ByAnonymous (Survivor of Sexual Abuse)
As a Muslim women, here are my reflections on the publication of The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). I read the executive summary today, and I became overwhelmed by the sheer scale of child sexual abuse and how those in positions of trust not only did nothing to protect the children and young people, but they in fact also went onto protecting the perpetrators on this very abuse!
Words aren’t enough to describe how angry I am right now! Words were not enough all those years ago when I tried very hard to tell someone about the inexplicable sexual abuse I suffered by members of my extended family, by my ‘molvi,’ (religious cleric) and by the many men who made sexualised comments, sexualised passing contact, sexualised looks. Not to mention the women who normalised sexualised behaviour by sweeping it under the carpet or telling me “It’s nothing.”
It is not enough for an institution like a Masjid or Madrassa, or even an Imam, Molvi, or a Pir to say, “he will be punished in the hereafter.” More needs to be done in this Dunya!
I wasn’t surprised at any of the stories I read in the report, they were harrowing and undeniably true. The truth is difficult to hear, but that should not stop anyone from telling it or stop those in hearing it.It is our duty as an Ummah to speak up and speak out against such sadistic and unforgivable acts of sexual violence against children.
I want my Muslim brothers and sisters to speak up in solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual abuse. I want to hear leaders of our faith to tell the Friday Khutba, the men and children they teach, and many who listen to their talks that no one is untouchable, regardless of their status. That anyone sexually abusing children should bereported and dealt with by the police and stripped off ‘status’ in the Muslim community and that if anyone sees a child being sexually abused or hears of rumours about anyone in a position of trust sexually abusing a child, that they should be investigated and reported. For too long institutions have turned a blind eye to ‘molvi’ and leaders of our faith.
I remember once my hijab, ‘purka’, was in the wash and still wet so I wore the scarf that matched my shalwar kameez to my masjid class. I was reading my ‘sabak’ with my group, I had my back to the ‘molvi’ and distinctively remember the ‘molvi’ got his stick (used to punish us if we read our ‘sabak’ wrong) and used it to slowly and purposely move it down my back to the tip of my bottom, then back up pausing at my waist and circling it as if to indicate to me to turn around. My body froze. My words slowed down. I stopped hearing the recitations. I felt so confused but because it was a room full of 40 plus children, I didn’t think it was anything sinister, I remember turning around and the ‘molvi’ was fixated on my face and chest. I could see him ‘raping me with his eyes’. I never forgot that feeling, and that look - I could spot a perpetrator just by the way they looked. I felt shock combined with confusion, knowing in my tummy something was very wrong about what he just did. This is a man who my parents had blindly trusted, just because he was the ‘molvi’ - an ‘educator’ who deserved respect.
How do I as a child, find the words to say to anyone what just happened, and why I felt dirty just by the look he gave me...
How do I as a child, find the words to say to anyone what just happened, and why I felt dirty just by the look he gave me, and the way his stick went down my back, my waist and stopped right at the tip of my bottom. What was sexual about that? What was it that I was implying? No words were available to explain what that was like for me. It stuck in my memory and my body reminds me of the way he touched me through flashbacks and vivid dreams.
Later, I remember being put in a class on Saturday mornings to learn surah Yaseen by heart. There were 6 to 7 of us, and I can recall how he ambushed me when I went to the toilet; I vividly recall thinking ‘no way, no way am I going to let you do what I think you want to do!’ So I pushed past him, giving him a knowing look that ‘I knew what his intentions were’…I knew what he was intending, how did I know? …because I was already being sexually abused by two family members. I couldn’t stand up to them. But I knew, my little mind knew that it was not right, and I had a similar feeling in my tummy. But I didn’t know what that was.
Years later after I stopped attending the mosque as I was now menstruating, I was moved to a lady’s house to continue my Arabic lessons. Thank Allah! However, one day, he came to our house. My mum and dad felt honoured. I wanted to hide; I didn’t want to see him. Because if he saw me, he would ‘sexually abuse me with his eyes’. I started feeling anxious. I remember mum and dad calling me to meet the ‘molvi.’ I complied in the end. Do you know what he said? He said “hello” and stared at me with a lingering gaze for what felt like ages, (one of those looks that only the abuser and victim will understand and recognise). I was taken back by this, but my response was very 'Islamic' – “assalaam o lakum”! Why did this man who was a supposed teacher of the Quran say “hello” instead of salaam. I left as quickly as I arrived. What I found out after his visit was that he told my parents he gave a young woman ‘pannha’ (a home) by accepting her in Nikkah! Basically a 45-year-old married a 17-year-old who (in his view) required a safe haven! Wtf!!!!! A paedophile I thought! Using Islam to cover his tracks! I never saw him after that day but always wondered what ever became of him. Most likely he continued and most likely escalated his stares and advances.
We need a change in how we view the molvis, pirs, and imams of Islam. They are not above the rest of us Muslims. All Muslims are created equal. Only Allah is higher. That's as simple as it is!
1. We need to believe our children when they disclose their sexual abuse!
2. We need to stop providing the Islamic teachers a throne and a power tool to do and say as they please without any form of accountability or safeguarding.
3. We need to ask questions about what and how they teach our children.
4. We need parents, guardians, and caregivers to know their Islamic and civil rights when it comes to protecting our children from perpetrators.
5. We need to live in a society where we can raise concerns of sexual abuse safely and confidently within our religious institutions and religious leaders.
6. We need to have enhanced DBS checks in place for ALL those in direct & indirect contact with children within our religious institutions. And have a robust system in place during recruitment and references.
7. We need our parents, guardians, and caregivers to request viewing DBS checks, and safeguarding processes. It's not enough to say this is the house of Allah and bad stuff won't happen. Because it does happen!
8. We need to consider the significance of ‘rumours’ / intelligence instead of implying these are lies, we need to investigate and follow process regardless.
9. We need to hold ourselves accountable and understand if there is an investigation that it is for the betterment of our children welfare.
10. We need to understand that a child may not have the right words to describe what is going on and may not be able to articulate this in a way you and I would understand.
11. We need to teach our children what is acceptable and unacceptable within the framework of Islam, and that abuse is abuse regardless of faith.
12. We need to educate our Ummah in identifying what’s right and wrong, what is appropriate and inappropriate touch, what is a good or bad feeling.
13. We need to talk openly about the institutionalised sexual abuse within our Muslim community.
14. We need the followers of Islam to know that they will be held accountable, not only by Allah, but by the Ummah too. It’s not enough to say the punishment will be given in the hereafter!We live in this dunya too.
15. We need the teachers of Islam that sexually abusing children is wrong morally, legally, and religiously, regardless of the perpetrators’ status in Islam, belief of Islam or how much they repent and ask for forgiveness! Some things are just not forgivable!
16. We, the Muslim Ummah, need to speak out against those Muslim leaders who are grooming, harassing, and sexually abusing children in the name of Islam!
Raise your voice and get connected