Muslim children are being beaten and abused regularly by teachers at some British madrassas — Islamic evening classes — an investigation by The Times has found.

Students have been slapped, punched and had their ears twisted, according to an unpublished report by an imam based on interviews with victims in the north of England. One was “picked up by one leg and spun around” while another said a madrassa teacher was “kicking in my head like a football," says the report, which was compiled by Irfan Chishti, a former government adviser on Islamic affairs.

Almost 1,600 madrassas operate in Britain, teaching Arabic and the Koran on weekday evenings to about 200,000 children aged from four to their mid-teens.

While there is no hard evidence to indicate how many are involved in the physical abuse of children, The Times has uncovered a disturbing pattern in one town — Rochdale — through interviews with mainstream school teachers, Muslim parents and the children themselves.

One woman told The Times that her niece Hiba, 7, was slapped across the face so hard by her madrassa teacher that her ear was cut. It later became inflamed and she had to have emergency medical treatment.

When the teacher refused to apologise, Hiba's aunt, Jamila, insisted that her niece should be moved to another madrassa. “I have absolutely no respect for religious teachers who behave like this,” she said.

Imam Chishti, a religious education teacher who also runs the Light of Islam Academy in Rochdale, said that part of the problem was that some madrassa teachers were ignorant of British law. Corporal punishment was banned in state schools in 1986 and in all schools in 1998.

Chishti said even the victims had grown to accept the abuse. “They all joked about it,” he said. “There's a culture that accepts it.”

Click here to read more on this story from the Times of London.