Children taught in Islamic evening and weekend schools do not have sufficient protection from physical and sexual abuse, according to UK Islamic forum the Muslim Parliament.
At any one time, 100,000 children attend Madrasas. Muslim Parliament leader Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui warned that the schools were exposing these children to “significant risk” and called for a registration scheme for Madrasas to be set up centrally, and monitored by local authorities.
Speaking at the launch of a report that highlights the existence of child abuse in Madrasas, Dr Siddiqui said: “Sweeping the issue of child abuse under the carpet is not a solution. If nothing is done now we may face an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals decades afterwards, similar to those that rocked the Roman Catholic Church in the 1990s.”
The report, Child Protection in Faith Based Environments, claims that up to 40% of teachers in Madrasas hit or scold pupils. Dr Siddiqui added that the 15 to 20 cases of sex abuse reported each year were “considered by insiders as being an understatement”.
The report criticises local authorities for failing to meet their legal obligations under the Children Act 1989, with only a handful having taken positive steps in partnership with local Mosques and Madrasas to ensure appropriate guidelines are in place.
A spokesperson for the NSPCC welcomed the initiative. “We are concerned that Madrasas are not required to follow the same child protection procedures as schools and other statutory bodies. The government must require them and other faith groups to put safeguarding policies in place and ensure that these are rigorously enforced.”