It should come as little surprise that societies that value women little, value children even less. However, this story about a father acting like a father -- and getting almost universal condemnation for it, should provide a modicum of hope.
KAOLACK, Senegal (AP) - It hurts too much to lie on his back, so the 7-year-old has spent the past month stretched out on his stomach. His two grandmothers sit on the hospital bed beside him, fanning the pink flesh left exposed by his teacher's whip.
It's progress that Momodou Biteye is in the hospital at all. It's also encouraging that the Quranic teacher who did this to him is behind bars.
But what is most significant is that the boy's father - a poor farmer who sold part of his harvest to pay for the bus fare to the hospital - filed the charges against the teacher himself. In doing so, this man with cracked lips and bloodshot eyes braved the wrath of his entire village, including his own father, who considers all teachers in Senegal's Islamic schools to be holy.
In hundreds of these schools in the mostly Muslim West African country, children are made to beg in the streets and are beaten if they don't bring back enough money. One 10-year-old was beaten to death with his hands tied behind his back and his mouth stuffed with rocks. Despite laws passed to protect children, the courts have convicted only a handful of Quranic teachers and quickly cave in the face of powerful clerics.
The biggest obstacle to justice is the families themselves, who are unwilling to speak out against the teachers. Government officials say they cannot think of another case where the family has brought charges.
"Some people may say bad things about me. Even my own village is against me," says 40-year-old Moussa Biteye, the father of the twig-like boy. "But I think I am within my rights."
If Islam were the religion of the entire world, as many Muslims dream of, it would be a much darker and evil place.