of the memorial fountains situated in the centre of the park aptly summarises her life and work: ‘Dame Sarah Lees – trusted God and served its people’. The Park now attracts a wide range of people, from elderly Muslim women doing light exercises, dog-walkers, to children playing on the swings. The neighbourhood has also, over more recent years, become home to affluent Muslim communities.
On a summer’s day last year, I entered the park and saw a group of young Muslim men, in their early to late twenties. One of them was listening to hip hop music on loud-speaker, while his friends were pre-occupied, watching something on a phone. What they were watching clearly excited them. As I walked closer to the group, their ‘enjoyment’ grew increasinly loud and rowdy. The sociologist in me was intrigued to find out what they were watching. Judging by their verbal exchange and the references they made to the female anatomy, it became apparent that they were viewing pornography. As I walked past the group, one of the lads made eye contact yet continued in the banter concerning the nature and content of the mobile footage. He was unperturbed by the fact that I realised they were watching pornography.