Jack Straw was rounded on today after accusing some Pakistani men of preying on white girls because they are seen as 'easy meat'.
The former Home Secretary claimed there was a 'specific problem' with Pakistani men after two Asians were jailed for targeting vulnerable teenagers.
Mr Straw suggested young Pakistanis deliberately look for white girls and urged the Pakistani community to be 'more open' about the issue.
Muslim groups condemned the suggestion of a general problem as 'deeply offensive' and another senior Labour MP cautioned against stereotyping.
Abid Saddique and Mohammed Liaqat led a gang who brought a 'reign of terror' to Derby as they groomed young girls for horrific sexual abuses.
Saddique, 27, was jailed for at least 11 years and Liaqat, 28, for at least eight at Nottingham Crown Court yesterday.
The pair, who were both married fathers, cruised Derby's streets for victims while their unsuspecting families waited at home for them.
According to research this week, there have been 17 prosecutions of on-street grooming of girls involving at least two men since 1997.
From a total of 56 convictions, 53 of the defendants were Asian and the other three white. But the judge in this latest case ruled out race as a factor.
Judge Head told the duo: 'I have concluded that your overwhelming aim was to secure as much sex as possible.'
But Mr Straw said: 'There is a specific problem which involves Pakistani heritage men... who target vulnerable young white girls.
'We need to get the Pakistani community to think much more clearly about why this is going on and to be more open about the problems that are leading to a number of Pakistani heritage men thinking it is OK to target white girls in this way.'
The MP for Blackburn, who stood down front frontline politics last year, said: 'These young men are in a western society, in any event, they act like any other young men, they're fizzing and popping with testosterone, they want some outlet for that, but Pakistani heritage girls are off-limits and they are expected to marry a Pakistani girl from Pakistan, typically.
'So they then seek other avenues and they see these young women, white girls who are vulnerable, some of them in care... who they think are easy meat.
'And because they're vulnerable they ply them with gifts, they give them drugs, and then of course they're trapped.'
Fellow Labour MP Keith Vaz, who is friends with Mr Straw, insisted it was wrong to 'stereotype a whole community' and condemned him for suddenly coming up with the claims.
'I disagree with Jack Straw,' he said. 'I have a lot of Pakistanis in my constituency, so does Jack Straw. I don't think this is a cultural problem.
'One can accept the evidence that is put before us about patterns of networks but to go that step further is pretty dangerous.
'Why didn't Jack Straw say something about this? He has represented Blackburn for 31 years, he has been the Home Secretary.'
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim organisation in the UK, added: 'These are criminal matters and should be seen in this way.
'No community or faith ever sanctions these evil crimes and to suggest that this is somehow ingrained in the community is deeply offensive.
'I urge all engaged in this debate to do so with tolerance, honesty and, above all, based on evidence and not prejudiced positions.'
Barnardo's chief executive Martin Narey said street grooming was 'probably happening in most towns and cities' and was not confined to the Pakistani community.
'I certainly don't think this is a Pakistani thing. My staff would say that there is an over-representation of people from minority ethnic groups - Afghans, people from Arabic nations - but it's not just one nation.'
look how far this goes back