Muslim charity leader guilty of sexually abusing three girls aged under 14

Founder of SMWA, Zafar Iqbal

A well-known Muslim charity chief has been convicted of sexually abusing three young girls over 20 years ago.

Zafar Iqbal, chief executive of Southwark Muslim Women’s Association (SMWA) in South London, was found guilty of 25 counts of historical sex abuse against three women at Woolwich Crown Court last month.

All of the victims were under the age of 14 when the offences were committed.

Documents detailed how the 67-year-old abused the young victims in the 1970s and 1980s.

The document described how he “forced his tongue into their mouths as he molested and groped them”.
Iqbal founded the SMWA, which was part-funded by Southwark Council in 1979.

His work there included running a crèche and educational and recreational programmes.

High profile

Five years ago, Iqbal was awarded for his “excellence in education” at The Muslim News Awards for Excellence.

During the course of his work he came in contact with politicians such as Labour Deputy Leader Harriet Harman and was introduced to the Queen in 2010 as part of The City Bridge Trust’s 800th anniversary celebration.

In 2009, Ms Harman, then Deputy Prime Minister, invited Iqbal and other members of the SMWA to the House of Commons where they were photographed together.

A Southwark Council spokesman said they had informed police after allegations of Iqbal’s abuse arose in 2010.

He said: “Southwark Muslim Women’s Association is an independent organisation funded from many sources, including the council.

“The convictions are not related to activities on the premises of the organisation.

“We are appalled by this man’s actions and are undertaking an urgent review of SMWA and its association with the council.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan police said it started the investigations in late 2012 after one of Iqbal’s victims came forward. Previous allegations made in 2010 were anonymous and the police were unable to pursue them.

The SMWA was unavailable for comment.

Iqbal has been bailed until sentencing on June 9.

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