A renowned imam and Muslim scholar in the United States, Mohammad Abdullah Abdullah Saleem: The new face of Muslim Child MolestationClick and drag to moveSaleem, 75, the founder and the head of the Institute of Islamic Education in Chicago was charged this week with felony criminal sexual abuse of a 23-year-old administrative assistant at the school. The civil suit accuses him of abusing that employee, as well as three female students at the school as far back as the 1980s.
Disturbing but not surprising.
Unfortunately, like many other communities, child molestation by Quran teachers, so called "maulvis" and "maulanas," is an open secret within South Asian Muslim communities. It's not just against girls. It's against boys too. Last year, I recorded a long statement by a man in his forties about his sexual abuse as a child at the hand of the top leaders/teachers of his madrassa. Disgusting stuff.
In March of 2010, I wrote a blogpost, “A True Story of Child Molestation in the Muslim World”. It has been read by more than 10,000 people and has served as a place for many victims/survivors to share their stories. I have been in touch with some survivors on a personal level. Some were not reachable. Almost all of them have constantly been in pain due the behavior of their own family members after the victims revealed the abuse.
After talking with and reading the accounts of several survivors and victims, I believe that the most painful aspect of child molestation and sexual abuse of even adults is the awful treatment that the victims get from their own mothers, family members, teachers--the people they tried to confide in, the same people who were supposed to help and protect them. There are different forms of unsupportive behavior including, but not limited to, telling them to keep quiet, suggesting they forgive the molester, shaming and blaming the victim as if she/he had asked for it, etc.
I am making a lot of prayers for these brave women who have come out in Chicago, and I am so happy for them that they have finally found the right kind of professional support at The HEART Women & Girls Project. We need more of such organizations and advocates who can guide and protect our people in addressing such difficult issues regardless of their age and gender.
Indeed, sexual abuse hurts forever. It hurts more when it is not addressed once it is disclosed in public. In Saleem’s case, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, CIOGC, has played a crucial role in this regard by handling it right. Dr. Mohammad Kaiseruddin, CIOGC Chairman, has been at the forefront of leading the community in the right direction, while fulfilling the legal requirements. This is heartwarming for many of us, women advocates and activists, who have been ignored, hushed, ridiculed and labelled by the community members over the years because of our attempts to bring such matters up.
The last eight days, February 10th, 2015 to today, February 18th, 2015, have been galvanizing for the Muslim American community. The Chapel Hill shooting, the burning of Quba Islamic Center in Houston, the arrest of Mohammad Saleem and the Counter Violent Extremism Summit at the White House which seems to be focusing on Muslims only, have only brought us closer together and have made us stronger than ever before. Regardless of some confusion and disagreements about minor issues here and there, the truth is that each one of these incidents/events have only given us more opportunities to rethink and re-organize ourselves as a community that is destined to make America even stronger and better than ever before.
This week should also be remembered for the 6th anniversary of the tragic murder of our beloved Sr. Aasiya Zubair of Bridges TV Channel in Buffalo, NY. Six years ago, she became the public face of domestic violence within the American Muslim community. Her death shocked the entire community to the point that we re-organized to address the issue with more holistic approach.
The arrest of a 75-year-old, renowned scholar of one of the most conservative communities of the American Muslims is similar. It’s not only shocking but it is also eye-opening for our community. Regardless of his old age, long-white beard and the long list of high credentials, he has become the new face of the horrendous crimes known as Child Molestation and Sexual Abuse within Muslim community. This provides us with great opportunity to finally re-think and re-organize our communities to address this issue too with a holistic approach.
The least we can learn from this episode is that never again we will take our children’s safety and well being for granted. As a community we will take all precautionary measures to make our institutes and facilities safe places for our youth. As family members and friends, we will make sure that the victims get the due respect and support that they deserve from us.
For those of you who would like to join hands with us in curbing the child molestation, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org