Scarborough imam faces 13 charges in sexual assault investigation


Toronto Police handout

Mohammad Masroor

An imam who worked at a Scarborough mosque has been arrested and faces 13 charges in connection with a sexual assault investigation.

Mohammad Masroor, 48, of Toronto, was apprehended August 10 for sexual offences allegedly committed between November 1, 2008 and July 28 of this year. Police have identified five alleged victims, both male and female, and are appealing to others to come forward.

Mr. Masroor worked as an imam at the Baitul Mukarram Islamic Society on Danforth Avenue between Pharmacy and Warden Avenues, where he taught Koranic studies to students. He was on leave at the time of his arrest.

The single storey brick mosque sits on a nondescript corner. Five times a day, the men and boys who are members of this congregation arrive, remove their shoes at the door and join each other in prayer. No women are allowed inside. Attendance here has risen recently as the Muslim community celebrates Ramadan, the holiest month in Islam.

On Wednesday, the usually quiet mosque was surrounded by media, seeking reaction to the news one of its imams has just been charged and faces 13 counts in relation to sex assault and threatening death. Many members are skeptical of the allegations.

“I don’t believe it,” says Mohammad Abdul Halim, who has been a member at this mosque for eight years. “I know he’s a good guy. His character is good all the time.”

Det. Const. Karen Armstrong told a Wednesday morning press conference that “Mohammad Masroor was a leader in the community, he was in a position of trust. Because he was in a position of power, we believe there are other victims.”

A 12-year-old boy called Sajid prays at the Baitul Mukarram mosque. He knew Mr. Masroor, and although he was not aware of the charges laid against the man who once taught him the Koran, the young boy says what constitutes acceptable behaviour depends on where you are.

“I don’t think it’s really like that, because masroor was a good man, he didn’t do anything bad,” says Sajid, who did not want last name used. “It’s not like that because back home, like in Bangladesh, you’re allowed to hit people. It’s OK.”

Mr. Masroor has lived and worked in many countries, Det. Armstrong said, including France, Germany, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and, most recently, in the U.S. in Florida and Michigan.

Mr. Masroor arrived in Toronto in 2008; the investigation started shortly after.

Det. Const. Armstrong said Mr. Masroor was known to his alleged victims, but did not elaborate on their ages or relations to him.

Abdul Fattah Aboud worked as an imam at Baitul Makarram and knows Mr. Masroor. Mr. Aboud told media Wednesday to remember that all individuals are innocent until proven guilty, and his main concern seemed to be the implications of this arrest on the Toronto Muslim community.

“I’m shocked to hear. I worry this will give a bad impact on us, especially on us priests. People won’t trust us,” he said. “Masroor gave sermons here on Fridays, he would lead the service and everybody in this community liked him. [Masroor] was teaching students who were seven, eight, up to 15 years old. People won’t trust us anymore.”

Toronto Police are not working with other police in other jurisdictions outside Canada.

Mr. Masroor is being held in police custody.

Anyone with information is urged to contact 41 Division’s Youth Bureau at 416-808-4105.

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