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Maulana Tariq Jamil’s Silence Over Azizur Rehman’s Shameful Act Reeks Of Hypocrisy

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Mufti Azizur Rehman, who was booked for sexually assaulting his student following social media outage over a viral video showing him molesting the child, has finally been arrested. The 70-year-old cleric managed to evade arrest and kept police on their toes for four days. His old age means the accused must have been exploiting the children of madrassas for years.

The victim went through this abuse several times and it was only after he decided to film the crime that this heinous practice which was long going on in the seminary came to light. He had told the madrassa officials what was going on. They tried to brush the crime under the carpet without carrying out a proper investigation. The authorities were not informed.

That the student had to record his trauma to draw the government’s attention says a lot about how our state has failed the children living and studying at madrassas.

Meanwhile, fellow clerics as well as likeminded groups have come to Aziz’s rescue. Some said he may have been under the influence of drugs. Others pointed out that since the survivor was offering no resistance, the act must have been consensual. When women rights activists emphasise the importance of understanding the concept of consent and respecting women’s decision, the same men pay no heed. They finally did use the term ‘consent’, but it was to defend a sexual offender, implying that a minor child (who is dependent on the madrassa officials for food, clothing and shelter) had somehow consented to a relationship with his 70-year-old teacher. This conclusion was drawn because the survivor was not seen resisting the crime.

After the police did arrest the culprit and he confessed to the crime, the new line of defence is that his crime should be considered an individual act — except this is not the first time cases of child sexual abuse inside madrasas have been reported. With the culture of silence around sexual abuse and impunity that the clergy enjoys, the hapless children studying at madrassas who mostly belong to working class and poor families have nowhere to go when their teachers sexually abuse them.

Pakistanis on social media are rightly outraged over the crime. But it is also important to question the silence of Maulana Tariq Jamil who has been blaming women’s clothes for natural calamities like earthquakes and even the coronavirus pandemic. Sitting alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan during a telethon to raise funds for Corona Relief Fund last year, the religious scholar had shed tears over ‘obscenity’ and how the ‘daughters of the nations’ were often seen dancing. Isn’t rape of a child inside a madrassa a graver issue than a woman dancing on TV? The Maulana needs to come forward and condemn the widespread phenomenon of child sexual abuse at seminaries.

Moreover, the extremist figures who had been inciting violence against the participants and organisers of the Aurat March are also tight-lipped over the Azizur Rehman case. For them women holding protest to seek their rights is blasphemous, but the rape of a child inside a madrassa — a place where Quran is taught — is not outrageous. It is about time Pakistanis called out the hypocrisy of the religious right.

Poverty is a main factor that allows madrassas to exploit students. The government must improve underprivileged children’s access to education so their parents do not have to send them to madrassas to be exploited at the hands of monsters like Azizur Rehman. Moreover, regulation of madrassas to end this endemic issue of sexual abuse is long overdue. The state needs to protect our children

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