Students beaten, abused in some British madrassas: studyDecember 10th, 2008 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS
London, Dec 10 (IANS) Children studying in some madrassas in Britain are being regularly beaten and abused by their teachers, according to a study by an imam.Irfan Chisti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs, has compiled a report based on interviews with victims in some madrassas in north England.
The Times newspaper, which has also conducted its own investigation, said: “While there is no hard evidence to indicate how many are involved in the physical abuse of children, The Times has uncovered a disturbing pattern in one town - Rochdale - through interviews with mainstream school teachers, Muslim parents and the children themselves.”
Both reports suggest that children are regularly slapped, punched and had their ears twisted. One student was “picked up by one leg and spun around” while another said a madrassa teacher was “kicking in my head - like a football”.
One woman told The Times that her niece Hiba, 7, was slapped across the face so hard by her madrassa teacher that her ear was cut. It later became inflamed and she had to have emergency medical treatment. “I have absolutely no respect for religious teachers who behave like this.”
Nearly 1,600 madrassas exist in Britain, teaching Arabic and the Koran on weekday evenings to about 200,000 children aged from four to their mid-teens.
Imam Chishti, now a religious education teacher who runs the Light of Islam Academy in Rochdale, said that part of the problem was that some madrassa teachers were ignorant of the British law. Corporal punishment was banned in state schools in 1986 and in all schools in 1998.
Another aspect is parents’ refusal to take up abuse issues with the madrassas.
In Rochdale, primary school head teachers have asked social services to investigate complaints of physical abuse in madrassas. But the victims’ parents refused to press charges either because they felt that physical abuse was normal practice or they feared being ostracised by their community.
Yet another problem is that madrassas and similar religious classes are not subject to any regulation nor are their teachers required to be vetted by the Criminal Records Bureau. Many madrassas are not even known to the authorities because they are run on an ad hoc basis by people in their own living rooms.
The Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) - a government approved organisation established in 2006 - has set up a minimum standard for mosques which includes guidelines to safeguard child welfare. However, membership is purely voluntary and Minab was yet to recruit a single mosque.
Minister for Community Cohesion Sadiq Khan said: “We need to have religious leaders saying in clear and religious messages that it’s unacceptable and that there’s no place in Islam for child abuse. It’s pure village culture mentality. Everybody should expose this.”
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