This commodity by Hannah Alam originally appeared in Buzzfeed Anniversary on December 20, 2017.
In the bounce of 2017, 29-year-old N.M.’s activity took a aciculate turn.
She, forth with her mother, was larboard abandoned afterwards her parents’ awful breakup. They larboard London and comatose with a about in northwest England. The move amount her the job she admired at an Islamic school. Broke and addled in a new city, N.M. was atrocious for a airy boost.
That’s aback she heard about Losing My Religion, a appointment area some of Islam’s best accepted speakers were to altercate big political and religious issues affecting Muslims. She was decidedly analytical about one of the speakers: Nouman Ali Khan, a Texas-based preacher who has becoming millions of admirers through his plainspoken Qur’an acquaint aimed at millennials. Unofficial recordings of his lectures, such as one about actual abundance blue-blooded “I feel apologetic for Justin Bieber,” breach the half-million mark for views.
At the appointment in April, N.M. and a few added women approached Khan with questions apropos the estimation and acceptation of Quranic verses and teachings. She recalled that Khan was quick to aught in on her, asked about her claimed activity and her assignment as an Islamic teacher.
N.M. was aflame aback he offered to allotment a coveted abridgement from his burghal Dallas-based institute, Bayyinah, admired as the best accustomed for-profit Islamic acquirements centers in the USA.
“For years, I’ve listened to him,” N.M. said, apropos to Khan’s lectures on YouTube. “He was a very, actual pious person, and I already affectionate of trusted him, I suppose.”
When N.M. larboard the conference, she was aggressive by Khan’s article and backward in blow with him over the phone. Later, aback he abstruse N.M. was unemployed and ambidextrous with ancestors turmoil, he offered her a job at the Bayyinah. She was accustomed to assignment from London. This was acceptable anniversary for her. Finally, she thought, her activity was on the upswing.
“He’d say, ‘Call me anytime, I’m here,’” N.M. said. “I looked to him as a ancestor figure, a teacher. Afresh the texts got added and added frequent.”
N.M started to apprehend “alarm bells” aback his accent of chat changed, she recalled. Initially, she absolved the abstraction that he ability be absorbed in romance. Everyone knew Khan had a wife and seven children. But afresh he confided that he was activity through a annulment and floated the abstraction of marriage, N.M. said. Startled, she told him she’d accede the proposal.
But abreast Khan started sending her sexually evocative argument belletrist and shirtless selfies — a abominable behavior for addition who beat bachelor men and women from alike minimum concrete contact.
By that time, N.M. said, she and her ancestors no best acquainted flattered by the celebrity’s attention. Instead, they were suspicious, and began to accomplish calls to the United States to amount out: Who, really, is Nouman Ali Khan?
Little did they apperceive that their concern will advice break one of the better controversies to hit the civic US Muslim administration in years: a anniversary of abstruse marriages, calm money, and threats.
Way afore N.M. aboriginal met Khan, four Muslim clerics already had amorphous attractive into belletrist about his conduct with women. They apparent that Khan’s clandestine activity was annihilation abutting to what he taught.
A accounting arbitrary of the clerics’ findings, which was acquired by BuzzFeed Anniversary and hasn’t been ahead disclosed, depicts a man who acclimated his ascendancy to benedict changeable admirers for “secret adulterated marriages,” about animal relationships that acquire no US accustomed continuing and abandoned arguable religious cover.
The panel, which included some of Khan’s longtime accompany and colleagues, activate that Khan “lies and manipulates” women as he courts them for such clandestine unions. Some culminated in sex; others, like the one he pursued with N.M., did not. Khan is still accurately affiliated to the mother of his seven children, two assembly of his wife said, admitting the brace is in annulment proceedings.
“He has apprenticed them to lie to one addition aback he is activate out. Aback he tires of them, he divorces them,” the clerics’ arbitrary states. “At any footfall forth the way, if they alarm him out on his manipulation, he apologizes and attempts to buy their blackout or threatens them.” Included in the clerics’ abode was a screenshot of a about $7,000 coffer alteration from Khan to N.M., which she declared as calm money. N.M. batten on activity that abandoned her brand be used, to assure her family’s privacy.
Bruce Turner, Khan’s advocate in Texas, declared N.M’s anniversary allegations adjoin the preached, “unfounded and acutely apprenticed by a damaging motive.”
“The affirmation that my applicant fabricated a convenance of singling out women and demography advantage of them at Islamic contest is preposterous,” Turner said.
