A Cooper City Islamic school and mosque have agreed to a multimillion-dollar legal settlement with three former students who say a teacher sexually abused them over a decade ago.
A lawsuit filed in Broward County Circuit Court in 2014 alleged Nur-Ul-Islam Academy and mosque were negligent as a teacher named Tariq Ahmad, now 39, sexually abused at least three female students in their young teens from about 2004 to 2008. The women, who are now all in their mid- to late-20s, will benefit from the undisclosed amount, according to their lawyer, Scott Mager.
“These kids obviously were unable to come out. They had to wait years and years and years [to] come out, and they have to deal with this incredible pressure from the culture and the family,” said Mager of the Mager Paruas law firm. “The money they’re going to get is going to help them so much with the therapy they desperately need.”
The lawsuit claimed that, for at least one of the girls, Ahmed allegedly would write in “code” on the blackboard in class to arrange times to meet up with her and also communicated with her through social media and late-night phone calls.
The women say the school knew of Ahmad’s abuse and worked to cover it up. According to a psychologist working on the case, when the secret got out at the Islamic private school, the girls were mocked by students, teachers and the school president, who, according to the lawsuit, told one of the girls she was “equally responsible.” One girl’s family tied her up and abused her in their home, Mager said.
Kem Hussain, one of the named defendants and the school president, did not respond to requests for comment. The lawsuit says he was approached by a parent of one of the girls who discovered a late-night phone call between their daughter and Ahmad.
Hussain is also alleged to acknowledge that Ahmad confessed that he had improper contact with “numerous female students,” and solicited a letter of resignation from Ahmad, according to the lawsuit.
No one from the mosque returned requests for comment, including its attorney, Yasir Billoo. Dennis O’Hara, who represented the school and mosque in the lawsuit, declined to comment.
According to a complaint taken by Pembroke Pines Police in 2014, a victim came forward to say she had sex with Ahmad over 100 times when she was 12 to 14 years old. Ahmad told her she was pretty and gave her a lot of attention, the report said, and the two spoke over the phone and by text.
The complaint said the pair met almost every weekend at either a west Broward Publix to have sex in Ahmad’s car or at his home in Pembroke Pines. Similar to what was alleged in the lawsuit, the victim said they developed “codes” that Ahmad wrote on the board in class to make arrangements to meet.
Police reported that the victim did not disclose the sexual relationship sooner because, “she is a member of a conservative Muslim community and it would have caused ‘shame and disgrace’ to her family.” The complaint also notes that police made contact with another former student who said that she also had a sexual relationship with the defendant when she was 15 to 16 years old.
Police made contact with Ahmad and his attorney at a police station in July 2014, but Ahmad denied any sexual relationships with either student, according to the report.
A warrant is still out for Ahmad’s arrest, according to a Broward State Attorney’s Office spokeswoman. He was charged in 2014 with five counts of sexual battery by a person who is in a position of familial or custodial authority to a minor — which indicates that there may have been more than just three students affected — and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation. His whereabouts are not known.
The investigation is still active and charges are still pending. She would not comment further.
Though the academy and mosque settled with the women, ADP TotalSource, the school’s human resources management provider, was added as a defendant to the suit. That portion of the litigation is still ongoing.
Glenn Ross Caddy, a Fort Lauderdale-based clinical forensic health psychologist and expert witness in the case, said of each of the three victims, Ahmad took their virginity and told them he would marry them. That was a serious promise for a young girl whose virginity — what made them “pure” in the Muslim faith — was taken from them, Caddy said.
Caddy said the abuse and subsequent backlash from the victims’ faith community and their families was “devastating.” One opted for hymen reconstructive surgery and another struggles to get her life together and enroll in college, he said.
“All of them have been pushed back at least four or five years in emotional development,” Caddy said.