Illinois Imam Charged With Sex Abuse at Islamic School
A Chicago-area imam who many considered a respected Islamic scholar now faces charges of committing sexual abuse at a school he ran for more than 40 years.
Mohammad Abdullah Saleem, 75, who founded the Institute of Islamic Education in Elgin, Illinois, a city about 35 miles northwest of Chicago, is charged with felony criminal sexual abuse of a school employee and four students.
Garrett Tenney reported on "Happening Now" that the allegations span four decades and have shaken the Muslim community.
Saleem has been released on $250,000 bail. The imam's lawyer says he hasn't seen anything to substantiate the allegations.
"The boarding school is coming under fire itself for not protecting students, including a man who claims he was sexually assaulted by a male staff member when he was a student there," Tenney reported.
So far, the five victims have filed a civil lawsuit against the school and Saleem, Tenney said, adding that police are investigating each of the cases and additional criminal charges could be filed.
"Community leaders, though, are expecting more victims to come forward, as thousands of children have attended the school over the last 30 years," Tenney said.
Defense attorney Thomas Glasgow said he talked to his client about the Elgin charges and that Saleem "categorically denies the allegations." He hadn't had a chance to speak to him about the lawsuit. No one answered the phone Tuesday at the school, which has students from grades six through 12 and is 25 miles northwest of Chicago.
Saleem, of Gilberts, was arrested Sunday, Elgin police said. Authorities started investigating after the woman contacted them in December.
During a Tuesday bond hearing, prosecutors alleged that a month after the woman started working at the school in 2012, Saleem started removing the religious veil from her face and came into her office to hug her. Over several months, prosecutors said, he would hug her and squeeze her buttocks and breasts over her clothes.
Last April, prosecutors say Saleem locked the door of the woman's office, lifted her dress, forced her to sit on top of him, massaged her and held her down when she tried to get up. Prosecutors say they collected evidence.
The lawsuit says that when one female student told a teacher Saleem touched her inappropriately, she was told, "Saleem is an old man and old people do things like that - so just forget it."
Saleem's bond was set at $250,000 and he was ordered to have no contact with the accuser, her family or anyone under age 18. Glasgow said he expected Saleem to post bond later Tuesday. Saleem, who also had to surrender his passport, is due in court again March 10.
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