An Arab community activist and educator has been accused of forcing a teenage student to perform a sex act outside his Detroit-area charter school.
Ibrahim Aljahim, 37, was released on bail on Sept. 22 after being charged with two counts of criminal sexual conduct involving the 18-year-old mentally disabled male student, who has not been named. Wayne County prosecutors said Aljahim was “in a position of authority over the victim.”
Aljahim served as a student liaison for Oakland International Academy in Hamtramck, a city within Detroit where he also lives. He has been active in Democratic politics and Arab- and Yemini-American advocacy and has often been quoted in the local media on issues related to Hamtramck’s sizable Arab and Muslim population.
According to WDIV-TV, the student said Aljahim made him perform the act in the educator’s car outside the school. Security camera footage showed Aljahim leaving the school with the student and returning 20 minutes later, police said. Three other students said the victim told them Aljahim sexually assaulted him.
The school’s principal, Larry Cowger, said Aljahim had worked at the school for four years and was fired following the alleged incident.
“We obviously are very saddened and shocked by this allegation and it’s something that we don’t want our image to be associated with,” Cowger told the Detroit Free Press. “He is someone who is well-known in the community, has a lot of connections. He was hired because of that, so that he could be a go-between to forge better partnerships.”
Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon also terminated Aljahim as a chaplain for the office, telling WDIV he was “stunned” by the “extremely serious” allegations.
Aljahim did not immediately respond to Pluralist’s request for comment on Wednesday. But his Facebook page remained active, with regular updates on English and Arabic news, Muslim prayer times and Islamic quotations. On Wednesday morning he expressed pride in Hamtramck public schools and shared a prayer for healing.
Ibrahim Aljahim and the Democrats
The Free Press reported that the page said that he had worked as a public relations officer for the American Human Rights Council, an Arab American civil rights group in Dearborn, but on Thursday the reference was removed.
Aljahim’s social media accounts still featured photos of him with prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, whose 2016 presidential campaign he volunteered for. Other photos showed him posing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, U.S. Reps. Debbie Dingel and Andy Levin of Michigan, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and State Rep. Issac Robinson.
Despite the charges against him, Aljahim on Wednesday uploaded a Facebook Live video of himself at a rally for Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.
“We’re at the Bernie Sanders rally to support UAW workers,” he wrote, referring to the United Automobile Workers labor union.
Later in the day, Aljahim posted a meme saying, “If senator Bernie Sanders doesn’t get the Democratic Party nomination I will say congrats to president Donald J. Trump on another term.”
In November 2015, Aljahim provoked controversy when he was seen in a Facebook video celebrating the election victory of a Muslim candidate.
“Today we show the Polish and everybody else,” he said.
Hamtramck is known for its historically Polish population but has seen an influx of Muslim immigrants, many of them from Yemen and Bangladesh. No Michigan city has a higher percentage of immigrants.
Amid backlash, Aljahim told the Free Press: “I would never discriminate.”
To secure his release from jail, Aljahim posted $1,000 bond on $10,000 bail and surrendered his passport. His next hearing is scheduled for Thursday.