Madrassas Molesters

Clerical abuse in the Islamic world.


A minister in Pakistan's religious affairs department says there were 500 complaints last year of child sex abuse by clerics in madrassas, Muslim religious schools. Irfan Khawaja, writing for the Web site of the Institute for the Secularization of Islamic Society, wonders why Western journalists have taken so little interest in a story that could be "to Pakistan (and by extension to the Muslim world) what the analogous story was to the Catholic Church a few years ago–or for that matter what Abu Ghraib has been for the U.S. occupation of Iraq."

"Both of the latter scandals have permanently scarred the institutions responsible for producing them," notes Khawaja. "The consequences of inflicting the same sorts of damage on the Pakistani madrasacracy are incalculable–incalculably good, that is."

Khawaja believes such allegations, if proved true, would offer some perspective on familiar claims of Western moral decadence and "the superior moral virtue of the Islamic East." Although such arguments are generally associated with Islamists, even Western moralists have been known to accept them. Robert Bork, for example, recently told The Washington Times that conservative Muslims "have good reasons to be very worried" about the spread of American pop culture, due to its baleful moral influence.

Khawaja, however, believes that it is the culture common to Islamic nations that is morally dysfunctional. He notes incidents of gang rape in Punjab, "mass rape in Darfur, female genital mutilation across parts of Muslim Africa, and honor killings of girls," concluding that "it would appear to be time for our holier-than-thou sermonizers to introspect a bit and focus on some of their own sexual hang-ups."