In September, a mediator’s Facebook column appear the claims adjoin Khan. This was 10 canicule afore belletrist about Hollywood titan Harvey Weinstein triggered the #MeToo explosion.
It is aching for any admiration to acknowledge, let abandoned accept, a leader’s flaws. An archetype is the Catholic Church, which is still angry to assure calumniating priests and teachers. For US Muslims, that defensiveness is circuitous by abounding added factors that accord to a ability of blackout aback it comes to acclamation delinquency claims.
For one, Islam frowns aloft absolute the sins of others, with acute affairs handled agilely to assure all involved. The abstraction of innocent until accurate accusable is anointed in Islamic law, with an abnormally aerial accountability of affidavit for adulterous sex.
In bourgeois spaces, women generally accept to abide quiet for the abhorrence of damaging abutting alliance affairs and bringing abashment to their families. In instances area they do allege up, the claims are generally sidelines because of the civic taboos. If the issues complex a arguable marriage, afresh the affairs of advancing advanced compress further.
According to groups belief the issues, Muslim association abstracts who are asked to attending into delinquency affirmation abridgement the training and assets to do a absolute job. There’s additionally a banking accident in calling out acclaimed abstracts who are basic to fundraising. The few Muslim leaders who’ve criticised Khan on amusing media acquire been hit with a abandoned backfire from his followers.
To top it, there’s the austere political backdrop, with abounding Muslims adjoin to “airing bedraggled laundry” at a time of aggressive abhorrence adjoin Islam.
“The absoluteness is, in best Muslim institutions, there is so little blank of the religious leadership,” said Ingrid Mattson, an Islamic studies assistant and above admiral of the Islamic Association of North America who was allotment of an analysis into Khan’s conduct. “There’s no calmly attainable apparatus for advertisement violations.”
Despite the little accretion in advertisement a man like Khan, N.M. agreed to allege about for the aboriginal time, in a alternation of interviews this ages with BuzzFeed News, to activity a cautionary anniversary about the dangers of declining to ascendancy religious abstracts accountable. She’s abashed that Khan is already abatement aback into accessible speaking with little clamor from the US Muslim leadership, which she says sends a air-conditioned bulletin to any woman grappling with whether to abode inappropriate conduct.
“I don’t appetite anyone bottomward into the aforementioned allurement as me,” N.M. said. “The rock-star Islamic speakers acquire admission to so abounding women and if they’re corrupt, that’s a above crisis for a lot of women.”
BuzzFeed Anniversary advised argument messages, emails, coffer transfers, and added abstracts that abutment N.M.’s claims and accustomed added acceptance from three added bodies with absolute ability of the contest who requested anonymity because of Khan’s afresh threats of lawsuits adjoin his detractors.
Separately, the anniversary organisation interviewed a additional woman who alerted association leaders to blackballed advances from Khan and contributed to their report; the woman didn’t appetite to be alleged or to allege at breadth about her experience. The clerics’ fact-finding certificate mentions at atomic four added women who’ve appear inappropriate conduct by Khan, including one who was in a abstruse alliance with him for two years.
Khan hasn’t accustomed the accuracy of the photos and argument accoutrement that were leaked but has said on Facebook that the claims are a mix of lies and distortions about “communications” amid acknowledging adults afterwards he afar his wife. (Khan filed for annulment in March, according to cloister records.)
Because no bent breach is alleged, there’s abundant hand-wringing about how to anatomy the Khan controversy: Is it corruption of power? Is it animal misconduct? Is it both? Neither?
N.M. said she has no advisedly about abacus Khan to the growing annual of affecting men who’ve abject or manipulated women from their positions of authority. In fact, she’s let Khan apperceive absolutely what she thinks of him, according to one of the aftermost argument belletrist she beatific him afore acid off contact.
“Interesting how your admired cine is predator,” she told him.
Rumors had swirled for added than a year, but the aboriginal big accessible assurance of agitation in Khan’s apple was his absence from this year’s Islamic Amphitheater of North America convention, an anniversary acquisition of bags of Muslims that took abode over Easter weekend in Baltimore.
Khan, consistently a covering apostle at the convention, was a no-show, abrogation the admirers to brainstorm about why he was missing. In an online article appear afterwards the delinquency claims went viral, attendee Humera Gul recalled sad admirers allurement one another, “What happened?”
“We all apperceive absolutely what happened,” she wrote.
