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Brutal: A Call to Speak Out Against Child Abuse

31 July 2012 5 Comments

Brutal Book Cover

Nabila Sharma
London, United Kingdom

“I’m now 36 years old and, after many years of heartache, pain, and subsequent counseling, I feel as though I have finally emerged from a long dark tunnel and back into the light.”


My name is Nabila Sharma and I am a Muslim.  I was just seven years old when the imam at my local mosque began to sexually abuse me.  The abuse happened on an almost daily basis and lasted for four years.

The imam was the most powerful man in our community and I was terrified of him.  He told me that I was special and singled me out from the start. He ruled our mosque with an atmosphere of fear. Instead of learning the Koran as a good Muslim girl should, he gave me special tasks to do. It helped me escape my prayers but it also separated me from the other children. At first I felt special, like the teacher’s pet, but soon, the others began to resent me – I became the chosen one.

As I was always first one at the mosque, the imam suggested I start my prayers early before the others arrived. It was a ruse to get me up into his private quarters – his bedroom. No one, only the imam was allowed in there so again, I felt special. I thought I’d be safe because he was the imam, our teacher and the most important man I knew. But I was wrong – he was a pedophile. At first he showered me with compliments but these soon gave way to sexual abuse. I was too terrified and too ashamed to tell a soul.

I became obsessed with learning to tell the time.  I would count down the seconds – how long I’d have to be alone with him – before the other children arrived. As the abuse progressed, I would avoid going into the mosque until the very last minute to lessen my time alone with my abuser. Sometimes I’d wait outside but I was always too worried in case someone spotted me hanging around on the street corner – it wasn’t what good Muslim girls did.

The abuse continued until I was almost twelve years old, and about to start secondary school.  During this time and, in a bid to cope, I began to self-harm. In particular, I would try to disfigure my face. The imam always told me how pretty I was so I cut myself in the hope that if I was ugly enough, he wouldn’t like me anymore. I hoped it would make the abuse stop. I was wrong.

I suffered depression and spent many hours alone crying in my bedroom. I felt I had no one to turn to. I had no confidence and no self-esteem. He destroyed everything.

The day I left the mosque, was the day I turned my back on my religion, culture and faith. Instead, I rebelled and experimented with drink and cigarettes. My parents later found out about the abuse but turned a blind eye and refused to do anything. It made me feel worthless, as if I had shamed the family and was ‘damaged goods’.

I suffered reoccurring nightmares and remained haunted by what the imam had done to me but somehow, I managed to push it all to the back of my mind. I worried that he had gone on to abuse others and was constantly plagued with guilt. Still, I said nothing.

I left school and decided that I needed to protect other children. No one had saved me from the imam, but I could help others. I trained to become a nursery nurse and later a chaperone so that I could safeguard all children in my care. I didn’t want them to feel as frightened and vulnerable as I had.

I’m now 36 years old and, after many years of heartache, pain and subsequent counseling, I feel as though I have finally emerged from a long dark tunnel and back into the light. I have written a book, called Brutal, in the hope it gives others the courage to come forward and report such heinous crimes. My story needs to be told and people need understand that things like this can and do happen.

I’m calling for the Asian Muslim community to properly inspect their imams in the same way teachers are checked on their ability to teach children. I believe there should be fundamental changes in the way imams are employed in mosques. They should be asked to provide a complete history of their teaching qualifications and full proof of their certificates. They should also be CRB checked. I want mosques to undergo regular Ofsted inspections. These rules and regulations are in place for a reason – to help and protect our children. It is vital that we do this.

I will continue to speak out until these changes are made and my voice is heard. It is all I can do to help others.

My book Brutal is a true account of what happened to me. It’s a hard-hitting book, for which I make no apology because, only by speaking out, can we stamp out this kind of abuse.

If you believe a child is being abused, please contact the NSPCC at 0808-800-5000.


Follow author Nabila Sharma on Twitter (@NabilaSharma)

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The views and opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Peace X Peace.

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5 Comments to “Brutal: A Call to Speak Out Against Child Abuse”
  1. Orbala says:

    I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Nabila: thank you for writing this! It *will* go a much longer way than you’ll probably ever know. I’m certain it will encourage others to come forward with their stories as well. We’ve learned that keeping silent about this crime harms only the victims of these abuses and defends only the abusers.

    You know, most times, when kids are going through sexual or other abuses at school or mosque, they will try really hard to avoid going there; so they make excuses. But what do most parents do? They attack their kids, beat them in many cases, and force them to go anyway. If the child speaks up and says, “Teacher/imam X does this to me,” the parents shut them up by saying something like, “Shame on you for thinking this way of that Imam/mullah! He’s such a respected, good-hearted, well-known man, and he teaches the Qur’an, for God’s sake! If he did this to any kid, no parent would send him their kids! Shut up and never say this again.” Or then something equally cruel, only more vicious: “Stop making excuses to avoid classes! Get ready and get going already!”

    If only the parents/guardians and other elders would sit the child down, take them seriously, or at least assume for just a moment that the kid might be telling the truth … maybe we’d be closer to solving this problem.

    My Qur’an teacher in my elementary school in Pakistan sexually abused children too (his preference was girls)… no one could speak up against it because no one would’ve believed them. He was everyone’s beloved, so…

  2. Hind Waleed says:

    HI Nabila; \

    I come from the UAE and I read your book for the first time and im not done ( still reading chapter 26 ) and i loved it and i learned a lot and thank you.. i read this book to my class for 1 month each day and they loved it and we all love you Nabila. xoxo <3

  3. Hind Waleed says:

    what other books you’ve written, i really wanna read your books Nabila <3

  4. Hind says:

    Im 14 and im a muslim <3

  5. Helllo

    Thank you for reading Brutal and sharing it with your class friends that is very good of you.
    There will be more things to follow in the new year,

    Nabila x

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