Alleged Sexual Harassment at Council For Mosques.
By Fatima Patel
Sexual harassment is a serious problem in the world of work. Despite the spread of good practice that has seen progressive employers taking steps to protect the dignity of their workers, unfortunately sexual harassment still represents one of the largest areas of complaints to the Equal Opportunities Commission.
I must highlight that although Muslim organisations in the past, in some instances lacked the skills to be able to ensure full compliance with all statutory employment legislation, this has changed. There are many successful Muslim organisations that should feel proud of the work they have undertaken to ensure all employees are protected from all forms of harassment or discrimination.
What started off as an initial investigation on community centres has now turned into a serious allegation of sexual harassment in the work place by the Chief Executive of Bradford Council for Mosques (CFM) and Chief Executive of the Khidmat Centre. After speaking with many local people who use the Khidmat Centre, based at Spencer Road, Bradford rumours had been circulating about Mr Mohammed Saleem Khan, CEO sexually harassing female service users and female employee’s over a number of years. However, due to no evidence or in the words of one local man ‘women being too afraid to come forward due to Mr Khan’s high profile position’ the board of Bradford Council for Mosques did not feel the need to investigate this matter further.
It was been reported to Asian Sunday that In November 2013 members of the board for Bradford Council For Mosques namely, Rafiq Sehgal, Zulfiqar Karim, Mushtaq Ahmed and Sher Azam were sent inappropriate images of Mr Khan to all the board members home addresses. Asian Sunday was also sent the same images, anonymously in May 2014. This was highlighted immediately to Rafiq Sehgal and Zulfiqar Karim with the request for an immediate investigation to ensure that 1) staff and service users are protected, 2) ensure if there was any wrong doing, the individuals undertaking such actions to be immediately dealt with, 3) to mitigate the risk of a further occurrence of sexual harassment or any other form of harassment or discrimination.
Despite Mr Sehgal claiming a meeting would take place with the CFM board within a matter of days, it in fact took two months to arrange a meeting. During the meeting many questions were raised regarding the allegations of sexual harassment, but the board continued to deny they had received any such complaint, and if they were to receive any compliant of such a severe nature, they would take another view to investigate. The Asian Sunday’s independent business consultant, Shabab Gulfraz was present at the meeting and advised the CFM to 1) ensure females are within the main board; 2) ensure the matter is investigated by an independent female, who is unknown to the board, Mr Saleem Khan, and service users.
The CFM board during the meeting were hostile, intimidating, and defensive. Their overall concern was that the 33 year reputation of their brand not to be tarnished. It was alarming to hear senior board members highlighting that the investigation should be carried out after Ramadan, due to board members being very busy with religious activities during Ramadan. I along with Mr Gulfraz agreed that as the two months have passed, since trying to get the boards attention to investigate the matter, it should be urgently investigated.
To the credit of the board, they agreed that due to the seriousness of the allegation, they would immediately find an appropriate person to carry out an impartial investigation. Initially they wanted Asian Sunday to take the lead, however after highlighting to them a conflict of interest, they decided it would be best to get someone else. Following on from the meeting the CFM board have appointed a female investigator whose independence is questionable because it is to my knowledge and belief that many of her friends are linked to Mr Saleem Khan. Most alarmingly, the independent investigator, Jabeen Tahir, contacted Asian Sunday, highlighting that I am the prime person to help aid the investigation further, when I had previously highlighted that I am not able to help due to a conflict of interest, and the centre must act impartially. The board were advised that they should find an appropriate person, and invite staff members to share their concerns, as well as raise any events/occurrences without any adverse implications to the staff members concerned. Ms Tahir has further stated in an email to me “You insist that I should carry out my own enquiries, but I am perplexed as to how you expect me to investigate when the only allegation I have in front of me is an unsubstantiated one held by you which for whatever reason you are unwilling to share” It is rather alarming that neither Ms Tahir nor the organisation’s appointed solicitor Mr Philip Padget of Gordon’s seem to understand that until consent is given to share confidential information, it cannot be made available to any party and Asian Sunday strictly adheres to this policy.
Asian Sunday can exclusively reveal that a former female employee at the Khidmat centre has come forward with allegations of gross misconduct and sexual harassment by Mr Khan in the work place.
In her statement she states after walking out of her job last year, she was approached by Zulfiqar Karim in November 2013, as to why she quit her job. She gave Mr Karim all the details of how her life was made a working hell by Mr Khan and his close associate at the centre. She was assured and promised by Mr Karim that he would take the matter forward and be in touch with her again. The former employee has provided copies of text messages sent to her by Mr Khan, asking her to come out for a late night drive, as he turns up outside her house on a late evening. Another text message Mr Khan is seen asking his former employee if she could pass his number to any young girls who are looking for some fun.
She replies back scared and worried about losing her job “aren’t you married” to which he replies “Lol I am allowed on the side to hv fun”
Asian Sunday has spoken with other employees who have confirmed seeing nude pictures of Mr Khan on holiday, which were shared by Mr Khan’s close associate from Mr Khan’s computer with other centre staff. Asian Sunday believes that despite informing CFM board members of the allegations and the fact that Mr Karim when informed in November failed to follow up allegations puts serious doubts in the credibility and the impartiality of the board, who refuse to detail their role and responsibilities as members. This is not the first time allegations of sexual harassment have been made against senior members of the organisation.
Previously, a senior employee of the organisation was dismissed from the Bradford Racial Equality Council for sexual harassment allegations. Although no charges were made against him at the time the person concerned was found guilty of sex discrimination against a female employee. It has also transpired that the organisations mentioned, run by government grants also employ two individuals, who have been convicted of theft and drug offences.
The Newspaper asked the board to confirm their recruitment policies, but they have so far failed to comment. It is clear the CFM board has failed to respond to the rumours and allegations discovered and highlighted to them by Asian Sunday, and more importantly failing to safeguard other employees and service users. Surely, such centres set up for the benefit of the community, and paid for by the public purse should be more accountable to the public at large, as well as ensure that they mitigate the risk of staff working in an unsafe, hostile environment.
We as a responsible paper to the local community are calling for the board to 1) immediately undertake a proper investigation by a truly independent person, whose independence cannot be questioned; 2) for a secondary board to liaise with the investigator, with no board members being linked in any way to Mr Saleem Khan; 3) based on the findings take appropriate action.
If any centre users and staff members would like to talk to us in strict confidence about any behaviour they have witnessed, or been subject to please either email or call us on 0333 577 0046