Article Op-Ed

Chicago Imam Accused of Sexual Abuse...What Next?

Chicago Imam Accused of Sexual Abuse...What Next?

Author Saud Inam by

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Valery Kenski

The author's views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Also, the comments posted on this Website are solely the opinions of the posters.

By now, you’ve probably heard about the case of sexual abuse in Chicago involving a prominent imam . You might feel a mix of emotions: anger, sadness, or just sheer disgust, and rightfully so. You might also be thinking that, given the amount of negative media attention Islam and Muslims are receiving, this is an awful time for this story to surface.

Indeed, we are living in difficult times. But in order to make sense of the chaos, I’ve put together eight reflections on the Chicago case that may help us make sense of the story:

1) What Happened is Totally Inexcusable

This much is obvious. Our children and our community should be disgusted by this news and work to rectify the issue within each and every one of our masjids and educational institutions. The Atlanta Muslim community needs to demand of its masjid boards and educational institutions proper evaluations of all staff. Parents should demand that background checks be conducted on all teachers and imams prior to bringing them into our communities.

2) Imams and Scholars are NOT Infallible

Sometimes, when we think of the well-known scholars, speakers, imams and activists in our community, we make the mistake of glorifying them or putting them on pedestals that may not be appropriate for them. Yes, some may be doing good work, but they’re human, just like you and me. They struggle with their nafs (desires and lusts) like the rest of us. They have emotions, feelings, and struggles. We need to be careful in our praise of imams and scholars. Do not go overboard and immortalize them or make them out to be people who can do no wrong.

3) We Need to Demand Better Imams

Let’s be brutally honest. We have a severe lack of imams in the Atlanta Metro community. Even less so qualified, well-spoken, and educated imams.

This should be a wake-up call for our entire community: we really need to make sure we know who we’re bringing into our communities. Are masjid boards exposing our women and children to unnecessary danger? Are they letting a wolves into the sheep pens?

We must become more selective of the imams we hire. While I know imams are sometimes mistreated by masjid boards and community members, there needs to be a better process for hiring, firing and even selecting an imam for your community. Simply picking an imam because he speaks the same language as you, is the same culture as you, and dresses like you, doesn’t necessarily mean he’s the best person for the job. As a community, we must pressure our boards to select imams who are well-spoken, educated, youth-friendly, good speakers, and competent community builders.

4) We Need to Provide Counseling Resources for Our Community

In these difficult times, it is important that we focus on healing. Especially in these times we need to help our community deal with this story along with other tragedies occurring in the Muslim community.

We need to create spaces where our youth, women, children, and converts can seek help in non-judgemental settings. The Muslim Wellness Foundation-Atlanta is working on developing Noor Healing Circles which will come soon to masjids in Atlanta.

5) Community Introspection

While we may be utterly disgusted by the actions of the imam in Chicago we, as a community, need to look at the inner demons within us that may be turning people away from the masjid, Islam and Allah. Are our actions turning brothers and sisters away? Are we helping or harming the community?

6) We MUST Take Back our Masjids

Our community’s issues have come to a boiling point. We have people who do not attend masjids due to judgmental Muslims, socio-cultural cliques, irrelevant khutbahs, irrelevant imams, programs, and overall unwelcoming masjids. When the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) built his masjid in Madinah it was meant to be a center for the community. His masjid provided spiritual nourishment and helped build the community. However, masjids today (not all) are by and large cancers to spiritual and community development. You do not need to look far to see this.

Next time you’re at the masjid for Isha or Fajr look to your left and right. Who are the majority of the attendees? Young or old? Who is attending the masjid programs? Are there programs for women or converts? Observe your masjid and see if the masjid is really serving the community or harming it.

You must demand more from your masjid. Pressure your masjid board for more youth programs, better accommodations for women, programs for converts, better khutbahs, and better leadership. This can be done in a civil, respectful and productive manner inshallah, but the key is to put pressure on your masjid board and leadership because the very future of our community depends on it.

I don’t mean to sound negative or unjustly critical, but the very future of our community is dependent on the improvement of our masjids. Masjids are meant to be the heart and soul of communities. Right now, our masjids are in cardiac arrest and few are helping to revive the hearts of our community.

7) Take Action!

Call for a meeting with your masjid board or Islamic educational institution your children may attend. Demand accountability from all masjid leadership and staff. Also, ask for all finances and policies to be made transparent for the community. Ask your imam to sign the letter to condemn the acts committed by the imam in Chicago .
The Imam of Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam, Imam Syed Mohiuddin, signed the statement and we hope more local imams here in Atlanta sign on, too, and endorse the statement.

Also, demand that all staff and masjid leadership who interact with the community are evaluated from a third-party to review and analyze operations, procedures, and community safety. Lastly, demand background checks on all staff brought into your community.

8) Don’t Lose Hope

Lastly, we know our community is under immense pressure, scrutiny, Islamophobia, etc. However, the key is to not lose hope. Sometimes it feels like all we hear is bad news in the media about Islam and Muslims and this was just another news story to add to the list. However, we shouldn’t lose hope in our community or Muslims or Allah. If we lose hope, we’ve lost everything. Don’t slip into a victim-mentality. Empower yourself. Find a cause or a local organization here in Atlanta to volunteer with that will value your thoughts, ideas, work and efforts.

Be like Noah (AS), who built the ark. Keep on building despite the negativity around you. Focus on your task and work to help benefit and strengthen your community!

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