An Islamic religious leader was arrested in Houston, Texas, on Jan. 3, 2020, on charges of sex crimes against children under the age of 14.

Mohamed Omar Ali, 59, has been charged with one count of sexual assault of a child and three counts of indecency with a child, according to the Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office.

There are four victims, who were all minors at the time of the assaults.

Ali, a Somali national who was living in the United States illegally, was a well-known imam in the Islamic community and taught throughout Texas and the country, according to the sheriff’s office.

Detective Michael Alexander said Ali gained access to the alleged victims by earning the trust of their families who invited him into their homes and paid him to teach the Quran to their children, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Because Ali has a very fluent understanding of the Quran and his grasp of the Arabic language has made him an ideal teacher, Shariq Abdul Ghani, Director of the Minaret Foundation and representative of the Muslim community said.

Ali was jailed on $125,000 bond, but due to his illegal immigration status, Immigration and Customs Enforcement put a detainer on Ali, and Ali is being held at the Fort Bend County jail.

“This is sickening and an abuse of power,” Sheriff Troy Nehls said. “If your children have had contact with this man, please talk to them. Victims’ identities will be protected.”

Investigators believe the alleged crimes date back to 2013 and they also believe there were other victims locally and possibly nationally.

Anyone with information on the matter or is a potential victim is being asked to contact Sgt. Jonathan Howell at 281-341-4797.

According to Nehls, the focus now is finding these potential victims, which can be a challenge due to some of the nuances of the Muslim belief regarding sexual assault.

“You will hear that if a child in the Muslim community is assaulted in any way sexually, that child may be considered unclean, and will that child be able to get married in the future?” Nehls said.

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