George HoudeChicago Tribune
A suburban Islamic leader accused of molesting an underage girl and a female employee pleaded guilty Thursday afternoon and was sentenced to 24 months probation.
Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, 77, who founded the Institute for Islamic Education in Elgin, must also register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. In addition, he is forbidden to be in the presence of females of any age, except relatives, without another adult female present. He also cannot be within 500 feet of any school — including the one he founded 27 years ago, except to worship at its affiliated mosque.
"Mr. Saleem thought it would be in the best interest of the Islamic community to accept the plea agreement and avoid a trial," his lawyer, Donna Rotunno, said following the hearing.
Saleem was accused of repeatedly fondling a young woman who worked for him at the school, as well as a student who was a minor at the time, in some cases while forcing them sit on his lap. Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Jaclyn Lantz said the student was 14 when Saleem began to abuse her in 2001. The following year, the girl reported the abuse to a school official, "but nothing happened," Lantz said.
No one at the school could be reached for comment Thursday.
The arrest of the conservative scholar on sex abuse charges was especially shocking given Saleem's stature in his community made up largely of Islamic immigrants from India and Pakistan. He is said to espouse a code of separation between genders and discourages even hand-shaking. The institute, which provides boarding to some students, runs separate programs for girls and boys.
At the hearing Thursday, Lantz reiterated the allegations against Saleem and explaining how his inappropriate conduct toward both his victims escalated over time.
Beginning in late 2013, Lantz said, Saleem began to request to his office manager that she not wear her veil, and then began removing it himself. Lantz said Saleem repeatedly locked the door in his office while the woman was there and touched her breasts and buttocks, tried to massage her ankles and tried to force her to massage his ankles, despite her resistance. In April 2014, the imam forced the woman to sit on his lap. After she was able to free herself, the woman noticed a spot on her pants that was later found to match Saleem's DNA profile, Lantz said.
After that, the woman quit her job and alerted a family member to what had happened. The imam told her he would not touch her again if she returned to work, but the woman refused and moved out of state, Lantz said.
The younger victim, now an adult, went to authorities about Saleem's past abuse of her after learning he was being investigated for the later allegations.
The prosecutor said Saleem touched the younger victim's genitals outside of her clothes and fondled her breasts dozens of times between 2001 and 2003, until she too moved out of state.
Judge James Karahalios had earlier ruled that, had Saleem gone to trial, he would have allowed testimony from two other women who also claimed the imam groped them. Four women have also filed a civil suit claiming sex abuse by the imam. In some cases the claims date back decades.
Lantz said both victims chose not to attend the plea hearing but were satisfied that the imam took responsibility for his actions. She said they were not seeking orders of protection against him.
The elderly, white-bearded imam had appeared to be close to accepting a plea bargain in recent days, and had made two earlier court appearances this week as lawyers negotiated in private in the judge's chambers. On Tuesday, Karahalios gave Saleem until Sept. 2 to accept the proposed plea deal.
Saleem, in a wheelchair and in religious garb, did not speak during the hearing except to tell the judge, "I plead guilty" and to acknowledge that he understood what he was pleading to, which was two counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse. After the hearing, he was taken for his first appointment with a probation officer in Cook County court's Rolling Meadows branch.
Afsar Ali, a Muslim who attended the hearing but is not affiliated with the institute's mosque, said he was "happy for the victims and hope this will provide some sort of closure for them."
Ali said the women set a good example in the Muslim community by coming forward with their allegations.
"I wish our community was more open to talking about this so that if our children are violated in any way, they can come forward without fear," he said.
George Houde is a freelance reporter
QuranQuran (4:11) - (Inheritance) "The male shall have the equal of the portion of two females" (see also verse 4:176). In Islam, sexism is mathematically established.
Quran (2:282) - (Court testimony) "And call to witness, from among your men, two witnesses. And if two men be not found then a man and two women." Muslim apologists offer creative explanations to explain why Allah felt that a man's testimony in court should be valued twice as highly as a woman's, but studies consistently show that women are actually less likely to tell lies than men, meaning that they make more reliable witnesses.
Quran (2:228) - "and the men are a degree above them [women]"
Quran (5:6) - "And if ye are unclean, purify yourselves. And if ye are sick or on a journey, or one of you cometh from the closet, or ye have had contact with women, and ye find not water, then go to clean, high ground and rub your faces and your hands with some of it" Men are to rub dirt on their hands, if there is no water to purify them, following casual contact with a woman (such as shaking hands).
