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Abuse widespread in Islamic schools, says Muslim leader

By Jonathan Petre, Religion Correspondent

A respected Muslim leader has called for tougher regulations to tackle "widespread" child abuse in Islamic religious schools.

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, the head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said yesterday that the 700 or so madrassas in Britain were "outside the law".

He was speaking at the launch of a report about the dangers facing some of the 100,000 children who attend the institutions, which are usually attached to mosques and are the Islamic equivalents of Sunday schools.

The Department for Education said that the madrassas were already covered by legislation requiring employers to vet anyone who works closely with children.

But Dr Siddiqui, who co-authored the report, voiced his concern that madrassas were not always subject to proper supervision.

He warned that the Muslim community could follow churches in facing an avalanche of abuse claims.

The Roman Catholic Church was forced to set up its own national child protection system after a series of damaging cases in the 1990s.

"Our understanding is that physical abuse is widespread," Dr Siddiqui told Radio 4's Today programme. "We would like to see mosques and madrassas come into contact with local authorities and police, and put together guidelines.

"And [we would like to see] the teachers trained and parents and children involved, and they are told what their rights are if ever an allegation is made.

"At the moment all these schools are outside the law; nobody actually knows what is happening. It's not good for these institutions, it's not good for the children."

Diana Sutton of the head of policy and public affairs at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children also expressed alarm that madrassas appeared to be operating outside the law.




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