Yet Another Confirmed Case Of Sexual Abuse In The Islamic Schools Of PakistanIslamic schools in Pakistan plagued by sex abuse of children
By KATHY GANNON, AP
Nov. 22, 2017
KEHRORE PAKKA, Pakistan (AP) — 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.“I didn’t move. I was afraid,” he says.The cleric lifted the boy’s long tunic-style shirt over his head, and then pulled down his baggy pants.
“I was crying. He was hurting me. He shoved my shirt in my mouth,” the boy says, using his scarf to show how the cleric tried to stifle his cries. He looks over at his mother. “Did he touch you?’” He nods. “Did he hurt you when he touched you?” ″Yes,” he whispers.“Did he rape you?” He buries his face in his scarf and nods yes.Parveen reaches over and grabs her son, pulling him toward her, cradling his head in her lap. This is one consequence when the govt outsources child education to madrassahs !
The AP found hundreds of cases of sexual abuse by clerics reported in the past decade, and officials suspect there are many more within a far-reaching system that teaches at least 2 million children in Pakistan. The investigation was based on police documents and dozens of interviews with victims, relatives, former and current ministers, aid groups and religious officials. 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.
He compares the situation to the abuse of children by priests in the Catholic Church.“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.” The Mullahs are well entrenched in all sectors of Paki society, well into the corridors of power . It is not easily to dislodge them now , as they can throw the blasphemy charges against their opponents !
In 2004, a Pakistani official disclosed more than 500 complaints of sexual assaults against young boys in madrassas. He has since refused to talk, and there have been no significant arrests or prosecutions.Religious Affairs Minister Sardar Muhammad Yousaf dismisses the suggestion that sexual abuse is widespread, saying such talk is an attempt to malign the religion, seminaries and clerics. He says he was not aware of even the cases reported in the newspapers, but that it could occur occasionally ’because there are criminals everywhere.” Yousaf says the reform and control of madrassas is the job of the interior ministry. The Interior Ministry, which oversees madrassas, refused repeated written and telephone requests for an interview.
The case of Parveen’s son was one of at least three within a month in the towns of Kehrore Pakka and Rajanpur in Punjab province’s deep south, according to police reports. Another incident involved the drugging and gang rape of a 12-year-old boy asleep on his madrassa rooftop by former students. And the third was of a 10-year-old boy sodomized by the madrassa principal when he brought him his meal. The cleric threatened to kill the boy if he told. The AP is not naming the children because they are victims of sexual abuse.
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 teacher had already confessed, according to police, and the police report said he was found with the boy. Yet he swore his innocence in court.“I am married,” he said. “My wife is pretty, why would I do this to a kid?” Taqqiya
There are more than 22,000 registered madrassas or Islamic schools in Pakistan. The students they teach are often among the country’s poorest, who receive food and an education for free.
Madrassas are funded by wealthy business people, religious political parties and even donors from other countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The teachings of the madrassas are guided by schools of Islamic thought, such as Shiite and Sunni.However, unlike the Catholic Church, which has a clear hierarchy topped by the Vatican, there is no central religious authority that governs madrassas. There is also no central body that investigates or responds to allegations in religious schools.
In south Punjab, a cleric was convicted of sexually assaulting a minor girl in 2016 and sentenced to 12 years in prison and the equivalent of a $1,500 fine. The same cleric had in the past managed to get several families to settle over sexual abuse cases because of his close links to religious extremist groups, said local officials. This time, a local activist group known as Roshan Pakistan, or Bright Pakistan, persuaded the family of the young girl to resist.Far more often, the family gives in, as in the case of a 9-year-old girl who was raped by the maulvi of the unregistered madrassa she attended, according to a police report.Her uncle, Mohammed Azam, points across a field to the madrassa, surrounded by a high wall. The girl started working two years ago, at 7, and her only schooling was in the Quran. She spent the rest of the day sitting cross-legged on a mud floor inside a swelteringly hot room sewing the traditional shalwar kameez.Last July, a cleric “forcibly took her shalwar off and started molesting her,” according to the police report obtained by the AP. She screamed. Two men heard her screams and stormed into the room, and found the cleric attacking her. Seeing them, the cleric fled, and the men took the bleeding girl home, the report said.
“We would hear that these kinds of things happen, children raped in the madrassas, but you never know until it happens to your family,” says Azam, her uncle.
Yet the family settled the case out of court. He refused to say how much money they got, but neighbors say it was around $800.
“The family took money to not speak about it,” says Rana Mohammed Jamal, an elderly neighbor. He says he believes abuses occurred predominantly in the small madrassas that spring up in poor neighborhoods, “where it is just the mullah and no one can say who he is, and he can do anything.”
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. To jail a cleric in Islamic Pakistan, and for this kind of a crime, is too too dangerous for the "system"