A woman who was abused as a child by a mosque Imam has broken her silence.
She was speaking in an interview with Asian Image undertaken by Community Worker Anjum Anwar.
Nabila (not her real name) has now broken her silence and says that anyone faced with a similar situation needs to speak out and tell someone in authority.
“I am angry that a man was allowed to get away with abusing a little girl for four years, and nobody picked on it, my parents did not pick up on my mood swings, from being quiet to being angry.
“My abuser, was supposedly a man of faith, a man of standing, a man we trusted, someone one who had authority in the community, he abused his authority he tarnished the image of an Imam in my mind and heart, and took away my childhood, he took me to the dark place, where I cannot get out of, he is my nightmare, even today.”
Now, Nabila is going through counselling for what happened. She also speaks about seeing her abuser for the first time after many years in the North of England.
Many mosques and religious institutions now have safeguards in place to ensure incidents of this nature are dealt with to the full extent of the law. The vast majority of religious leaders are pious and sincere people and they will, like everyone else, be shocked to read her account.
Nabila was used to being showered with compliments by her parents, family and friends.
She was a pretty little girl with long black silky hair. So when the holy man, in a place which is considered a safe place, singled her out for ‘special’ treatment, she felt honoured and proud.
He would ask her to sit next to him, on his lap, to clean his room, to fetch things for him, and gave her money for sweets.
At 7 years of age, Nabila would put on her headscarf, and sit down with the other little girls.
In less than one week into her new ‘evening religious school’ her teacher had ‘chosen’ her, for special attention, running his hands seductively over her body.
Nabila was frightened but did not know how to tell her parents. Who would believe her, what words should she use, was it her fault?
In 2010 Nabila was driving through her town which is her home and her nightmare, and as she passed the familiar streets she gasped, “ it’s him, oh! My God, it’s him.”
He looked the same, tall, fat, old with dishevelled hair.
There is no doubt in Nabila’s mind, that this was the man who took away her innocence - his face etched in her mind.
“I wanted to scream to make him stop, but did not know how. Would he hit me, would he punish me? And I did not know what words to use to tell my parents or my brothers.
“At home, it was expected that children remained in the background. We did not talk to our parents, you know, children should be seen and not heard.
“My father used to work all the hours to provide for us, and my mother used to help by sewing clothes. There were seven of us, four brothers, my parents and me, and there was never any time to speak.”
Nabila left school at 16, and wanted to go to college, but that was not an option for her.
“No, it was taken for granted that I will leave school, and get married. I had been promised to my cousin in Pakistan.
“That is what we had grown up to believe, but my Sikh friends all went to college, and I wanted to go to college.
“There were many arguments, but something in my head told me that I did not want to get married, and now I think about it, I was rebelling, because the thought of someone touching me was sickening, but I could not talk about it.
“My father allowed me to go to college under one condition that he will drop me off at the college and pick me up.
She had thoughts of running away, where to go, the only option was her eldest brother’s house, but they too closed their doors to Nabila.
“In those days we did nothing but watch Bollywood films, you know girl meets boy; they get married and live happily ever after.
“Well I wanted all that, I wanted the Bollywood dream. At college I met a boy – he was a Sikh and as soon as my sister in law heard about it, things changed very quickly.
“Things became extremely difficult at home. I was not allowed to do anything.
Although my brothers had girlfriends and went out I was kept under a lock and key all the time.
“When my father passed away, my eldest brother and mother blamed me for his death, because I had not been the good Muslim girl that I should have been, but nobody knew, that it was a ‘good’ Muslim man who had killed the good Muslim girl inside of me.
Nabila became detached from her faith.
“Sometimes my mother would say go and do your prayers, but as I did not see her do prayers, I would go up in my room, and tell her I did it, although I did not pray.
“One of my teachers did see the change in my mood but even at school it went no further.
So I did not care what and who thought what of me. I rejected everyone and everything, even my religion.”