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Experiences Shared

Maksud

All names and identifying details have been changed.

Participants have given us permission to share their experiences.

Maksud was sexually abused by a religious leader.

He hopes that speaking out about this might help to address the stigma and shame that he says too often silences victims of abuse in his community. 

Maksud explains that he was brought up in a Muslim family where religious observance was extremely important and imams were regarded with reverence. 

When he was a child, his family arranged for him and his cousins to receive instruction on Islam and the Quran at a family member’s house, from a series of visiting imams.

Maksud was about nine years old when one of these men sexually abused him. The imam arranged the children in a circle, with Maksud next to him. While they were reading from the Quran, the imam took Maksud’s hand and made him rub his penis through his clothes. 

Maksud remembers how unpleasant this was for him, and how especially shameful it felt that it happened during religious instruction. He adds that he is not sure if his cousins knew what was going on – he never talked to them about it – but the abuse took place in their sight. 

He says that what he found most distressing, and such a betrayal, was that someone who was supposed to be a holy man, who everyone looked up to, behaved in such a way. 

Maksud can’t remember much about the imam – he thinks he may have blocked out details like his name, and his face. He adds that it is likely the visiting imams were arranged through the local mosque on an informal basis, with no formal register or safeguarding checks.

He says that at school he was shy and withdrawn, and became more so when he was abused. There was no information or teaching about child sexual abuse but he says he would have found it impossible to talk to anybody about it. 

Maksud describes the many ways he has been affected by the abuse. He says he feels full of rage, shame, pain and confusion, and finds it difficult to trust anyone.

The circumstances of the abuse struck at the heart of his belief system and sense of identity, and he still finds this very difficult to cope with. 

As an adult he had therapy, but it was a long time before he felt able to talk about the abuse.

Looking back, Maksud says it is now clear to him from the way the imam abused him, he was well used to exerting his authority over children. He feels fairly sure that what happened to him is not particularly unusual, because of the widespread informal and unregulated teaching that took place in so many people’s homes.  

He adds that no one would ever dare question the behaviour of an imam, or if they had, they would have been shamed into silence by the community. 

Maksud believes that mosques across the country are beginning to establish proper registers of visiting imams but he still thinks that shame would silence any victims.

He is trying to work through his feelings of anger and shame in therapy. He hopes that by sharing his experience with the Truth Project, he might help to protect other children in similar circumstances from what happened to him.

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