Texas imam Nick Pelletier faces backlash for his intense sermon just days ago against sexual abuse, drawing a spotlight on mosque culture and corruption. A passionate Friday sermon against the degrading and lewd behavior of an elderly man as he forced himself on young boys. It is believed that mosque board members gave the man time to flee the country and never contacted the police, which is a typical pattern of behavior across most mosques in America who shy away from bringing in outside authorities to deal with a very specialized class of human beings…a Muslim.
This comes at the heels of a sex scandal involving a cleric who preceded Imam Nick at the Islamic Center of Irving, Imam Nick’s sermon timely on multiple issues that focus on the grooming, abuse and exploitation of children.
Last month, American Muslims learned of a chilling sexual exploitation account involving Imam Zia Ul-Haq Sheikh. During his time as an imam at the Islamic Center, Sheikh sexually groomed a vulnerable young Muslim teen while serving as her spiritual adviser and slowly entering the girl’s life as a father figure.
Responding to cases of abuse, Imam Nick gave a searing sermon that captured the hearts of the many voiceless American Muslims, while antagonizing many of those in institutional power. Imam Nick’s sermon (available below) resulted in fiery backlash — against Imam Nick.
Imam Nick has since been placed on “administrative leave,” as was shared with Clarion Intelligence Network after three hours of trying to speak with a live person at the Islamic Center of Irving. While many Muslims are rallying around Imam Nick and taking to social media with the hashtag #IstandwithImamNick, we aren’t hearing from imams and community leaders willing to boldly come forward in defense of Imam Nick.
They’re entirely capable of doing so. Here are four examples of scholars and imams who continue to enjoy power due to overwhelming community and institutional support despite their behavior as chaos agents.
What’s more, these institutions often appropriate the call to prayer to draw a congregation — a core customer base — that is then used to build out programming and services that makes the mosque or organization central to the religious lives of the local population.
In addition to turning a blind eye to the sexual grooming of minors by corrupt religious ‘authority’, the Islamic Center of Irving offers youth sports, an Islamic school and a Sunday school, luring in more children into a predatory environment. The center also claims to offer social services, as its website dictates, through:
There is also no mention of whether any imam is certified in marriage counseling or in a specific Islamic science, which is a sort of religious theory across different schools of thought. Most imams are not therapists and counselors, but most mosque boards welcome a conflation of the two as a way to drive snake-oil salesmanship as a one-stop cure-all.
What the Muslim community is suffering from is a crippling obedience to a prehistoric blueprint of religion, cemented over a millennia as the only archetype for what religious communities look like.
Islam doesn’t require any of this — not the mosque, not the Islamic institution, not the celebrity circuit of lecturers, and certainly not the amplification of imams being anymore more than simply a prayer leader. We don’t even need prayer leaders. None of these are prerequisite for what it means to be a Muslim.
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