By Shazwan Zulkiffli
A long and thorough Facebook post uploaded by activist Syed Azmi regarding a recent pedophile case that has since gone viral after capturing the attention of netizens. The activist, who calls himself the “Small Lamb” in his posts, featured a story of a young boy who had bruise marks after he was allegedly beaten up by his “friends” at a local Islamic institution. While his mother thought that the incident was a normal bullying case, little that she know it was beyond that – and it had crossed over the lines of pedophilia.
After her son – the victim – told her the real story of how he gained the bruises, the responsible mother went to the school to seek proper explanation from the administration. However, the head of the school brushed off the rumors and claimed that they will only take the case seriously if any form of “penetration” was involved.
The following is the text posted by Syed Azmi-
“Dear Syed Azmi
Just recently there was shocking news of a child abuse case in a Maahad Tahfiz upnorth. I myself having a son in one of this maahad would like to share what happened to my son recently this year, and I hope by sharing this parents will choose wisely where they plan to send their children, should they want their child to pursue religious studies.
My son is 10 years old and he was talented in memorizing short surahs from the Quran so we thought he would be the perfect candidate for the upcoming interview in one of the most popular maahad tahfiz. We decided to register him in this maahad and since the entrance is highly contested through a series of tests we were beaming with pride when he was one of the few selected from a batch of 4,000 candidates. It was a dream came true to have our son in of Malaysia’s most prestigious maahad. Little did we know we were sending our son to the depths of hell.
Initially, my son’s batch of thirty 10-year-olds were sent to a rural area to isolate them from the influences of city life. Things were running quite well at this place and we were more than satisfied with his performance academically and his memorization of the Al-Quran. Then one day this maahad had management issues and decided to sell off their rural branch and transferred all the 10 year olds to their headquarters where the older boys (secondary school) were located and that is when my son’s physical and mental torture began.
In May he came home for the school holidays and we saw bruises on his face and his left cheek was a bit swollen. Upon query he told us he had a fight with a colleague but did not tell us what it was about. Then one night he lied down next to me and started asking questions like, is it okay for people to make our dick hard? Why does it get hard when someone kiss you? I thought it was awkward for him to ask such questions, so I did some interrogation. To my surprise, his confessions and observation almost made me faint.
The seniors, particularly one senior who is an orphan and permanent resident of the maahad were always sexually taunting the juniors. In one incident the seniors would victimise the juniors by holding one boy down by the hands and legs, and forcing the other juniors to hold the victims’ penis and jerk it until it becomes stiff. Then they will tell the victim to place it in between another juniors’ buttock and the seniors will laugh at this poor children . The senior bullied the junior boys by forcing each other to give french kisses and watched as these children’s penis become hard. My 10 year old son knew that what was taking place is morally incorrect but at the same time was curious because he never knew how an erection could occur.
He informed the warden and a reshuffle of dormitory students sleeping allocation was made. Unfortunately, the senior boys involved found out that he had made the report and my son was physically attacked and verbally assaulted with degrading remarks. My son retaliated by fighting back and received bruises on his body.
I asked my son for the names of the junior boys who were also sexually molested and alerted their mothers through the Whatsapp messaging service. The mothers were shocked and interrogated their sons and finally got them to confess the things that they had to endure since the transfer took place. Towards the end of the school holidays, three parents decided to withdraw their sons from the maahad. One parent made a police report however a medical report cited that there was no anal penetration. My son who was traumatised by the incident has refused to continue in this school and we withdrawn him from this mahaad.
I wanted to make a report myself, but my husband, being a fan of this famous Ustaz who was the head of the maahad, decided to make an appoinment with the star himself. So we contacted the Ustaz’s personal assistant and he asked what is it about. When we told him the issue, he told us off. “If you made a police report, let the police do their work” So I told him we havent, but we will if we don’t get an appoinment with the principle. He gave us a date. We went to see the principal with our son.
The first thing the principal asked our boy was did he understand the allegations and the meaning of ‘liwat’. My son answered saying that it is to put the penis in between the flesh of the buttocks. The principal asked my son to clarify what he saw and my son replied with the same statement.
This extremely religious principal then turned to us and said, ‘Madam, that is called an attempt of ‘liwat’ and not the ‘liwat’ itself”.
He also stated that, “Attempted rape is not the same as rape” and continued by saying, “ If you take this claim to the court, you will lose. We have made investigations and we have interrogated the boys involved. None of the victims said there were any penetration and the seniors were only joking with them. If you make false accusations this means you have put slander on us and we can hit you back. We also have claims that your son being disobedient and started to become a nuisance to the teachers here. With his plunging academic results we are still keeping him here to study but you have decided to take him out as it is your choice. I suggest you take him to the doctor to get himself checked, and make a police report if you like. As I said, we have backups so you better be careful of what you plan to do.”