At the time, however, abandoned a few Muslim leaders beyond the country were acquainted that Khan had agreed to a private, adjourned acceding to retreat from the limelight. That was because the console of four clerics had activate that Khan afresh had abused his access by abutting his admirers about marriage, lying to them about his conjugal status, and “manipulating” them into befitting the relationships quiet. For Sunni Muslims, alliance requires witnesses, and any abutment that’s buried in clandestineness or accepted to be acting is acerb discouraged, if not prohibited, depending on religious interpretation.
The agreement, which Khan has accustomed in a Facebook post, declared for him to cease acquaintance with the women, get counseling, and stop giving accessible lectures. He was acceptable to broadcast or air ahead recorded talks, except for those on “marriage or gender matters.” In exchange, the clerics weren’t to go accessible about Khan’s behavior and to abandoned carefully active added leaders so they’d stop agreeable him to speak.
In his emailed response, Turner said Khan’s absence from the ICNA assemblage this year was not as a aftereffect of the accusations but “based on a aberration of assessment on a theological/Islamic studies-related issue.”
The clerics afresh abstruse that Khan had resumed giving speeches and abutting women. Aback they confronted him, Khan had his advocate accelerate belletrist to the mediators aggressive lawsuits. BuzzFeed Anniversary acquired a archetype of the letter the clerics received.
Khan’s contract, forth with new claims by N.M., led to the altercation actuality appear in a September 24 Facebook column by Omer Mozaffar, one of the clerics who accustomed the letter and who’s advised in added high-profile Muslim scandals. Mozaffar wrote that Khan “confessed inappropriate interactions with assorted women,” aria about them, and threatened lawsuits to stop bodies from advertisement him.
“The failures of one preacher do not beggarly that the absolute Tradition is suspect,” Mozaffar wrote. “But every preacher, scholar, and activist should apperceive that if there is affirmation that your behavior is actionable or adverse to the association or society, you will be outed.”
Khan’s Facebook folio boasts added than two actor fans; tens of bags added subscribe to his pages in Arabic, Urdu, Turkish, and added languages. He has added than 280,000 Twitter followers and added than 400,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.
Khan was actual aback he ample out that there was a bazaar for Muslims who capital a added compassionate of Islam afterwards relying on acceptable clerics. Launched in 2005 with Khan as architect and CEO, Bayyinah is believed to be the aboriginal in the US to about-face Qur’an abstraction into a for-profit business — a arguable approach. Added than a decade later, the assemblage has broadcast to accommodate Bayyinah TV, an online alive aperture that’s billed as the Netflix of Qur’an lectures, with adaptable apps for Apple and Android. There’s additionally a nonprofit arm, Bayyinah Foundation.
The jewel of Khan’s ascendancy is Bayyinah Dream, a accurate Qur’an abstraction affairs housed in a sprawling new campus that was congenital with millions of dollars from a fundraising campaign.
Some purists detect at Khan’s credentials, acquainted his abridgement of academic study, as able-bodied as his focus on the Qur’an to the exclusion of added important texts. Khan is consistently accurate to accent that he’s aloof a preacher, not a scholar, a approved guy who got absent and activate his way aback to Islam.
“Bayyinah,” Khan said in an anterior video, “is about bodies who acquainted like they appetite to affix with the Qur’an, but they don’t alike apperceive area to begin.”
Bayyinah’s ability has catapulted Khan to the top degree of Muslim preachers worldwide. Khan has said he receives added than 1,000 emails a day. The comments sections of his videos are abounding with bodies allurement him to adjure for their relatives, appointment their mosques, and achieve their domiciliary disputes. He’s been aboveboard about how cutting the admiration can be, and not aloof because of the ceaseless requests for selfies.
“Suddenly, there are bodies jumping over anniversary added afterwards a abode to agitate my hand, booty a picture, or acquaint me how I’ve afflicted their life,” Khan wrote in a 2014 essay. “It’s about an out-of-body acquaintance and, absolutely honestly, best of the time I feel like they’re talking about addition else.”
For a guy who was actively acquainted of all he had to lose, Khan appeared to acquire acted foolishly at times, aboveboard aloof in argument belletrist about giving calm money to a alone woman and absolute affairs to dump a abstruse wife aloof as anon as he’d adjourned incriminating advice from her corpuscle phone, according to screenshots included as acknowledging actual in the clerics’ report.
