Sex in the Madrassas?

There's a scandal in Pakistan that has gotten almost no press attention here: According to the BBC, a minister in that country's religious affairs department says that there have been 500 complaints this year involving allegations of child sex abuse committed by clerics in religious schools, or madassas.

There are some 10,000 such schools in Pakistan, and the alleged incidents involve only a small number. Still, scholar Irfan A. Khawaja thinks the story could be to Pakistan what the Catholic priest scandals have been to the U.S., and that the charges even have the potential to delegitimize the madrassas. Khawaja cautions that there's always a chance that the Pakistani government might have a role in such a scandal in order to advance its own agenda.

Khawaja is a contributor to the Web site of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society; his recent discussion of the Free Muslim Coalition Against Terrorism and its apology for 9/11 appeared earlier this month.

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    Any hush money paid to these Pakistani children should in no way be construed as an admission of guilt, as stipulated in the terms of the settlement.

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    I'm about to go to church. I just hope my priest doesn't convert to Islam.

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    What's sharia got to say about man-on-boy rape?

    Kevin

    Non-molested ex-altar boy

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    Soomebody, I'm sure, will find a way to blame it oon the gays...

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    I believe that homosexuality is punishable by death in the sharia. Though obviously it is not prosecuted often, as many of the Islamic countries are 'butt pirate' nations.

    Also, I don't know how the rules differ with the age of the a participant. Nor if the rules differ with the lack of willingness of a participant.

    But I believe that consensual homosexual acts between consenting adults is punishable by stoning to death.

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    Jim,

    "Soomebody, I'm sure, will find a way to blame it oon the gays..."

    Which ones?

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    Sad thing. There could be a lot of truth in reports like this. This will not, however, discourage the traditional way to disseminate Islamic knowledge in a poor society where the education establishment favours secularism.

    I am not surprised that highly minoritarian secular Muslims want to run with this. Islam will continue without them, looking on them with a mostly benign passing glance.

    The problem remains, however, how can Muslim societies run by various gradations of depotism develop the accountability and rule of law that will allow us to trust governmental declarations, and get to the bottom of issues with a properly functioning justice system, and a more serious media.

    Fans of secularization in Pakistan are a majority of the rich and elite, but a small minority of the middle-class, and simply not found amongst the rural people and poor.

    Pakistan will continue to make progress, but it will only be lasting if all Pakistani Muslims are comfortable. Secularization shuts most out.

  • Adam||

    What's next? Sex in the champagne room? Champagne in the madrassa perhaps?

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    Well, on the plus side, my priest didn't bow toward Mecca today.

    On the minus side, I agree with Jim: Somebody will soon blame this on gay marriage ;->

    But just remember, the situation with regard to the Pakistani pedophiles would be much worse if Kerry were President ;)

  • Irfan Khawaja||

    I've got a long, fatwa-worthy article on this coming out at the ISIS site within a day or two.

  • Irfan Khawaja||

    I just read David McClory's comment and I have to respond. I can't think of a comment more off base in every way than his.

    McClory says, "This will not, however, discourage the traditional way to disseminate Islamic knowledge in a poor society where the education establishment favours secularism."

    You could only believe that if you thought that Pakistanis were so irrational that while they want their kids to be educated, they don't mind doing so at the price of molestation. Dubious, to put it mildly. Prediction: Pakistanis will be resistant to believing that the charges are true, but if they are convinced that they are true, there will be a backlash against the madrasas just as there was a backlash against the fundamentalists in the later years of the Zia regime (which put Benazir Bhutto in power).

    Next, he says, "I am not surprised that highly minoritarian secular Muslims want to run with this." Uh...have you noticed that the guy "running with it" is the Minister of Religious Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan--and a member of the majority PML-Q party? If he was so easy to ignore, the fundamentalists wouldn't be screaming as loudly as they are to have him killed. So much for their "benign" neglect of those "minoritarians."

    Next we read: "Fans of secularization in Pakistan are a majority of the rich and elite, but a small minority of the middle-class, and simply not found amongst the rural people and poor."

