Sexual Abuse in Islamic Schools Can't Be Stopped Out of Fear of Terrorists

Ugly, horrifying and the worst part of it is that the authorities can't even step the sexual abuse of children by Islamic educational figures out of fear of Islamic terrorism.

Kausar Parveen struggles through tears as she remembers the blood-soaked pants of her 9-year-old son, raped by a religious cleric. Each time she begins to speak, she stops, swallows hard, wipes her tears and begins again.

The boy had studied for a year at a nearby Islamic school in the town of Kehrore Pakka. In the blistering heat of late April, in the grimy two-room Islamic madrassa, he awoke one night to find his teacher lying beside him.

Islamic sexual abuse though is tragically much bigger than one scared boy.

Sexual abuse is a pervasive and longstanding problem at madrassas in Pakistan, an AP investigation has found, from the sunbaked mud villages deep in its rural areas to the heart of its teeming cities. But in a culture where clerics are powerful and sexual abuse is a taboo subject, it is seldom discussed or even acknowledged in public.

It is even more seldom prosecuted. Police are often paid off not to pursue justice against clerics, victims' families say. And cases rarely make it past the courts, because Pakistan's legal system allows the victim's family to "forgive" the offender and accept what is often referred to as "blood money."

The fear of clerics and the militant religious organizations that sometimes support them came through clearly. One senior official in a ministry tasked with registering these cases says many madrassas are "infested" with sexual abuse. The official asked to remain anonymous for fear of retribution; he has been a target of suicide attacks because of his hard position against militant groups.

"There are thousands of incidences of sexual abuse in the madrassas," he says. "This thing is very common, that this is happening."

Pakistan's clerics close ranks when the madrassa system is too closely scrutinized, he says. Among the weapons they use to frighten their critics is a controversial blasphemy law that carries a death penalty in the case of a conviction.

"This is not a small thing here in Pakistan — I am scared of them and what they can do," the official says. "I am not sure what it will take to expose the extent of it. It's very dangerous to even try."

His assessment was echoed by another senior official, a former minister who says sexual abuse in madrassas happens all the time. He also doesn't want his name used because he too has survived suicide bombings due to his stance on militants.

"That's a very dangerous topic," he says.

And yes, Islamic activists will rally to support child molesters.

The fear of clerics was evident at the courthouse in Kehrore Pakka, where the former teacher of Parveen's son waited his turn to go before a judge. A half dozen members of the radical Sunni militant organization Sipah-e-Sahabah were there to support the teacher.

...

The madrassa where Maqsood's brother went, with more than 250 students, has a reputation in the neighborhood for abuse. Two women with their heads covered hurry past, stopping briefly to warn a young Pakistani woman, "Don't bring your children to that madrassa. It is very bad what they do to the children there."

A sign for the madrassa is emblazoned with the flag of a Taliban-affiliated group.

...

Parveen, the mother of the 9-year-old boy who says he was raped by his teacher in Kehrore Pakka, vowed that she would never give in to intimidation. But relatives and neighbors say the family was hounded by religious militants to drop the charges and take money.

In the end, the mother "forgave" the cleric and accepted $300, according to police.

The cleric was set free.

Nothing to do with Islam. Of course.

It couldn't be that Mohammed's example or the general legitimization of rape in Islam could have anything to do with all this.

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