Claims that ethnicity was not a factor in the Rochdale sexual grooming case are "fatuous", the head of the equalities watchdog has said.
Trevor Phillips, the chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, said the fact that the men convicted were Asian and their victims white could not be ignored.
He expressed concern that the men came from closed communities which may have turned a blind eye to what was happening - either out of fear or because the girls concerned were from a different community.
And he said it would be a national scandal if it turned out the authorities had failed to intervene to protect the children because of fears that it would lead to the "demonisation" of the Asian community.
A gang of nine Asian men was last week found guilty of plying girls as young as 13 with drink and drugs so they could "pass them around" and use them for sex.
Following the trial at Liverpool Crown Court, Greater Manchester Police sought to play down suggestions of any racial element to the case.
However Mr Phillips told BBC1's The Andrew Marr Show: "Anybody who says that the fact that most of the men are Asian and most of the children are white is not relevant - that's just fatuous.
"These are closed communities essentially and I worry that in these communities there are people who knew what was going on and didn't say anything, either because they're frightened or because they're so separated from the rest of the communities they think 'Oh, that's just how white people let their children carry on. We don't need to do anything.'"
He said it was important also that the role played by the authorities in the area was properly investigated.
"If anybody in any of the agencies that are supposed to be caring for these children - schools, social services and so on - took the view that being aggressively interventionalist to save these children would lead to the demonisation of some group because of the ethnicity ... then it is a national scandal and something that would need to be dealt with urgently," he said.