ASIAN NEWS COVERAGE: Madrassah beating claims is scare tactic

 page_asiannews  The following article was published on the Asian News Website detailing the views from various Community leaders in Rochdale on the Mosque Child beating Fiasco which has hit national press. Comments from this blog also featured in the article.

MOSQUE leaders and community members have hit back at an unpublished report by a Rochdale imam who has claimed students at some madrassahs are being regularly beaten and abused by their teachers.

Imam Irfan Chishti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs and religious education teacher who runs the Light of Islam Academy on Milkstone Road, Rochdale, compiled the report based on interviews with victims in madrassahs in the north of England.

He told The Times, which also carried out its own investigation in Rochdale, that he was “shocked” how even victims had accepted the abuse and said there was a “culture that accepts it.” He said part of the problem was that madrassah teachers were ignorant of British law which bans corporal punishment.

Both Mr Chishti’s and the Times report suggest that children are regularly slapped, punched and even had their ears twisted. One student was “picked up by one leg and spun around” while another said a madrassah teacher was “kicking in my head – like a football”.

But cabinet member for community cohesion, Councillor Mohammed Sharif said mosques in Rochdale had been working quite closely with the council in addressing the issue and many teachers had even participated in child protection courses.

He said: “I have been working closely with mosques and as far as I know in the last year and a half there have been no cases of any physical abuse at these Islamic evening classes.

“We have been working closely with the council and the police to address this issue.

“I believe there are incidents of this kind but it’s very rare.

“This is just yet another story to put Muslims in a bad light.”

The Lancashire Council of Mosques also agreed physical abuse at madrassahs was uncommon.

Chairman Hamid Qureshi said their organisation was also working closely with mosques throughout Lancashire advising teachers and parents about child protection issues.

“To says it’s rife especially in a town like Rochdale is scare-mongering and another tactic for the wider community to crticise Muslims,” said Mr Qureshi.

“Majority of mosques have now put in place best practice and know that any form of corporal punishment is wrong and illegal.

“The attitude of parents and mosques have changed where this kind of behaviour is no longer acceptable.

“Only one or two cases a year come to my attention but it’s never more than that.

“Whilst there may be a problem, it’s a very small one.”

Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of Rochdale based Muslim youth organisation, Ramadhan Foundation said the local community should have been made aware of the report before it was released to the press.

He said: “If this was such a huge issue and concern for the researcher it should have come to the attention of the local community first. There is a local mosque network and nobody was told.

“I can’t say there isn’t a problem but it certainly isn’t as huge one as it’s been made to be.

“Parents also have a responsibility to make sure imams have been cleared through a Criminal Records Bureau check before they send children to after school quranic classes.”

Local Muslim activist and blogger Majed Iqbal was also concerned about the lack of communication between the report author and the local community.

He added: “There has been a lack of dialogue with the established mosque committees in Rochdale which have been totally bypassed by Imam Chishti in discussing these issues and bringing them out on the table.

“Even more surprising is that only a couple of months ago some mosques attended a child protection training program which discussed in detail acceptable protocols for imams teaching children yet no mosque in Rochdale was aware about this report which has clandestinely been put together.”

It is understood that imams at Rochdale mosques will be holding a meeting this week about the recent reports.

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