Principal of Islamic School in Buffalo Ousted Over Sex Allegations

Mark Sommer, Buffalo News, August 27, 2008

The principal of an Islamic boarding school on Buffalo’s East Side has been forced to resign after allegations that he was sexually involved with one of his students and that he claimed to have taken her as a second wife.

Evidence suggests Mohammed Ibrahim Memon, a father of seven, persuaded Sajidah Khan, then 21, to marry under Islamic law as a pretense to sleep with her.

Memon, an Islamic scholar and imam, has agreed to leave his post at Darul-Uloom Al-Madania, 182 Sobieski St., for a minimum of seven years. The private, Islamic secondary school and institute of higher learning is located alongside Masjid Zakariya mosque in the Broadway-Fillmore neighborhood.

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Mixed views expressed

“We were betrayed,” said Chaudhary A. Khan of Woodbridge, Va., Sajidah’s father, who has sent four children to Madania.

“I want families to know these people are not following Islamic laws, they are not following American laws. They claim they are serving Islam, but they are just serving themselves,” he said.

At issue is Memon’s relationship with Sajidah Khan, now 23.

Khan says Memon proposed to her at school in August 2006, and proclaimed within days he had married her himself, under Islamic law, with two witnesses present. He also told her to keep their marriage secret.

Interviews with several Muslims reveal a mixed view on additional marriages under Islamic law. Some said it is not allowed under United States law and therefore is forbidden; others said it can be permissible under Islamic law anyway. Even so, there are several steps required for an Islamic marriage to be recognized, and the description of Khan and Memon’s marriage violates those tenets.

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Because interaction between the sexes is forbidden under Islam until marriage, girls and boys are not allowed to be in the same classroom or have outside contact.

When girls are taught by male teachers, they must listen in another room.

Khan attended the girls secondary school through 10th grade. She continued her studies with a five-year program leading to a certificate of Islamic scholarship in 2006.

Imam denies marriage

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Memon persisted with marriage requests. Khan says after she agreed, Memon told her he had finalized their marriage the next day, Sept. 8, in her absence.

Memon insisted she tell no one, including her parents, Khan said.

She returned home to live with her parents in a Virginia suburb, but schemed with Memon for meetings near her home and in Buffalo.

Khan said Memon was always concerned about covering his tracks so their relationship wouldn’t be detected, although Memon’s wife, Mariam, approved.

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Chaudhary Khan, Sajidah’s father, said Memon eventually admitted marrying his daughter, but wouldn’t send a marriage contract to confirm it. Later, the father said Ismail Memon told him his son divorced Sajidah in a ritual involving Memon family members.

The family’s decision to go public occurred after two prominent Pakistan imams, Mufti Rafi Usmani and Mufti Taqi Usmani, told Sajidah Khan’s brother, Ikram Haq, that the family had an obligation to speak up and inform other Muslims of what happened.

A former Madania teacher who requested anonymity said it’s rare for an Islamic family to speak up in such circumstances.

“Within the Islamic community, the family has such a high status that everyone is worried about compromising one’s honor and dignity. People are also afraid to give Islam a bad name, especially in the current climate.”

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Apartment in question

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Memon also denied being involved with renting short-term apartments Khan stayed in. However, Patti Boal, manager of Corporate Manor Apartments, 303 North St., tells a different story.

Boal says she rented apartments with monthly leases twice in 2007 and once this past February under Khan’s name. She said she saw Memon during that time “at least four or five times,” and he always paid in cash.

“I remember him saying the first time, ‘I’m renting this for my wife, and she will be here at a later date to pick up the keys,’ ” Boal said.

Memon’s signature also appears on a lease dated Jan. 6, 2008. And he listed the return address for a security deposit as 40 Parker Ave., Boal said, the address of Masjid At-Taqwa, a mosque where Memon presides as imam.

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