• An Islamic religious teacher In Houston has been arrested on child sex charges
  • Local authorities have difficulty getting victims to come forward due to religious stigma
  • The local Muslim community is working with law enforcement to help victims find justice

An Islamic religious teacher in Houston, Texas was arrested last week and charged with sex crimes against children under the age of 14, according to authorities.

The Fort Bend County Sherriff’s Office issued a press release saying that 59-year-old Mohamed Omar Ali has been charged with one count of sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child.

Ali, who was reportedly an undocumented Somali national, was also a well-known teacher of Islamic scripture in the Houston area. The Houston Chronicle reports that Ali gained access to his alleged victims by gaining the trust of their families, who invited him into their homes to teach the Quran to their children.

Fort Bend County Sheriff Troy Nehls reported that Ali’s bail was set at $125,000, but due to his illegal status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement put a detainer on him. He is being held at the Fort Bend County jail.

Shariq Abdul Ghani, Director of the Minaret Foundation and representative of the Muslim community, was quick to disassociate himself from Ali, emphatically stating that he was not an employee or official volunteer; however, he traveled to different mosques and schools in the area, endeavoring to establish himself as a de-facto religious leader.

Nehls said the Fort Bend County Sherriff’s Office has shifted their focus to identifying and helping more of Ali’s victims. Authorities began watching him last September; however, the FBI believes his crimes may have been committed as early as 2013.

Authorities said that they getting victims to come forward has proven particularly difficult because of the stigma attached to sexual assault in the Islamic religion. Nehls implored parents of potential victims to come forward and tell their story.

“Put your religious affiliation away, folks, and do what's in the best interest of your child, and reach out to us,” he said.

Ghani is working to facilitate seamless cooperation between the Muslim community and law enforcement in helping victims come forward.

“In every culture, there’s a different definition of survivor’s trauma, and some people who are ashamed to come forward may be from a culture that has this idea of how society might treat them,” he said.

Representational image of a handcuff. Pixabay