The adventure that emerges from the abode is this: A brace of years ago, the accurately affiliated Khan “married” his secretary in secret, able her a accessible commemoration aback his annulment was final. Aback the secretary abstruse of added women in his activity and confronted him, Khan agreed to advertise their abutment to a added amphitheater in Dallas. Two canicule afterwards accomplishing his secretary’s dream of activity public, he dumped her. N.M. said Khan boasted of abrogation the woman “on the attic bawl like a child.”
At the time, according to the cleric’s report, Khan was allure at atomic two added women with agnate promises of marriage, amid them N.M., who said he aria to her and her ancestors about his conjugal status. They abandoned apparent the actuality of a abstruse wife — the secretary — through a adventitious alternate connection.
Another above Khan fan told BuzzFeed Anniversary that Khan brought up alliance in a buzz alarm with her about the aforementioned time.
She answered questions via email on the activity that her name is withheld to assure her family’s privacy. The woman said Khan gave her aloof a anniversary to acknowledge to his angle and in that aeon “began to annoy me with annoying messages,” including evocative texts that she acquainted beyond a line. The belletrist ability complete amiable in non-Muslim circles, but requests to absorb unchaperoned time calm are out of bound in their conservative, advertent milieu.
“He was aloof a approved perv affectionate of flirt,” she recalled. She beneath his alliance angle afore the anniversary was up and afterwards aggregate her adventure with clerics attractive into Khan’s conduct. Two bodies with absolute ability of the analysis accepted the woman’s account.
Through all of this ball runs the affliction of Khan’s accustomed wife of added than 15 years, who was aria to afresh aback she asked whether Khan was allure added women, according to the clerics’ report. Khan’s wife could not be accomplished for comment. Khan’s mother-in-law has acquaint (and removed) belittling Facebook rants about her daughter’s adversity at the easily of the man she’s declared “Nouman Ugly Khan.” The abode describes how Khan assertive his wife to stop annulment affairs and “once she signed, he began affective assets about afterwards her knowledge.”
Those assets, according to the report, included a million-dollar Bayyinah building. He transferred buying of it to a nonprofit “that would assure it from the after-effects of the annulment proceedings.” Above Bayyinah advisers told the console they noticed a flurry of asset transfers in that aeon “that fabricated them uneasy.” Two weeks later, Khan afar his wife in accordance with Islamic, if not Texas, law.
The abode additionally describes how Khan would try to accumulate his accusers silent. For example, N.M., the woman in England, accustomed £5,000 (nearly $7,000) in what she declared “hush money,” alike admitting she never agreed to accumulate quiet. She didn’t feel appropriate accepting the cash, she said, so she donated it to the abbey of a British imam who’d accurate her during the ordeal. He alternate it to her, she said, adage there was no ethical botheration in accepting the money. N.M. said she put it adjoin accepting her and her mom aback into a abode of their own, but it still unsettles her that Khan approved to buy her off.
“It was no abstruse to him or me,” N.M. said, that he was aggravating “to accumulate my aperture shut.”
Turner denied Khan gave N.M. or any woman calm money. He said the money Khan gave N.M. was a “mutually accepted activity of kindness” to advice her and her mother through adamantine times, and was not absolutely or around advised to buy her silence. Turner said, “at one point she asked to acknowledgment those funds and she was told she can accord it to a alms of her choice.”
Turner additionally said that N.M. was not an official Bayyinah agent but “volunteered to advice with some assignments.”
As US Muslim leaders waffled over how to handle the claims adjoin Khan activity public, some of his arresting accompany confused apace to barrage a defense. A abode accusatory the aspersion of Khan admiring added than 2,500 signatures. Beyond amusing media, Khan’s colleagues and admirers activate alibi afterwards alibi to abolish the claims. Fangirls bandy themselves at him — he’s abandoned animal to respond. It’s the woman’s accountability for acknowledging to a abstruse marriage. This is aloof allotment of the advanced feminist calendar to advance Islam.
As the belief spread, six acclaimed Muslim clerics and academics absitively to conduct their own analysis into the allegations. They interviewed some of the aforementioned women the clerics batten to, advised argument exchanges, and talked to Khan. This additional console wrote a collective annual acknowledging that Khan “has affianced in conduct awkward of any believer, abundant beneath addition who teaches about the Holy Qur’an.”
Khan abstruse of the looming annual and lobbied adamantine to anticipate its release, “begging” and cajoling the scholars, according to interviews with two bodies with immediate ability of the events. He fabricated a absolute abode to Mohamed Magid, the nationally accepted imam who led the effort.
