Since early 2013, when I began blogging about religion, I’ve written so many posts about child sexual assaults by clergy members that when a new case presents itself, I can’t think of a halfway original opening sentence. Some days, I see a new(s) account of a religious authority’s sex abuse, and guiltily neglect to write about it for this site. Why? Sometimes I’m just too numb, and sometimes too emotionally susceptible to dive in (this stuff will mess up your mood). Shamefully, I’m often just… uninspired by the case — and I hate that.
How fucked up is it that I can read about a priest forcing an altar boy to touch him, a rabbi rubbing up against a young girl from his congregation, an imam caught fondling a frightened child, and nix it as blog material because, number one, we’ve seen worse (oy!), and number two, for my own sanity, I just can’t write another story (and another, and another) on the topic?
An investigation by The Associated Press found dozens of police reports, known here as First Information Reports, alleging sexual harassment, rape and physical abuse by Islamic clerics teaching in madrassas or religious schools throughout Pakistan, where many of the country’s poorest study…
Police say the problem of sexual abuse of children by clerics is pervasive and the scores of police reports they have received are just the tip of the iceberg. Yet despite the dozens of reports, none have resulted in the conviction of a cleric. Religious clerics are a powerful group in Pakistan and they close ranks when allegations of abuse are brought against one of them.
Sound familiar? Yes. Yes it does.
[They’ve] been able to hide the widespread abuse by accusing victims of blasphemy or defamation of Islam.
Families in Pakistan are often coerced into “forgiving” clerics, said Deputy Police Superintendent Sadiq Baloch… Overcome by shame and fear that the stigma of being sexually abused will follow a child into adulthood, families choose instead to drop the charges, he said.
There is nothing remotely defensible about secular abusers either, especially not if they’re people who hold power over their young victim, like teachers and coaches. To me, though, assaults are more maddening still if they’re perpetrated by those who’ve made a career out of pretending to be munificent parsers of right and wrong — God’s holy sidekicks, divinely inspired to choose good and fight evil.
These plaster saints stack hypocrisy on top of selfishness and callousness.
Sadiq Baloch, the police superintendent, may feel the same way.
“It is the hypocrisy of some of these mullahs, who wear the long beard and take on the cloak of piety only to do these horrible acts behind closed doors, while openly they criticize those who are clean shaven, who are liberal and open minded,” Baloch said. “In our society so many of these men, who say they are religious, are involved in these immoral activities.”
In one recent case, Muhimman, an eight-year-old boy from Punjab province, accused Qari Shamsuddin, an Islamic preacher, of having raped and beaten him to within an inch of his life. The charge was borne out by the examining physician’s report as well as DNA evidence, and the cleric was arrested. Soon, however, his colleagues and supporters undertook the dirty work of gaslighting the accuser and protecting the holy man’s reputation.
[F]ellow clerics and worshippers at the Madrassah-e-Taleem-ul-Quran mosque located in a remote region of northwest Pakistan dispute the charges. They say Shamsuddin is innocent, the victim of anti-Islamic elements in the country. The clerics and worshippers also say the accusation is part of a conspiracy to discredit Pakistan’s religious leaders and challenge the supremacy of Islam.
And then the rest of the village got involved — many choosing the side of the alleged rapist. Muhimman’s aunt Shazia recounts that after the rape of her nephew,
… villagers came to their home and pleaded with them to forgive the cleric.
Even the neighbors who are inclined to believe the boy aren’t sure that justice will — or should — prevail. Some hope that the whole sordid affair will just go away.
According to the AP reporters,
They seemed angry but also resigned to the fact that [the preacher] would not be jailed.
Even for the pious fondlers and the godly rapists, there is no eternal punishment, no hell. In Pakistan, most don’t even receive punishment in this life… and religion is the biggest reason why.
(Image via Shutterstock. Thanks to Ben for the link)