Irving Police Chief Jeff Spivey paid a visit to the Islamic Center of Irving recently to talk about the legality of reporting child sexual abuse after allegations of child molestation rocked the North Texas Muslim community last week.
Spivey said he went to the Irving Mosque to discuss the duty residents have to report child sexual abuse as well as to explain what an investigation into those types of allegations looks like. He said the Islamic Center of Irving's council asked him to speak to the community after the last prayer of the day on Wednesday.
Child molestation allegations were brought to the forefront of the Muslim community’s attention last Friday when Imam Nick Pelletier gave a impassioned sermon at the Irving Mosque — one of the biggest in North Texas — that delved into the incidents that allegedly happened at the mosque.
Spivey said the Irving police are investigating the allegations but could not give details on the case because it is ongoing.
According to a statement released by the Islamic Center of Irving, the council filed a report with the Irving Police Department last Friday, the day Pelletier gave his sermon.
In the statement, the council said that in the days before they made the report to police, they were approached separately by two congregants related to two different children expressing concerns about a man from the community.
“The two incidents, which occurred outside of school hours, involved the elderly man kissing the cheeks of a 16-year-old boy and, on a different occasion, kissing near or on the mouth of a 10-year-old boy,” they said in the statement.
According to the Islamic Center of Irving, Pelletier’s sermon included inaccurate information since he did not have access to the council’s information on the case.
The video of his Friday sermon was taken down from the Islamic Center’s Facebook page but was reposted by Facing Abuse in Community Environment, an organization started by Muslim women in North Texas to tackle different allegations against religious leaders and in the community. A few days later, it was announced that Pelletier was put on administrative leave.
In a second public statement, the Islamic Center of Irving said the information presented to them did not include allegations of sexual molestation.
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“ICI takes its responsibility to report suspected sexual abuse very seriously,” the center said. “However, the information provided to ICI by the family members of the children did not include any details of such nature. ICI personnel did not witness or have any evidence of criminal activity or sexual abuse. Imam Nick acknowledged in his khutba [sermon] that his remarks were based on rumors that he had heard and that he hoped were untrue.”
In the same statement, the Islamic Center said, “Imam Nick has been serving as Director of Outreach and Programs and continues to do so. After his khutba, Imam Nick reported to the management that he did not feel comfortable, based on comments and interactions with community members. With mutual consent, the ICI management allowed him to either work remotely or take some time off with full pay, on a temporary basis.”
They also addressed accusations of aiding the accused congregant in fleeing the country but said that the accused person was already scheduled to leave when the board spoke to his family about the allegations.
The Islamic Center will revisit policies on incident reporting and will also train their employees on “various matters, including incident escalation process.”