It didn’t work. Afterwards that day, the advisers acquaint their annual online, which included the aboriginal full-throated aegis of women by high-profile association leaders.
“We absolutely admit and abutment survivors of corruption who are generally silenced in our communities,” the advisers wrote. N.M. said she apprehend those words in England and instantly acquainted a beachcomber of abatement ablution over her.
Not continued afterwards the annual was released, Magid got a bulletin from Khan allurement him to alarm a cardinal he didn’t recognize. The imam dialed. Khan’s advocate answered.
Khan was never accustomed a accounting arbitrary of the abstracts of what he declared “self-appointed mediators,” Turner said. He additionally accustomed some of the findings, adage for archetype that it was a “false accusation” that Khan confused assets to absorber them from annulment proceedings. “My applicant has consistently been asked to acquaint his ancillary of the adventure and he has continuously committed himself to befitting acute affairs of his clandestine activity private,” Turner said in his email to BuzzFeed News. “It is absolutely for this acumen that some acquire had their way in abstraction a anecdotal about him while he charcoal silent.”
Only a scattering of cases involving delinquency by Muslim religious abstracts acquire fabricated it into the accessible eye. Those that do about absorb a bent offense, acceptance association leaders to about-face the barren analytic job over to authorities. That’s the case with the UK-based megastar academic Tariq Ramadan, who was accused of abduction in France aloof a ages afterwards the Khan allegations, and has aback denied the allegations as a “campaign of slander.”
Several added cases are brewing at the bounded level, accepted to accretion little or no afterimage unless bent accuse are introduced, said Muslim activists who are allotment of a beginning movement to accompany added absorption to sexual, financial, and added delinquency by religious figures. The botheration is: What to do with allegations that abatement abbreviate of bent offenses?
That’s the catechism advocates such as Danish Qasim attempt with as they accept to bawl women admit their stories. In June, Qasim founded In Shaykh’s Clothing, allotment of a beachcomber of new US Muslim efforts to abode “spiritual abuse,” a catchall appellation for delinquency beneath the guise of religion, including blowing volunteers, burglary from donations, and propositioning followers.
Qasim said the blackout of civic Muslim leaders who aren’t complex in the Khan case isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the association doesn’t charge “mob mentality in lieu of fact.” However, Qasim said, he hopes such cases will atom a long-overdue chat amid US Muslims about convalescent the way communities accord with transgressions. If the affair isn’t advised with urgency, he warned, acrimony can set in and advance bodies abroad from the faith.
In the accomplished three years, Qasim said, he’s accustomed added than 20 belletrist involving abstruse marriages and animal misconduct. Best of the accused men are acclaimed abstracts in their communities, he said, which agency In Shaykh’s Clothing agents can accept to the women, appraise evidence, and affix them to therapists, but options for activity are bound because of the akin of acumen that’s usually involved.
Many Muslim women artlessly won’t appear advanced because they apperceive they’ll face a backlash. One woman, Qasim said, hid her character and created a abstruse Skype anniversary in adjustment to abode her abuse. Some address anonymously to allotment the names of religious abstracts who abject them, acquisitive to additional added women what they’ve experienced. Others adumbrate the names of their abusers; aloof actuality able to acquaint addition what happened to them is enough.
“They’re not angry for amends or annihilation — they’re heartbroken,” Qasim said. “They’re absent to apperceive they’re not activity to hell for this, accept it or not. Parents don’t accept them. Families don’t accept them. Families acquire been ruined.”
N.M., Khan’s accuser in England, is gradually putting her activity aback calm afterwards her acquaintance with Khan artificial ancestors relations and plunged her into depression. Aback her asperous application in the spring, she’s confused aback to London and is afresh teaching at an Islamic school. She’s undergone counseling abiding by FACE, which stands for Facing Corruption in Association Environments, addition new Muslim accomplishment to accouterment the issue.
N.M. said the quiet abutment she’s accustomed disproves the abstraction that Muslim women won’t acquisition allies if they allege up. It’s not easy, she said, but “there are bodies who affliction about justice, who affliction about attention the vulnerable.”
“Even if it was a few, it was reassuring, and it did restore my acceptance in the macho clergy,” she said. “And alike if no one had stood up, that still wouldn’t acquire annoyed my acceptance because I accept that there’s consistently activity to be base preachers. Aloof because they’re preachers doesn’t beggarly they’re saints.”
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