The Labour MP, Ann Cryer, demanded action to halt the abuse of children in mosque schools yesterday amid documented evidence that some are being mistreated and beaten.
Ms Cryer, who has been consistently prepared to confront ethnically sensitive issues in her multi-racial Keighley constituency in West Yorkshire, said she had been sent several complaints that children in the constituency and elsewhere in the region were being beaten, under outdated forms of school discipline at madrassas, schools run by mosques.
Evidence of her concerns is in a letter by a senior detective in West Yorkshire Police child protection unit, detailing how his visit to a mosque committee in Keighley had elicited an admission by an imam that there was abuse, and confusion about what constituted acceptable physical punishment.
In his letter, dated 25 July this year, to the area child protection committee after a visit to the Emily Street mosque in Keighley, the officer states: "I have got to say that the committee were not on the defensive. There was an acceptance that the practices we spoke of did occur and there was a resolve to rectify the situation. It was clear the mosque committee need some support."
The committee had asked the officer to speak to the imam suspected as the main perpetrator of the abuse "so there could be no misunderstanding and that further ... abuse could be dealt with".
In that discussion, the various forms of abuse which had been reported were broached, including beatings and the habit of forcing children to sit in a "chicken position", an uncomfortable crouch.
The imam "did not deny that he had undertaken these practices but ... suggested some guidance on the extent of discipline he was allowed to administer," the detective's letter said. The evidence tallies with the testimony of teachers and complaints to Ms Cryer, who passed the information to the police child protection unit in July.
Police have told the teachers not to speak publicly but one described seeing bruises on children's bodies which the youngsters said were inflicted by imams. "One boy came to me with what looked like red stripes across his back," one teacher said. "He told me they were the result of being whipped with a wire."
The children claim they are assaulted when they misbehave or when they make mistakes in their work. One boy said another boy would be hit because he could never remember the passages from Koran he was supposed to have memorised.
The children have told teachers the imams tell them not to talk about the abuse in the mosque. They are allegedly told that the "mosque is Pakistan" and so the laws of England do not exist there.
Despite the police letter, Mohammad Ajaib, of the Keighley Muslim Association, denied the allegations. "Nobody accepted that these practices happened," he said. "There were allegations made against one of our teachers in the mosque and we investigated and there was no evidence to suggest that this sort of practice was taking place."
West Yorkshire Police were unwilling to discuss the letter but said it took allegations of offences against children "extremely seriously".
Ms Cryer said: "What really worries me is that these children are being told that if they tell anyone about what's happening they'll be sent away, whatever that means. I do not want arrests or imprisonments or deportations. I want this violence to stop. If these were white kids and a Christian institution, something would have happened already."
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