By KATE LOVEYS
Last updated at 10:10 AM on 19th October 2011
Hundreds of children are being subjected to physical abuse in madrassas, an investigation claims.
At least 250,000 Muslim youngsters attend the religious instruction centres, which are not formally regulated.
And more than 400 allegations of physical abuse have been made over the past three years, with the total reaching 146 last year and 89 in 2009.
Violence: A Muslim teacher pulls a pupil towards him and strikes him on the back at the Markazi Jamia mosque in February's Dispatches documentary
Prosecutors fear the real numbers may be higher because many parents are reluctant to make formal complaints – or are pressured to withdraw them.
In a large number of cases children claim to have been hit with sticks or other implements.
At a Lancashire mosque, children as young as six were punched in the back, slapped, kicked and had their hair pulled. In Lambeth, South London, staff attacked youngsters with pencils and even a phone cable.
The stark findings coincide with a dramatic increase in the number of madrassas as a result of a growing Muslim population, which has now hit 2.5million, with half 25 or younger.
Children in madrassas spend about ten hours a week on Islamic law and learning to recite the Koran in Arabic.
Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, founder of the Muslim Institute think-tank, said large numbers of unregulated groups were opening madrassas – most often in mosques but also in garages, abandoned pubs or private homes.
Widespread abuse: The Channel 4 programme showed a child being slapped, which figures now reveal is common practice
Lesson in hate: A teenage pupil left in charge during a teacher's absence threatens a younger child with a bench
He said: ‘We are basically destroying the lives of young people.
‘Some kind of system must be put in place to ensure that only teaching takes place there, not sexual or physical abuse.’
The figures were obtained through a freedom of information request to more than 200 local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales.
Officials were asked to disclose information on allegations of physical and sexual abuse over the past three years.
They disclosed 421 allegations of physical abuse, only ten of which went to court, leading to two convictions.
The councils also disclosed 30 allegations of sexual abuse over the same period, which led to four prosecutions and one conviction.
Hitting out: A teacher raising his arm to strike a child - an act that is still legal in part-time education in the UK
Unregulated: The lessons that featured in February's documentary took place at Markazi Jamia mosque in Keighley, West Yorkshire
Mohammed Hanif Khan, an imam from Stoke, was imprisoned for 16 years in March for raping a 12-year-old boy and sexually assaulting a 15-year-old.
Some local authorities told the BBC, which conducted the investigation, that community pressure had led families to withdraw complaints.
Mohammad Shahid Raza, chairman of the Mosques and Imams National Advisory Board, which was set up to improve standards in mosques, said he would investigate.
‘These figures are very, very alarming and shocking. There is no justification for such punishments within our mosque schools,’ he said.
‘I’m not sure how wide this unacceptable practice is, but our responsibility is to make those who run the mosques realise we live in a civilised society and this is not acceptable at any cost.’
Mr Raza said he wanted the issue dealt with through self-regulation.
Nazir Afzal, chief crown prosecutor for the North West of England, said he believed the local authority figures represented ‘a significant underestimate’.
‘We have a duty to ensure that people feel confident about coming forward,’ he said.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2050399/Hundreds-Muslim-children-abused-UK-madrassas.html#ixzz1bfUUgENk