In the media
Islamic schools in denial about child abuse
BY SADAF MEEHAN
Published: 28 March 2006
More than 100,000 children are at risk of abuse in the UK’s Islamic seminaries, according to a report published last week
The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain says that children in around 700 unregulated Islamic religious schools (or madrassas) are at risk.
Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the Muslim Parliament, said: “Sweeping the issue of child abuse in UK madrassas under the carpet is not a solution.
“If nothing is done now we may face an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals, decades afterwards, similar to those that rocked the Roman Catholic church in the 1990s.
“To protect the integrity of these institutions it is important that all madrassas put in place transparent and accountable polices and procedures,” he said.
In the report, the Muslim Parliament urges the government to establish a national registration scheme for madrassas, co-ordinated centrally and monitored by local authorities, to meet their legal obligations under The Children Act 1989.
In the introduction to the report, Dr Siddiqui writes: “The Muslim community is at present in a state of denial – denial of the fact that child abuse takes place in places of worship including in mosques, madrassas (mosque schools) and families. It is a taboo subject.
“When such a crime is committed, the victim knows no one to turn to and the abusers are answerable to no one.
“This protects the abuser and ostracises the victim. The victims of child abuse on growing up often become abusers themselves, taking their revenge on others. Taboo perpetuates the situation.”
Other Muslim groups have welcomed the Muslim Parliament’s report. Shaaz Mehboob, of Progressive British Muslims, said: “We are pleased that leaders in the Muslim community are taking the issue of potential abuse of children at madrassas seriously.
“The madrassas have, until now, largely been immune to the child protection laws primarily due to the lack of intervention by the government, which seems to fear that it would be seen to be interfering with religious matters.
“We believe that the community and local authorities should work together to ensure the safety of children at Islamic religious institutions".
The NSPCC (the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) has also spoken out in favour of regulation of madrassas.
A spokesperson said: “The NSPCC would like to see faith groups involved in the new Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCBs) arrangements in order to develop a broad-ranging, multi-agency approach.
“We are calling on the government to ensure support for faith-based communities. We urge it to include comprehensive advice in its revised Working Together document.
They also echoed the Muslim Parliament’s call for a national register of UK madrassas.
Labour MP Anne Cryer, whose constituency of Keighley has a large percentage of Muslim children, welcomed the report.
“This is a very important report. I warmly welcome it and would like to commend the Muslim Parliament for its bravery for having the courage to tackle this issue.
“I have had reports of physical abuse in madrassas in my own constituency. It is a child protection and criminal matter. It must stop.
“Madrassas are no different to any other organisation that works with children – CRB [Criminal Records Bureau] checks and child protection procedures must be in place.
“Failing to protect the children in madrassas 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.”
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