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October 4, 1999
Islamic College Chief Charged with Assault
A P Kamath in Vancouver
When Mohammad Qasmi bought an abandoned hotel in a town called Hope and turned it into an Islamic College, he made it clear to the parents of his would be students there would be no smoking, no swearing, no girls or other "corruption." The immigrant from Pakistan also reportedly told the parents that the boys would be punished if they disobeyed.
This week, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have charged Qasmi with disobeying the law. The RCMP says it monitored the school for many days after some students complained that they were beaten with sticks. Thirty-three boys, children of immigrants from India and Pakistan and other Asian countries are enrolled; some are eight year old, and a few are over 16.
The institution, which opened eight months ago, has not been registered with the education ministry in British Columbia as yet.
Though called a college, the institution Qasmi runs is more of a retreat where the students can study the Koran and Islamic religion from anything from three months to a year.
Several parents told reporters this week that Qasmi is a misunderstood person, and they had no problem with him, and they agreed that the boys be given corporal punishment when they disobeyed the school's instructors.
Qasmi says he sees nothing wrong in forcing the errant boys into 10-hour long Koranic studies and recitals at a stretch.
"This is our tradition and our culture."
But on October 26, a judge will decide if Qasmi has violated the Canadian culture and, if so, set a date for his trial.
But police officer Al Proulx : "We are drawing a fine line between their beliefs and what is excessive force.
"When a student complains, we take it seriously. Most of these kids are from very traditional Islamic backgrounds. Their parents are very supportive of the discipline of the school. But these kids are born North American and have conflicting beliefs," he said.
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