    If this were true, how did Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto ever become Prime Ministers? And how do you account for the current popularity of the People's Party of Pakistan, a secular party? Or the MQM, also a basically secular party?

    In fact, you have things exactly backwards. It is the fundamentalists who are the rich urban elite, and the rural poor who are (with some notable exceptions, like parts of NWFP) relatively uninterested in religion. And even if the hard-core secularizers constitute an elite, didn't Locke and Jefferson constitute one, too? If Britain and the US were secularized by such an elite, why is Pakistan immune to the same pressures? Your demographics seems to consist of stereotypes about the eternally religious nature of Pakistanis--not a responsiveness to actual historical or sociological facts.

    As for this, "Pakistan will continue to make progress, but it will only be lasting if all Pakistani Muslims are comfortable. Secularization shuts most out." Excuse me--we're supposed to cater to the COMFORT of child molesters, theocrats, misogynists, terrorists, and their apologists? That is what "all" implies. Is there any particular reason why anyone is obliged to make such concessions to the comfort of fanatics, tyrants, and criminals?

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    I think the ripple of this will be much the same as it was in the U.S. re: Catholicism, and that's this:

    The madrassas have, through the actions of some, been pitted against the parental instinct to protect your children.

    Just as in the U.S., there will be some Pakistanis who will be Kool Aid drinkers and not examine the failings of the system, but I think the vast majority will think twice on madrassa enrollment day.

    In a horserace between human dogma and human nature, I'll place my money on our natural hardwiring every time.

    When I read this my first thought was, "This has GOT TO BE some kind of Pakistani government fabrication to weaken the madrassas to promote secularization." But then on reflection, it seems to me the region (particularly India) has a longstanding unspoken tolerance for those in power parking their genitalia wherever they choose. Perhaps this is some kind of regional cultural holdover outside religion. If it IS cultural, this thing will fizzle out due to lack of public outrage.

    Not to point out the obvious but, that's the weird thing with the cases of both the madrassas and Catholic schools. The most outwardly devout, in both religions condemning such behavior, are the ones guilty of the abuse. It places the average Catholic or Muslim looking in from outside in a real moral quandry. Condemning the behavior of your religious leaders is tantamount to condemning your own religion in the minds of many.

    Also, let me blaze a trail here- **it must have something to do with gay marriage. And Bill Clinton.** Remember-you heard it here first.(end sarcasm).

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    Jim Walsh,

    You prediction came true.

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    Hmm.

    500 reports (not cases, not convictions, just reports) out of 10000 SCHOOLS (not students).

    Is that even statistically significant?

    Abuse is never good, but are we making a mountain of a molehill?

  • Irfan Khawaja||

    Jake--

    Well, for comparison's sake, the Archdiocese of Boston self-reported 789 complaints over 60 years in that area, and that was enough to trigger a year long controversy ("yearlong" for those who think regard it as over, which not all do) and a heralded report by the Massachusetts Attorney General. Bear in mind: the whole Catholic priest scandal netted very few convictions (or even arrests), and involved a focus on a handful of individuals (Geoghan, Law, etc.) Though it was a national controversy, Boston was at the center of it--that's one Archdiocese.

    In Pakistan, we're talking about 2,500 complaints in two years in a country where the sanctions for making a complaint can be death. We are also talking about a case in which the Minister of Religious Affairs has not only raised the issue as one of national importance, but is getting death threats for doing so, and claims himself to be abused at age 8 in a madrasa (reported UPI, Dec 10).

    We have no equivalent of a Minister for Religious Affairs in the US, but he is basically a cabinet-level official. Can you imagine any of this happening, say, to the US Sec of Education, and it not being a big deal? It's one thing to say that the Catholic priest scandal was overblown; in that case, you might say this one is just the same old same old. But if the Catholic priest scandal was a big deal, this is surely bigger by any objective measure.

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    Jake WTF:
    Is that even statistically significant?

    One case is statistically significantly...
    !!! a member of your family.

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