More tolerance from the "religion of peace"
From The Associated Press VIA AZSTARNET.NET
Abuses of children horrifying in Senegal's Quranic schools
The Associated Press
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 08.17.2008
KAOLACK, Senegal — It hurts too much to lie on his back, so the 7-year-old has spent the past month stretched out on his stomach. His two grandmothers sit on the hospital bed beside him, fanning the pink flesh left exposed by his teacher's whip.
It's progress that Momodou Biteye is in the hospital at all. It's also encouraging that the Quranic teacher who did this to him is behind bars.
But what is most significant is that the boy's father — a poor farmer who sold part of his harvest to pay for the bus fare to the hospital — filed the charges against the teacher himself. In doing so, this man with cracked lips and bloodshot eyes braved the wrath of his entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal's Islamic schools to be holy.
In hundreds of these schools in the mostly Muslim West African country, children are made to beg in the streets and are beaten if they don't bring back enough money. One 10-year-old was beaten to death with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth stuffed with rocks. Despite laws passed to protect children, the courts have convicted only a handful of Quranic teachers and quickly cave in the face of powerful clerics.
The biggest obstacle to justice is the families themselves; they are unwilling to speak out against the teachers. Government officials say they cannot think of another case where a family has brought charges.
"Some people may say bad things about me. Even my own village is against me," says 40-year-old Moussa Biteye, the father of the thin boy. "But I think I am within my rights."
The respect for Islamic schools comes from a centuries-old tradition of families sending their sons to study the Quran and till fields in exchange for food. In the 1970s, as drought devastated West Africa, schools moved to the cities and Islamic teachers sent children out to beg in the streets. These days, boys as young as 3 are beaten not for failing to master the Quran, but for failing to bring back enough money — a change that families often are unaware of.
Biteye's village is a 30-mile drive from here on a potholed road, past herds of skinny cattle. Almost all the men in the village can recite verses from the Quran, especially the boy's grandfather, Baba Biteye, a wrinkled man who taught the holy book for 40 years before going blind.
The old man becomes agitated when asked about his grandson. He is angry not because of the severe beating, but because the boy's father — his son — dared press charges against the Quranic teacher, or marabout.
"It was an accident and my son had no right to humiliate the marabout by doing what he did," he says. "The day they took the marabout to prison, it hurt me so much it was as if they had come to jail me."
No one in this poor village is surprised that the boy was beaten. A child needs to suffer, the grandfather says, to master the difficult text. It's a sentiment that is echoed in the village chief's hut, under the grass roofs of neighbors' homes and on the lips of other families whose own sons are still in the jailed teacher's boarding school.
Hitting and education are so intertwined in Senegal that the word for "to educate" — "yaar" is the same as the word for the stick to discipline students.
"See this?" says Omar Drame, a middle-aged villager, as he bends his head forward and points to an indentation on the top of his skull. "It's my marabout that did this to me. It forged me. It allowed me to learn that I can overcome difficulty."
At first, even the father thought his son was lying about why he was beaten. The marabout told investigators that he hit the boy for mispronouncing a verse from the Quran.
But when the father saw his son, he wept. "I knew that he would be hit — but I didn't think he would be hit up to this point," says Biteye.
The boy says that when he arrived at the school in June, his marabout handed him an empty tin can and told him not to come back before filling it with 200 francs (about 50 cents).
The boy also had to beg for food. Some days all he got was a discarded fish head, or a spoonful of rice.
By the second week, he was hungry all the time. On July 2, he begged until dark and got the 50 cents, but spent part of it on biscuits. When the marabout found out, the boy says, he got whipped until the skin on his back fell off. Hospital officials believe the whip was laced with metal.
With around 30 children in his care, the marabout was netting $430 a month, three times the salary of an average citizen and as much as a government official.
"Ask yourself, what is this money used for? The kids are not fed, so it's not for food. They wear rags, so it's not for clothes. They don't have mattresses, so it's not for their beds," says Paul Ndiaye, of the Swiss aid group Sentinelles, who has spent the last 10 years trying to get courts to take action against abusive marabouts. "This is a sham on a grand scale under the cover of religion."
The reaction from the boy's village doesn't surprise Aissatou Mbodj, Senegal's former minister of the family and now vice president of the country's parliament. Three years ago, a 3-year-old boy turned up at a government shelter, his back sliced open by his teacher's whip.
The boy's father refused to file charges. Mbodj was so angry that she paid a lawyer to file them herself. Soon after, she began receiving death threats.
"The parents of these children believe in these men so completely that when they hand over their sons, they relinquish all control," says Mbodj, who is married to a prominent cleric. "They swear allegiance to the marabout and say that whatever happens to their son is for the child's good."
The marabout against whom she pressed charges was sentenced to five years in prison, in one of the only cases of firm reprimand by a Senegalese court. Far more cases end in a suspended sentence.
Ok, so this begs the obvious first question, "Why don't we hear about Christian schools that have the same problems with beatings?"
AH forget it, I will answer it myself, because Christians BELIEVE in peace and do not just put it out there as a front, whereas ISLAM does.
This is a different country, and a different culture with different beliefs and traditions, but correct me if I am wrong here, aren't children supposed to be protected and loved WORLDWIDE?
Using them as whipping boys and sources of income is outrageous and EXPLOITIVE.
Lets face it ... ISLAM IS A FARCE
There is NOTHING peaceful about their holy book. NOTHING.