More lovely news from the “Religion of Peace”
The parents of a blind seven-year-old who was sent to a religious school in Pakistan have told how he was hung by his feet from a ceiling and beaten to death after failing to memorise the Koran.
The parents of Mohammed Atif admitted that they had ignored their son Mohammed’s repeated complaints about abuse at the madrassah.
Police in the Punjab province said that Mohammed’s religious teacher, Qari Ziauddin, was now in custody charged with torturing and murdering the boy on Thursday.
Police said Ziauddin, whose title “Qari” signifies he is a mullah, had suspended the boy from a ceiling fan for an hour before he beat him. When he realised how badly Mohammed was hurt, he apparently fled instead of taking him to hospital.
The boy’s body was not discovered until the next day when fellow pupils, including Mohammed’s cousin, realised he had not slept in his bed. They searched the madrassah and found his battered corpse in Ziauddin’s room.
An autopsy concluded that Mohammed, who was blind from birth, died of severe head injuries and also found marks of “physical torture” on his body. Police said the fatal blow might have been caused by Ziauddin dropping the boy when he cut him down from the fan.
According to the boy’s father, the teacher had previously smashed him over the head with an iron rod, cutting him so badly that he needed stitches.
“We got the boy treated and wanted to pull him out of the madrassah but we decided to readmit him after the teacher said he would show some mercy to the boy,” Mohammed’s father Fayyaz Ahmed, 35, said. “We really did not expect him to go so far after he reassured us.”
Mohammed was sent to the school eight months ago in the hope that he would become a Hafiz-e-Quran – a scholar who wins great respect by memorising the whole of the Koran.
“We kept pushing him to go because we wanted him to become a religious scholar,” sobbed his mother Gulzar Bibi, 28. “We thought he was making the stories up like kids usually do to avoid going to school.”
“We thought he would be the key to our emancipation on the day of the judgment,” she added.
The killing has sparked concerns for the welfare of the 1.5 million students in the country’s 13,000 madrassahs, which are regarded as potential recruiting grounds for al-Qa’eda and the Taliban.
In 2002 President Pervez Musharraf responded to international concerns by ordering madrassahs to adopt a more modern curriculum. But religious hardliners have stymied many of the reforms, and their refusal to allow state regulation has also seen the schools develop an reputation for child abuse.
While officialdom often turns a blind eye, the sheer brutality of the latest case has led the new prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, to order an inquiry.
Police said the other children who attend the Qari Latif madrassah in Vihari, 150 miles southwest of Lahore, have all been withdrawn.
Investigators said Ziauddin had admitted the assault and claimed such brutality was normal. “We punish students who don’t learn their lessons,” he told detectives. “We used to get similar beatings when we were studying in the same schools. It is not uncommon.”