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Sexual abuse

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There’s no safe place like god’s house. There’s no man better than god’s men. Well, think again. But actually not, because those holding the door open for religious teachers to treat our children howsoever they like wouldn’t want you to question society’s acceptance of a rampant monstrosity: sexual violence. The chaotic episode of a seminary teacher being caught red-handed in Faisalabad while raping a minor student continues to baffle many. Contrary to what the FIR and a video making rounds on social media suggested, we are to now buy the accused’s narrative because another renowned Muslim scholar claims to “forgive” him for “Allah’s sake.”
The entire episode is supposed to be erased from the collective conscience as nothing more than a misunderstanding. Fair enough. If the father of a victim who had very angrily and very publicly sought to hold the cleric responsible for subjecting his child to an abhorrent, unforgettable episode of sexual abuse now believes that what he witnessed with his own eyes was an illusion, buying into an influential leader’s spin, should the entire society follow suit? What about the responsibility of the law enforcement authorities to thoroughly investigate the matter, collect forensic evidence and ask the victim to submit an oral testimony? Are we to assume all that as matter dusted and settled just because the “misunderstanding” has now been cleared?
What went down in Faisalabad should not shock anyone in a country that has tacitly become a facilitator of the horrific and pervasive abuse due to its deafening silence. We keep hearing about students being thrown from the madrassah’s rooftop, beaten black and blue, battered with rods and sticks and assaulted to the point their eyes start to bleed after being subjected to heinous acts of sexual and physical violence. The cases that manage to find their way to the media are not even a fraction of the actual horrors.
Yet, society’s obsession with forsaking its children, dismissing their plight in a routing manner and normalising the endemic continues. Faisalabad’s episode has managed to draw the attention of the National Commission of the Rights of Child, which is collaborating with the police to act against the panchayat-type resolution and ensure that the law takes its course. But can one single instance help slay the proverbial monster?
Unless and until the state moves towards rigorous, effective regulation and oversight of the madressahs, these people will continue to use accusations of maligning religion as a foolproof cover against anyone asking for justice for the victims of child abuse. There’s nothing wrong with teaching religion but the institutions that once used to be celebrated as hubs of knowledge and innovation need to be protected from the demonic designs of the selected few.