Hat tip to Findalis
Cross posted from AP IMPACT:
Islamic schools lure African boys into begging
By RUKMINI CALLIMACHI, Associated Press Writer
DAKAR, Senegal -
On the day he decided to run away, 9-year-old Coli awoke on a filthy mat. Like a pup, he lay curled against the cold, pressed between dozens of other children sleeping head-to-toe on the concrete floor. His T-shirt was damp with the dew that seeped through the thin walls. The older boys had yanked away the square of cloth he used to protect himself from the draft. He shivered.
It was still dark as he set out for the mouth of a freeway with the other boys, a tribe of 7-, 8- and 9-year-old beggars.
Coli padded barefoot between the stopped cars, his head reaching only halfway up the windows. His scrawny body disappeared under a ragged T-shirt that grazed his knees. He held up an empty tomato paste can as his begging bowl.
There are 1.2 million Colis in the world today, children trafficked to work for the benefit of others. Those who lure them into servitude make $15 billion annually, according to the International Labor Organization.
It's big business in Senegal. In the capital of Dakar alone, at least 7,600 child beggars work the streets, according to a study released in February by the ILO, the United Nations Children's Fund and the World Bank. The children collect an average of 300 African francs a day, just 72 cents, reaping their keepers $2 million a year.
Most of the boys — 90 percent, the study found — are sent out to beg under the cover of Islam, placing the problem at the complicated intersection of greed and tradition. For among the cruelest facts of Coli's life is that he was not stolen from his family. He was brought to Dakar with their blessing to learn Islam's holy book.
In the name of religion, Coli spent two hours a day memorizing verses from the Quran and over nine hours begging to pad the pockets of the man he called his teacher.
It was getting dark. Coli had less than half the 72 cents he was told to bring back. He was afraid. He knew what happened to children who failed to meet their daily quotas.
They were stripped and doused in cold water. The older boys picked them up like hammocks by their ankles and wrists. Then the teacher whipped them with an electrical cord until the cord ate their skin.
Coli's head hurt with hunger. He could already feel the slice of the wire on his back.
He slipped away, losing himself in a tide of honking cars. He had 20 cents in his tomato can.
Three years ago, a man wearing a skullcap came to Coli's village in the neighboring country of Guinea-Bissau and asked for him.
Coli's parents immediately addressed the man as "Serigne," a term of respect for Muslim leaders on Africa's western coast. Many poor villagers believe that giving a Muslim holy man a child to educate will gain an entire family entrance to paradise.
Since the 11th century, families have sent their sons to study at the Quranic schools that flourished on Africa's western seaboard with the rise of Islam. It is forbidden to charge for an Islamic education, so the students, known as talibe, studied for free with their marabouts, or spiritual teachers. In return, the children worked in the marabout's fields.
The droughts of the late 1970s and '80s forced many schools to move to cities, where their income began to revolve around begging. Today, children continue to flock to the cities, as food and work in villages run short.
Not all Quranic boarding schools force their students to beg. But for the most part, what was once an esteemed form of education has degenerated into child trafficking. Nowadays, Quranic instructors net as many children as they can to increase their daily take.
"If you do the math, you'll find that these people are earning more than a government functionary," said Souleymane Bachir Diagne, an Islamic scholar at Columbia University. "It's why the phenomenon is so hard to eradicate."
Middle men trawl for children as far afield as the dunes of Mauritania and the grass-covered huts of Mali. It's become a booming, regional trade that ensnares children as young as 2, who don't know the name of their village or how to return home.
One of the largest clusters of Quranic schools lies in the poor, sand-enveloped neighborhoods on either side of the freeway leading into Dakar.
This is where Coli's marabout squats in a half-finished house whose floor stirs with flies. Amadu Buwaro sleeps on a mattress covered in white linens. The 30 children in his care sleep in another room with dirty blankets on the floor. It smells rotten and wet, like a soaked rag.
Buwaro is a thin man in his 30s who wears a pressed olive robe and digital watch. The children wear T-shirts black with filth. He expects them to beg to pay the rent, because there are no fields here to till.
But their earnings far exceed his rent of $50. If the boys meet their quotas, they bring in around $650 a month in a nation where the average person earns $150.
Buwaro expects the children to suffer to learn the Quran, just as he did at the hands of his teacher.
So when Coli failed to return, Buwaro was furious. He flipped open his flashy silver cell phone and called another marabout who kept a blue planner with names of runaway boys. The list stretched down the page. He added Coli's name.
Note from Radarsite: Is it clear enough yet? Where are all those indignant Human Rights activists now? Where is that international moral outrage and universal condemnation that is so easily conjured up to protest against the latest incidents of American Imperialism? This is not, as the Islamist apologists and their allies, the leftist multiculturalists, would have us believe, an aberration, merely an isolated anecdote; this is a clear and unimbellished look at the kind and benevolent face of the Religion of Peace. These are the Dark Missionaries of Islam. This is the savage black-hearted cult that our delusional liberals would defend. This, my friends, is the enemy we face. The enemy we must defeat.
Think of the historical sacrifices our courageous Western Missionaries have made -- are still making -- all over this dangerous world. Think of all of those violent places where they have committed themselves to live and work under deplorable conditions in order to bring the gifts of Western light and learning to suffering people. Now consider these greedy Dark Missionaries of Islam.
We have been fighting these degenerate Muslim slave traders and pimps for centuries. Now we must fight them once again. And, for the sake of all that is good and decent in this world, this time we must win.
There's more. Read the rest of this heartbreaking story here: