Rampant Sexual Abuse And Impunity — The Fault In Our Madrassas
Salis Malik writes about the menace of child abuse at madrassas in Pakistan and laments government’s inaction over this grave issue.
One can have his feet swept from the floor in utter shock and disquietude when he hears that yet another innocent young soul has been sexually assaulted and molested by none other than the cornerstone of our Islamic society – the mullah. Anyone who even has a shred of humanity still subsiding within their hearts will have their blood curdle in rage upon hearing that yet another wolf bedecked within the clothing of that ‘religious’ sheep , preyed upon the chastity and piety of yet another child, behind the doors of the most venerable institution in the light of Islam – the madrasa.
The influence of madrasas throughout the history of Islam has been etched as gold within the history books. Many revered leaders, scientists and philosophers were once the product of these institutions during the golden ages of Islam and the teachers in those madrasas were one of the most respected and hallowed people of their times. Fast forward to the present and now we are greeted with sexually depraved, deviant and mentally plagued individuals trying to walk in the shoes of those esteemed legends who will always be remembered with praise and pride.
The fault in our religious institutions lies within the psyche of our society when it comes to selecting an individual who should be qualified to be a religious teacher. Take an example of a class – the most intelligent students turn out to be those highly credible and sought-after doctors and engineers.
The mediocre students turn into bureaucrats officers and then there are those students who are at the bottom of the pecking order. Those students whom the teachers consider dull, absent-minded and academically very poor are placed into religious institutions to become religious teachers in the future.
This is the sheer irony of the madrasah system in our country where the responsibility to lead the religious institution is left in the hands of those very psychologically impaired individuals. Last year alone, over 3,800 cases of child sexual abuse were reported across Pakistan, a country of around 218 million people, according to child rights organisation, Sahil.
The most vulnerable groups were identified as boys between the ages of six and 15 years old, and girls who are either infants or between 16 and 18 years old. The demographics for the age group of boys that got molested, frantically scream for themselves because boys between the age of six and fifteen are most likely to be a part of a madrasa. This pedophilic disorder is more of a mental disease than actually being a heinous foible or a tendency which one cannot fix easily. It is dismal and woeful to see that our religion is taught by individuals who need mental help and therapy.
The madrasa system might be at fault here but in reality these said individuals who are the criminals of such acts are actually the victims – the victims of this society. Our society is relentless similar to a game of Russian roulette – risky, endearing and life wrecking.
The very framework of our society exists and subsides on Darwin’s theory of the survival of the fittest and this is henceforth highlighted by the selection of our mentally weak mullahs. Those who are the strongest get the best posts and the perfect jobs but those who are mentally weak from the bunch end up getting discarded as if they were scraps left on the plate. These scraps then end up being used for concocting a recipe of disaster when we find out that once again another innocent child was raped in a madrasah.
As soon as we tune into a news channel or flip open a newspaper, we are greeted with yet another sexual harassment case and in the midst of all this we find out that our government is just as ignorant on this matter. It is utterly appalling and heart throbbing to see the laid back attitude of our government on such a sensitive matter.
Child sexual abuse is widespread in Pakistani Islamic schools. In a study of child sexual abuse in Rawalpindi and Islamabad, out of a sample of 300 children 17% claimed to have been abused and in 1997 one child a day was reported as raped, gang raped or kidnapped for sexual gratification. In September 2014, the British Channel 4 broadcast a documentary called Pakistan’s Hidden Shame, directed by Mohammed Naqvi and produced by Jamie Doran, which highlighted the problem of sexual abuse of street children in particular, an estimated 90 percent of whom have been sexually abused. This is an alarming situation and the government must act to save our children from predators.