Chicago: The longtime head of a suburban Chicago Islamic school has been arrested and charged with sexually abusing a 23-year-old woman who worked at the school, police said today.
Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, 75, was arrested Sunday without incident and is charged with felony criminal sexual abuse, the Elgin Police Department said in a news release.
The well-known Islamic scholar, or imam, is due to appear court today.
Police said they started investigating Saleem after the woman contacted authorities in December. She told them the abuse happened while she was working at the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin in April 2014.
The school teaches students grades six through 12 and is located 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Chicago. No one answered the phone at the school Tuesday morning. A phone number listed under Saleem's name was disconnected.
Nadiah Mohajir, director of HEART Women and Girls, which raises awareness about sexual abuse in the Muslim community, said word about possible charges had spread in recent days.
"It is a mix of emotions," she said Tuesday about news of Saleem's arrest. "I am in disbelief but relieved ... I think this is a wake-up call."
She told an agency on late Monday that speaking openly about such matters is taboo for Muslims. "The shame and stigma surrounding sexual abuse is even higher in Muslim communities, with its emphasis on purity and modesty," she said. "I hold those values dear, too. But I think they're confused and conflated."
Mohajir said some fear the allegations could make Muslims look bad. "People are concerned this will make the community look worse," she said. "On the other hand, some first generation Muslims are standing up and trying to fix the situation. ... And they're inspired (to do so) by our faith."