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Madrassa children ‘at risk of abuse’

By Alexandra Blair
The Times
March 22, 2006

UP TO 100,000 Muslim children studying in Britain’s madrassas are at “significant risk” of physical or sexual abuse, according to the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

In an appeal today for a national register of the country’s 700 mosque schools, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, its leader, will say that local imams are not taking their duty to protect children seriously and are exposing young girls and boys to lasting damage.

Failure to tackle this taboo and implement a transparent, co-ordinated child protection scheme could leave the community open to “an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals” similar to those of the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s.

The move came after it emerged that up to 40 per cent of teachers in madrassas hit or scold their children, between 15 and 20 cases of sex abuse occur each year, and that many imams were unaware of their legal duties. Madrassas are largely unregulated after-school clubs run by mosques, to teach children about the Koran and how to speak Arabic. Although they are obliged to follow the laws set down by the Children Act 1989, no single body such as Ofsted monitors their performance and they are accountable to no one. Some madrassas educate up to 500 children.

Dr Siddiqui will call today for the Government to help madrassas to give better protection. Tales of children having their heads beaten against the wall for not working properly are commonplace, he says, and few imams recognise the need to be accountable.

While he makes an attack in his report on the culture of many madrassas, he also criticises town councils and police, saying: “It is not acceptable for local authorities and the police not to take this challenge seriously for fear of being accused of cultural insensitivities.” Ignoring abuse put thousands of children at risk, he added.





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