Chicago Imam Charged With Sexual Abuse: Shock, Disillusionment, But Mostly Rage


In the Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord

I had heard rumblings and whispers about the alleged abuse by prominent Chicago Imam Abdullah Saleem. Well, it is all out in the open:

On Tuesday, two days after turning himself into Elgin police, Saleem was charged with one count of criminal sexual abuse of a woman. She and three other women also filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual assault and battery. The other women say they were minors when the abuse took place. Saleem was also charged with aggravated battery.

The criminal complaint is infuriating. Apparently, there have been multiple instances of abuse dating back decades. Eman Aly, a Counselor, has been assisting the victims with their coming forward. She said, “Based on the victims we spoke to, this has been happening since the early 80s.”

I must confess I was shocked. I know this Imam; I have prayed behind him; I have listened to his Friday sermons; I have heard him recite the Qur’an. That such allegations could be credible completely blew my mind.

What if they are false? That is not likely, as this tweet from Abdul Malik Mujahid states:

Here are more details:

Almost ten years ago we are told that he admitted to sexual misbehavior in a mediation requested by a victim’s family and accepted a volunteer withdrawal from being Imam in his own masjid. In this recent case he accepted the mediation of Imam Omar Muzaffar when an employee complained of sexual assault. He signed the mediation document of admission and apology before backing off which caused the accuser to go public.

Here is where my disillusionment comes in. Almost ten years ago? And nothing was done? No one went to the authorities? How can this be?

Moreover, how can this man do such a thing? He teaches the Qur’an; he leads people in prayer; he knows the Word of God by heart. How can he do such a thing? How can he be a monster in Maulana’s clothing, to paraphrase Abdul Malik Mujahid’s words?

Disillusionment, however, is quickly replaced by rage. Rage at what has happened. Rage at the fact that a man to whom the entire community looked up could betray it so horrifically by abusing children. Children!

There is also rage at the fact that, according to the complaint, a teacher at the school in Elgin allegedly told one of the victims, “old people do things like that, so just forget it.” This attitude – to keep such things “hush-hush” – is completely unacceptable; completely unconscionable; completely un-Islamic. Never mind the fact that it is illegal…

I completely understand that there is a lot of discomfort in the community for having these allegations out in the open. There is already tremendous pressure on American Muslims these days due to happenings overseas and the actions of a tiny fringe of criminals who act in Islam’s name. The last thing we need is news about our own Imams being pedophiles.

I asked Ms. Aly the question of, “Why now?” She answered:

I wonder why now myself. When I was gathering information before, when I was working on this alone, many times people would say we heard things or we knew. And I was baffled, because my first thought was, why didn’t you do anything?
Someone told me that maybe now is just the right time, and we couldn’t have asked for a better outcome. Things fell into place in [a] way that couldn’t have been written…it’s just so validating, because even though we were moving against the current with the community, knots were undone.
And this was the Gordian knot. And with God’s help we cut right through it, and hopefully no one will suffer at the hands of this man.

But, the Qur’an demands that we stand up for justice, even if it is against our own selves:

O You who have attained to faith! Be ever steadfast in upholding justice, bearing witness to the truth for the sake of God, even though it be against your own selves or your parents and kinfolk. Whether the person concerned be rich or poor, God’s claim takes precedence over [the claims of] either of them. Do not, then, follow your own desires, lest you swerve from justice: for it you distort [the truth], behold, God is indeed aware of all that you do. (4:135)

The Prophet (pbuh) said that we must support our brother or sister, whether he or she is the oppressor or the oppressed. When asked how we can help an oppressor, it is by stopping him or her from committing oppression. Thus, by coming forward, these brave sisters and brother are working to stop future Imam Saleems from hurting other people.

May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – protect our children from any and all sexual predators, whatever garb they may wear. May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – protect our community from this ever happening again. May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – bring comfort to all victims of sexual abuse and violence and justice to those who prey on them.

In Your Most Holy Name do I ask this, O Lord. Amen.

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5 thoughts on “Chicago Imam Charged With Sexual Abuse: Shock, Disillusionment, But Mostly Rage

  1. I’m sorry your trust has been betrayed and that these women suffered so much and for so long without justice. Hopefully, this situation won’t be like the Maurice Blackwell situation was here in Baltimore.

  2. Great post Hesham. We must demand a system with the proper policies, protocols, regulations, practices to prevent this from happening again. We must demand that CIOGC employs this quickly with working with experts who know how to make such a system from where it has been already…like boy scouts, boarding schools, etc. and without those at IIE who of course have a conflict on interest.

    “The lawsuit also includes a male plaintiff who said he was 11 when a male staff member, not Saleem, abused him late at night at the boarding school. In the complaint, he describes climbing through the ceiling tiles of a locked office to use the only available phone to call his parents. His mother removed him from the school the next day and told school administrators why, the suit said, but nothing was done.”

    This is a quote from Chicago Tribune

    Who is this male staff member?

    IIE must identify him immediately so he is not able to molest any more children.

  3. “May God Almighty – The Beautiful, Precious, Beloved Lord – bring comfort to all victims of sexual abuse and violence and justice to those who prey on them.”

    I agree with this but with the understanding that you are 100% against some vigilante violence since that is unIslamic and illegal and that you were just mentioning violence as a metaphor for punishment executed by the responsible authorities.

    Of course, the authority in the hereafter is God and may those who prey on children stop their wicked behavior and may God guide them to seek forgiveness to avoid the punishment in the hereafter. Ameen.

    We must all be vigilant to protect our children from all such predators.

  4. Pingback: Chicago community rocked by arrest of imam - The Muslim ObserverThe Muslim Observer

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