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Dr Djibril FALL

Child Abuse In Daaras: From the awakening of the victims

My name is Djibril Fall, I am African and of Senegalese nationality. Like many of us who do it in the shadows, I aspire to make my time on earth a useful moment for as many people as possible, starting with those who need it most.

I think I have been incredibly fortunate that God has guided my personal and professional commitment in the defence of human dignity and alongside children and young people. It is an opportunity in view of all that a child represents, both in the spiritual symbolism of my religious and traditional beliefs and in the concrete results that can come from the adequate accompaniment of this being. It is a chance to be able to perpetuate a tradition carried by our African cultures as well as by the religious beliefs that guide our lives today. Examples abound in Senegal, and there is no need to recall the relationship that those we rightly consider our examples had with children and young people. No doubt they themselves drank directly from prophetic sources, without any guilty social interpretation.

As I write these words, I am thinking of all that I was taught by Mame Abdou and Serigne Saliou. And I confess to being afraid! The fear of a simple human being, no doubt an uneducated person, who is constantly repeating what he has learned from the teachings of the Prophet Mouhamed (PSL) about his relationship with children. I am afraid because what I see, what I hear is nothing like what I was taught in my religion. It bears no resemblance to what the same people who are now advocating punishment of children are telling us all over the air about our illustrious guides.

My religion has consecrated the child as a "sinless" being, in other words a being who has never "done anything wrong", who is not "responsible".

So I want to understand! I want to understand why harm someone who has "done nothing wrong" in the "eyes" of God? I want to understand how someone who says he lived and suffered the same punishments as a child can now defend the mind-numbing bullying of other children. Perhaps this will allow us to deconstruct their words and bring some sanity and compassion back into our already battered daily lives.

The argument used by the proponents of bullying talibé children is simple: "we went through the same thing and yet we are here today" or "this personality went through the same thing and today he has become such a personality".

Gentlemen! (Because, alas, almost all of them are men), I tell you: you are survivors! Bravo! and above all Alhamdoulilah!

But how many have not survived (not only physically speaking, by the way)?

How many have been scarred for life?

How many have gone wrong?

You, who feel strengthened by this bullying, what after-effects do you really have? And perhaps even unconsciously drag them along with you on a daily basis.

What would you have been and done without this bullying?

What would you have become today if you had been given the knowledge of Islam, its Prophet (pbuh), all its Prophets and the Holy Qur'an in love and compassion, respect and dignity?

What could you have brought to your society if your religious learning had not been exercised only through the fear of the whip and chains of an earthly master who tirelessly reproduced his experience on the children entrusted to his care?

It is certainly a shortcut to sum up the story of the abuse of these children to the horrible attitude of certain Koranic masters, most of whom have an immeasurable mission to inculcate the divine word in human beings who enter social life. It is not easy. These teachers are themselves victims of a social reproduction that today we refuse to question and question.

A survivor can develop three attitudes towards these torturers:

  1. A visceral hatred that leads to a strong feeling of uncontrolled and inseparable revenge.
  2. Unconscious sympathy known as Stockholm syndrome.
  3. The complete negation of his life of bullying which often pushes him to create a new life for himself.

Those who today defend the inhumane method of bullying because they themselves have lived it are in my opinion to be classified in the second category. They are victims, and when the victims are given a voice without deconstructing and reconstructing the discourse, we end up with an incomprehensible passionate tohubohu.

Those who have developed a sense of hatred are as dangerous as the second category. Because their hatred can be inseparable, in a way they can resent anyone, even those who are most like them. This is one of the working hypotheses that specialists in the fight against extreme violence (jihadism, neo-Nazism, political extremism, etc.) should use.

As for the third group, they have found a substitute life that allows them to survive in spite of everything. Nevertheless, survivors of their past bullying could resurface and tip them into one of the other two categories.

All this to say that no matter how a victim of abuse reacts, they need personal accompaniment, social support and a public system that guarantees their well-being. Thus, Koranic masters who reproduce the same system of bullying that they have experienced with children and who, moreover, defend it, also need to be helped, accompanied and reinforced. And this is the responsibility of religious and political authorities.

They are all victims, today's and yesterday's abused children are victims of a system that needs to be rethought and improved. They are all survivors. They may have survived fatal diseases, but not necessarily the consequences of their exposure to them. They may have survived hunger, but not necessarily the consequences of malnutrition. They may have survived abuse, but not necessarily the consequences of the fears that it may have engendered throughout this period of personal and social construction.

We are also rightly reminded that the Prophet Mohamed (PSL) himself received the Holy Qur'an in pain, an extreme pain to which my namesake would have subjected him. Yes, I believe in that. But who is the Prophet? Are you the Prophet? Has God chosen you to bring the good word? Let us remain humble! The Prophet bore the brunt of much of the suffering that his people had to endure. So to pay homage to him, to thank God who did him this favor, is not to inflict suffering even less on a child!

My name is Djibril Fall, I work in the West Africa Network for the Protection of Children the RAO. Our work is to restore dignity to vulnerable children with no family ties and to accompany them in their development prospects wherever they are in our region.

No! To defend the dignity of a human being is not to be a freemason or to serve as an enemy of Islam! (God forbid!) This is one of the strong teachings I take from our religions.

No! Denouncing mistreatment is not an act dictated by the West. We are Africans and we also follow the indications of our oldest texts, those which governed for example a great empire like the Mande where the dignity and physical integrity of the child were guaranteed.

Yes, we will mobilize legal resources where they are to be found in order to protect, accompany and ensure the dignity of our children and their future. But we do so in a manner consistent with our beliefs. And this is the place to thank all those who put even a small penny in the fight for the promotion of the dignity of these children. If only our States could guarantee this mission, if only our religious authorities could sustain this vision, I and all those who have made this profession of child protection a priesthood, would be happy to change professions.

Fortunately, good examples exist and remain for us the references on which to build. I am not talking about those sometimes hollow slogans of "modern daara". I just want to talk about Daaras as set up by illustrious religious guides of this country. 

To conclude, I share with you some words that the late Abdoul Aziz Al Amin confided to us when he came to visit the young Senegalese people in Switzerland:

"Djibril, he told me, "this country will always be under divine protection. These people respect the children, the old people and the animals."

Dr Djibril FALL
Email df@resao.org