‘Religious’ scholar sentenced for sexually abused two children

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MANCHESTER: A disgraced scholar who was trusted with teaching the Quran to children has been jailed after secretly sexually abusing two of the vulnerable youngsters in his care. Liaqat Mahmood, 48, of Tamworth Street, Oldham, was found guilty following a trial earlier this year of seven counts of indecent assault.

He appeared at Minshull Street Crown Court and was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison.

The court heard that Mahmood moved to the UK from Pakistan in the 1990s, and because he was a scholar of the Quran, parents in his community asked him to teach their children. He started taking classes of up to 20 children, and it was said that he ‘began to show an unhealthy interest in two of his young pupils’.

The victims, both of whom were under the age of 10 when the abuse started, said he would take them into a room away from the rest of the class, kiss them and touch them inappropriately.

One of the victims submitted an impact statement, in which she said she did not report the abuse at the time because Mahmood was a respected member of the community as well as a friend of her father’s, and she feared that no one would believe her.

She said it has had devastating long-term effects on her, making it difficult for her to trust people, and has also caused her to struggle with her faith as the background to the abuse was being taught the Quran.

She has suffered from flashbacks and PTSD, and it affected her university studies. Eventually she told her boyfriend what had happened, and took the decision to tell the police.

The second victim came to light as a result of the police investigation. Ricky Holland, defending, said there was a ‘dichotomy between the way Mr Mahmood was seen by the community and the crimes the jury found him guilty of’ that is ‘difficult to reconcile’.

He also spoke about the effects of the shame of Mahmood’s conviction on his immediate family, saying that ‘their future cannot be described as anything but bleak’.

Judge Timothy Mort said: “The families trusted you with their children, and you abused that trust very badly. This was very serious behaviour by you. These girls were presented to you for instruction in the Quran by their parents who trusted you, and you abused that trust absolutely with lasting effects.”