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Elgin Imam Charged With Sexually Assaulting Woman

(CBS) -- A renowned religious scholar, known and respected in the Chicago area and across the country is accused of sexually assaulting women at a school he founded.

Mohammed Abdullah Saleem, 75, is charged with sexually abusing a 23-year-old employee last year in Elgin's Institute of Islamic Education.

After the charges were filed a civil suit accused Saleem of abusing that employee and three others. The school is also a defendant in the lawsuit.

CBS 2's Chris Martinez reports Saleem did not utter a word as he left court Tuesday moments after posting $250,000 bond.


The accusations against him were heard in part through the written words of survivors.

"Freshman year in high school I imagined a lot of new and exciting things with this new beginning… being molested by the principal of the school was not one of them," victim's advocate Jenan Mohajir read.

That account read by victims' advocates is from one of four women who say they were sexually abused by Saleem, the founder of the Institute of Islamic Education.

"This place was ripe for the abuse of children and that's what happened," said attorney Steven Denny.

That abuse occurred over a span of more than 30 years, attorneys say, with the most recent accusation made by the school employee less than a year ago.

"I've spoken to my client several times over the past few months. He denies the allegations," said defense attorney Thomas Glasgow.

That, as the victim's legal team promises more victims will soon reveal their stories.

"There's an added layer of hardship and kind of struggling with how to expose someone that was revered as a scholar," said Mohajir.

"We know people have been victimized. This went on from 1982, there's a lot of people that have crossed paths with him," said Denny.

Zubhair Asghard says he's related to Saleem and believes he's innocent. He believes the criminal allegations are part of a plot to strip Saleem of his position in the Islamic community.

"...because he gained good name. And he's sitting on the top of... with those Islamic people," he said.

He says he's heard the 23-year-old woman in the most recent case has turned in clothing she says she was wearing when she was molested, clothing possibly bearing a semen stain. The suspect's family is eager to hear the test results comparing that DNA with Saleem's.

Glasgow says his client has cooperated fully and voluntarily with police.

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