Quran (24:31) - Women are to lower their gaze around men, so they do not look them in the eye. (To be fair, men are told to do the same thing in the prior verse).
Quran (2:223) - "Your wives are as a tilth unto you; so approach your tilth when or how ye will..."A man has dominion over his wives' bodies as he does his land. This verse is overtly sexual. There is some dispute as to whether it is referring to the practice of anal intercourse. If this is what Muhammad meant, then it would appear to contradict what he said in Muslim (8:3365).
Quran (4:3) - (Wife-to-husband ratio) "Marry women of your choice, Two or three or four"Inequality by numbers.
Quran (53:27) - "Those who believe not in the Hereafter, name the angels with female names."Angels are sublime beings, and would therefore be male.
Hadith and SiraSahih Bukhari (6:301) - "[Muhammad] said, 'Is not the evidence of two women equal to the witness of one man?' They replied in the affirmative. He said, 'This is the deficiency in her intelligence.'"
Sahih Bukhari (6:301) - continued - "[Muhammad said] 'Isn't it true that a woman can neither pray nor fast during her menses?' The women replied in the affirmative. He said, 'This is the deficiency in her religion.'" Allah has made women deficient in the practice of their religion as well, by giving them menstrual cycles.
Sahih Bukhari (2:29) - Women comprise the majority of Hell's occupants. This is important because the only women in heaven mentioned explicitly by Muhammad are the virgins who serve the sexual desires of men. (A weak Hadith, Kanz al-`ummal, 22:10, even suggests that 99% of women go to Hell).
Sahih Bukhari (62:81) - "The Prophet said: "'The stipulations most entitled to be abided by are those with which you are given the right to enjoy the (women's) private parts (i.e. the stipulations of the marriage contract).'" In other words, the most important thing a woman brings to marriage is between her legs.
Sahih Bukhari (62:58) - A woman presents herself in marriage to Muhammad, but he does not find her attractive, so he "donates" her on the spot to another man.
Sahih Muslim (4:1039) - "A'isha said [to Muhammad]: 'You have made us equal to the dogs and the asses'" These are the words of Muhammad's favorite wife, complaining of the role assigned to women under Islam.
Abu Dawud (2:704) - "...the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) said: When one of you prays without a sutrah, a dog, an ass, a pig, a Jew, a Magian, and a woman cut off his prayer, but it will suffice if they pass in front of him at a distance of over a stone's throw."
Abu Dawud (2155) - Women are compared to slaves and camels with regard to the "evil" in them.
Ishaq 593 - "As for Ali, he said, 'Women are plentiful, and you can easily change one for another.'"Ali was raised as a son by Muhammad. He was also the 4th caliph. This comment was made in Muhammad's presence without a word of rebuke from him.
Ishaq 593 - "From the captives of Hunayn, Allah's Messenger gave [his son-in-law] Ali a slave girl called Baytab and he gave [future Caliph] Uthman a slave girl called Zaynab and [future Caliph] Umar another." - Even in this world, Muhammad treated women like party favors, handing out enslaved women to his cronies for sex.
Ibn Ishaq (693) - "Then the apostle sent Sa-d b. Zayd al-Ansari, brother of Abdu'l-Ashal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons."Muhammad traded captured women for horses.
Al-Tirmidhi 3272 - "When Allah's Messenger was asked which woman was best he replied, 'The one who pleases (her husband) when he looks at her, obeys him when he gives a command, and does not go against his wishes regarding her person or property by doing anything of which he disapproves'."
Tabari VIII:117 - The fate of more captured farm wives, whom the Muslims distributed amongst themselves as sex slaves: "Dihyah had asked the Messenger for Safiyah when the Prophet chose her for himself... the Apostle traded for Safiyah by giving Dihyah her two cousins. The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims."
Tabari IX:137 - "Allah granted Rayhana of the Qurayza to Muhammad as booty."
Ishaq 969 - "Lay injunctions on women kindly, for they are prisoners with you having no control of their persons." - This same text also says that wives may be beaten for "unseemliness".
Tabari Vol 9, Number 1754 - "Treat women well, for they are [like] domestic animals with you and do not possess anything for themselves." From Muhammad's 'Farewell Sermon'.