I was like, hey, my son was sitting there in the same room, a victim of this bully scene and the school decide to protect the offender and the reputation of this instituition, and blackmail the victim instead? I asked what was the action taken toward the senior who was the mastermind of this sex assault party? They said no one made a statement against him, he made a disclaimer that he was only telling stories and didn’t involve in anything physical. So there was no offence to be taken action of. With the fact that he is the orphan resident of the school (Read: means he is privilleged due to state money channeled to the school in the name of orphanage charity) they could not expel him.
We left the school after about 75 minutes of discussion. We are currently consulting our lawyer and the police, but we have no concrete evidence to show that these events actually took place. All we have now is our son, traumatized, sexually assaulted and confused. The other victims 6 in total including my son have left the school. We have to undertake our own damage control, while the perpetrators still roam free in this so-called prestigious institution led by this famous Ustaz who has denied our son’s right to justice.
Since then we have found out that this maahad is not only a Quran learning center but is also a rehabilitation for troubled and spoiled kids. Sending my son to this miserable hell hole is my greatest regret, as a mother I am angry and am literally burning with fury. I am angry because my son will be forever traumatised by this evil that was done to him by these devils in white robes and serbans. I am not saying that all maahads are the pits of hell, however I am certain many parents out there need to know what is going on and I write to warn you not to sacrifice your innocent children in the name of religion since the Holy Quran is true however it is the devils that practise and teach it that are wrong.
Thanks Syed for sharing.”
From the story above, there are a few points that are worth highlighting:
- The institution directly/indirectly defended the offender
- The offender is still free and may continue his antics
- The students’ lack of knowledge regarding sex and their body
- Such cases involving religious institutions can damage the image of the religion itself
The institution directly/indirectly defended the offender
According to the story above, the offender – who is a permanent resident at the school, or known as Maahad Tahfiz (a school that focuses on Islamic learning and lifestyle) was not prosecuted. This is due to the fact that penetration wasn’t involved.
So according to this logic:-
“Anything besides penetration is still okay”
What? Doesn’t sound right at all, does it?
Pedophile cases like these are not being looked at by the Maahad institution, or many other institutions out there – no matter if it’s based on Islam or any religion. The important bit is, an Islamic institution like this is not exempted from the responsibility to tackle any pedophile cases that may arise, especially when it’s against the law and the teachings of Islam itself!
The offender is still free and may continue his antics
Due to the fact that the Maahad “defended” the offender, the pedophile is still free to do whatever he wishes to his old victims or even new ones – especially to the children who helped report his wrongdoings to the school. This can cause a serious cycle of mental and physical bullying by the offender as there’s no hope for the children to help stop this treachery despite the trust we put into the law, and the institution itself.
The students’ lack of knowledge regarding sex and their body
According to the story above, the students’ were clueless about how their body works and functions. This is due to the fact that the Ministry of Health and also Education refuses to include a sex education syllabus for elementary and secondary level as doing so might “encourage pre-marital sex”. If cases like this happen again, who do we blame when the children can’t tell how their body works just because we want to avoid talking about something natural and inevitable as sex, so some people don’t feel that their rights are challenged?
Such cases involving religious institutions can damage the image of the religion itself
The majority of believers of a religion may feel uncomfortable and angry if their religion is associated to terrorism, or being stereotyped as the religion of terror. As an institution that uses a religious theme, keeping a honourable image of the religion and the institution itself is vital, as brushing off criminal cases like these can only lead to the reputation of institution and the idea itself being stained. Yes, an institution doesn’t represent any religion – but if that institution wishes to do so, why don’t you do it the right way and portray your religion and its believers the way it should be?
The Catholic Church learnt the hard way about concealing pedophilia in its ranks– global headlines were made from the explosive revelations that there were extensive cover-ups to protect the good name of the church. Obviously, when it came to light that the church had protected the predators in its midst, the world was aghast.
Many commenters accused Syed Azmi of defaming the Maahad Tahfiz or Islamic institution when he was just reporting what a fan confessed to him. Religion may be sacred to its believers, but some believers aren’t as sacred to begin with. In a nutshell, religious institutions shouldn’t be exempted from taking responsibility from cases of pedophilia, bullying, and other negative incidents. Please don’t blame others if they see a religion like how it is stereotyped– especially if you don’t do anything to help justice prevail. Don’t like the stereotype? Show a good example, simple!