A RELIGIOUS teacher sexually touched a schoolgirl as she prayed, a court heard.

Suleman Maknojioa, 40, of Audley Range, Blackburn was said to have ‘squeezed’ the youngster’s chest, by placing his hand beneath the long folds of her headscarf.

He denies seven counts of sexually touching a child. Giving evidence by video link yesterday, the youngster cried as she told Preston Crown Court she was ‘afraid of what he would do’.

The schoolgirl said the problems began some months after she started tuition of the Koran in Arabic.

She said inappropriate touching, which had occurred over several months, started ‘gradually’, beginning with the arms and head, then moving to the legs, feet and chest and her thigh.

Her brother also gave evidence and told how he and his sibling had noticed ‘inappropriate’ touching of his sister and favouritism towards her.

The girl, who was of primary school age, told the court that touching had typically occurred as she prayed; kneeling or cross legged while reading from the Koran.

She said: “He would put his hand under my head scarf on my chest and he would squeeze.

“He would only use the one hand. The other hand would be writing something or he would be pointing to my brothers and telling them to pray harder.

“No matter how hard my brothers tried to pray it wasn’t good enough. He would always say I was better even if I wasn’t.

“My brothers asked me what he had been doing and I didn’t know how to describe it. I told them he had touched me up.”

She became tearful as she added: “They told me to tell mum and dad - but I just didn’t want to tell anyone.”

Under cross examination, the girl was asked if it was not just ‘reasonable’ pats on the shoulder to say ‘well done’.

She replied: “No, it wasn’t like that. It was never to say well done. It went on for ages, his hand going up and down. You don’t do that to say ‘well done’.”

Defending, Frida Hussain asked if she disliked the lessons.

The girl replied: “Yes, because I was afraid of what my teacher would do.”

Giving evidence, her brother said: “I knew what was happening for about a month before my parents.

"My sister would get very upset at the idea of anyone knowing. It was difficult for me to know what to do.

“He favoured her and praised her. He would give her 10 pages to learn and we would only get three. That way he spent most of the lesson with her. He did it slyly so we didn’t notice.

“When it happened she was trying to pray and he would interrupt her.”

He added: “I have seen him touching her thigh in a stroking motion.”

The defence barrister added: “Was it in fact a reasonable teacher and pupil relationship where touching was done to console her?”

The brother said: “No, it was inappropriate.”