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A call to protect Madrasa-goers from abuse

By Safaa Nhairy
The Muslim Weekly

A report released this week by the Muslim Parliament of Britain breaks the taboo

A report released this week by The Muslim Parliament suggests that child abuse does exist in UK madrasas and urges the Government to establish a national registration scheme for madrasas to meet their legal obligations under The Children Act 1989.

The report highlights that protecting children from harm is a legal obligation for all those who deal with children in any capacity - in schools or mosques - and that it is their responsibility to promote children’s welfare and protect them from harm. It suggests ways in which mosque committees can achieve this and makes recommendations on how to develop guidance on formulating child protection procedures for madrasas.

In Britain, there are about 700 madrasas and some have over 500 children attending them. The report states that 100,000 children do not have appropriate legal protection and that in madrasas, up to 40% hit or scold their pupils and that 15 to 20 cases of sex abuse are recorded per year.

Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, co-author of the report and head of the Muslim Parliament , said that child abuse existed in all societies - and that it would be naïve of Muslim communities to think it did not affect them. The Muslim Parliament believes that this in faith-based environments report ‘breaks the taboo in order to make all concerned in the community realize that sweeping the subject under the carpet is not the solution.’

But Imam Abdul-Qayyum of East London mosque said: "If some particular case happens, we must deal with this straight away before making any kind of statement which will give a negative impact to that mosque and the Muslim community since it could be unfair because to our knowledge this does not take place in general in any mosque and the Muslim community and it could be unfair."

He suggests that if any case of child abuse takes place, it should be reported in two ways, either through the mosque committee or the scholars. He explains that the UK law protects everyone.

In response to the report released on Wednesday 22 March 2006, NSPCC, National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, welcomes the call from the Muslim Parliament to have a debate which helps faith-based communities "keep children safe from cruelty".

Diana Sutton, head of policy and public affairs, said: "We are concerned that madrasas are not required to follow the same child protection procedures as schools and other statutory bodies. The Government must require them and other faith groups to put safeguarding policies in place and ensure that these are rigorously enforced."

Anne Cryer Member of Parliament for Keighley says: "Madrasas are no different to any other organisation that works with children - CRB checks and child protection procedures must be in place."

She adds: "Failing to protect the children in madrasas because of 'cultural sensitivities' is nonsense. Are we saying that British Asian children are not entitled to the protection of the law? It is racist to differentiate between children and to fail to offer that protection."

Imam Abdul-Qayyum explains that the child abuse in madrasas debate is "created to divide the Muslim community and humiliate the Muslim community unnecessarily."

The report is a result of a seminar held on 8 January, 2005, at the Ilford Islamic Day Care and Community Centre, Essex, on ‘Child Protection in a Faith-based Environment,’ in which several speakers participated. The discussion following the debate made clear that most Madrasa teachers were not aware of their legal obligations for a need of a policy document.





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