Police are looking into claims that children as young as three are being smacked and verbally abused at a Preston mosque.
The allegations centre on the Aqsa Mosque in Fishwick Parade, where some parents allege their youngsters are being mistreated on a daily basis by “aggressive” teachers. However, trustees there said the allegations were “false and unfounded” and they would co-operate with any investigation.
Accusations were made to the Evening Post by three separate adults, although none wanted to be identified for fear of reprisals by their local community.
“It is not uncommon for children to be hit in this mosque, pushed, punched, verbally abused and belittled,” claimed a concerned father.
“Something needs to be done before it is too late because the teachers are very good at covering up this abuse.”
Claims made to the Evening Post include:
• Children being made to stand against a wall with their arms up for long spells as punishment.
• Youngsters forced to sit in an uncomfortable position on the floor for “being naughty.”
• Teachers smacking pupils on a regular basis.
• One child falling twice after being pushed by members of staff.
• Pupils being refused permission to use the toilet and then wetting themselves in class.
• Children being sworn at and belittled in front of others.
• Youngsters threatened they will be thrown out of the window and being lifted up at the window to scare them.
• Pupils being allowed to wander out on to the street because doors are left open.
One mother, who claimed her daughter had become withdrawn since starting lessons at the mosque, said: “She is a very bright girl, but after she went there she started to behave differently.
“She was quite moody at home, she wouldn’t eat anything and was very isolated. That’s not like her.
“At night she would wake up and cry. She was regularly upset and started to wet the bed.
“I thought at first that maybe it was just a change in her routine. But she has been wetting herself just after mosque. She is wetting herself out of fear.
“She keeps saying she wants to stay at home. She has said she is frightened of going to the mosque.
“She gets pushed around and she’s made to stand with her arms up the wall for long periods.
“A lot of parents feel scared and intimidated. Smacking of children has become so common that some parents are beginning to think it’s quite normal.”
Another mother added: “Smacking goes on regularly. It is physical and psychological abuse, bullying, emotional abuse, swearing, pushing and hitting children.
“It’s shocking. It shouldn’t be happening in this country. As a mother, I am horrified by what is happening.
“Many parents have talked to the staff at the mosque. It’s a day-to-day thing. But they know they are untouchable because parents won’t take it any further.
“If we did, then the whole community would turn against us. So everyone keeps quiet.
“Going to mosque for two hours every day after school is compulsory. It is fundamental. There are things they have to learn. So it’s a catch 22 situation. Parents don’t feel they have any choice but send their children to the mosque from the age of three to 12.”
The Evening Post passed the allegations on to Lancashire Police almost two weeks ago. A police spokesman confirmed the force had received one email from the same father who contacted the LEP to complain about treatment suffered by his child at the mosque.
The email was anonyomous, with the parent explaining: “I unfortunately do not feel able to disclose my identity for fear of reprisals. However, I don’t feel I can sit and do nothing about the situation.
“I am writing this letter in the hope that you will take action in order to look into the mosque to ascertain the welfare of the children.
“No-one wants to involve the authorities. But at the end of the day I fear for the children.”
The police spokesman added: “We can confirm that we have received the anonymous information and we are making enquiries to trace the informant.
“At this stage no formal complaints have been made and we are still in the every early stages of gathering information.
“If anybody has any concerns, please contact us on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
Trustees of the Aqsa Mosque issued a strong denial of the claims. A statement, signed by Trustees of Masjid-e-Aqsa, said: “We were informed by Lancashire Constabulary, Social Services and Children’s Social Care on Friday October 2, that an anonymous email has been circulated regarding accusations of concerns at the madrassah.
“Firstly as an organisation, we categorically state that these allegations are false and unfounded, however we are more than willing to fully co-operate with all parties concerned regarding any investigation that may occur. At this stage, we have not had any formal complaints of this nature from any parents.
“We would like to reassure all parents and the wider community that we would take any complaints of this nature very seriously and have processes in place to investigate these allegations in order to safeguard all the children that attend this madrassah.
“The organisation acts in accordance to the guidelines that are administered by the Charity Commission and the local authority.”