THE conviction this month of a Manchester Imam who beat an 11-year-old boy with a mop handle for talking during a lesson at a mosque, serves as a timely reminder of the dangers children face in Islamic institutions both in the UK and abroad.
Guhlam Mustapha Hazarvi, 42, dragged the frightened boy into the corner of a classroom and beat him. The boy, according to a report in the Manchester Evening News, suffered “horrific” bruising following the assault at the Newton Street mosque, off Penny Meadow, Ashton-under-Lyne.
During a lesson in May, the boy’s friend leant over and asked him to help with a word he couldn’t understand. The innocent chatter sent Hazarvi into a rage.
Jon Savage, prosecuting at Hazarvi’s trial, said: “He took exception and grabbed the boy by the collar, dragging him into the corner. He hit him with the stick several times.
Hazarvi admitted assault causing actual bodily harm at Bolton Crown Court.
After learning Hazarvi had remained in place at the mosque, Judge Brian Appleby told him:
If this was a school you would be out of a job, however, in actual fact, the community have stood by you. The boy was in your care and you were his teacher. You have not put forward the cultural excuse that you were able to reprimand the child in this way. Under English law you cannot.
The judge said that Hazarvi could be jailed for the offence but decided to sentence him to a 12-month community order with six months supervision and ordered him to carry out 80 hours unpaid work.
In March, 2006, it was widely reported in the UK media that up to 100,000 Muslim children studying in Britain’s madrassas were at “significant risk” of physical or sexual abuse.
According to the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, imams were not taking their duty to protect children seriously and were exposing young girls and boys to lasting damage.
It said that failure to tackle this taboo and implement a transparent, co-ordinated child protection scheme could leave the community open to “an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals” similar to those of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s.
The MPGB reveraled that up to 40 per cent of teachers in madrassas hit or scold their children and that between 15 and 20 cases of sex abuse occur each year.
Madrassas are largely unregulated after-school clubs run by mosques, to teach children about the Koran and how to speak Arabic. Although they are obliged to follow the laws set down by the Children Act 1989, no single body such as Ofsted monitors their performance and they are accountable to no one. Some madrassas educate up to 500 children.
In December, 2004, A Pakistani government minister invoked the wrath of Muslim clerics when he revealed that hundreds of cases of child sex abuse occur each year at Islamic schools.
According to a BBC report, in 2004, there were 500 complaints of abuse committed by clerics, Aamer Liaquat Hussain, a minister in the religious affairs department, said.
Mr Hussain said he had received death threats from clerics after he exposed the scandal, but that he had done his job and his conscience was clear. He added:
The time has come for his country to face the bitter truth – the sickness of child abuse.