Fear, shame preserve silence of abuse by clerics in Pakistan
It began with sweets and pocket money when he was 10 years old — special attention from the religious cleric who ran the Pakistani madrassa, or Islamic school, the boy attended.
And it escalated to rape and months of sexual abuse, the now 28-year-old young man says.
“I feel rage now when I think after he raped me he took a bath and right away he left to lead the prayers,” the man, an economist who lives in Islamabad, told The Associated Press. “After that I came to know from three or four of my classmates that the mufti used to do the same with them.”
Speaking English, at times searching for the right words and at others apologizing for the explicitness of his conversation, he described the cleric’s advances: how he took him to another mosque that was not associated with the madrassa the boy attended and then raped him.
He said he suppressed memories of the abuse for years, but after reading an AP report last month revealing widespread abuse by clerics in Pakistan’s thousands of madrassas, they all came tumbling back.
“I read the story two times. The first time I was shocked. The things that were written there were everything I had lived. The second time I read it, the whole of my body was trembling because of the memories it brought back,” said the man, speaking on condition of anonymity, not only because of the shame he felt nearly two decades later but because he feared Pakistan’s religious leaders could retaliate against him either with violence or charges of blasphemy or being an apostate, both of which, he said, were tantamount to a death sentence.