The philosophical issues thrown up by Re M, and Not the Nine O’clock news.
There are some things that my dad had views about that had no influence on my own belief systems. I don’t for example, believe that Freddie Mercury was “straight as a die”, that Roy Orbison was only pretending to be blind, that the moon landings were faked (and that REM know about it and their song “Man on the Moon” is not about Andy Kaufman but is really about exposing the fake moon landings). I don’t feel the need to stand during the Queen’s Speech, or even to watch it.
But there are some things where I know that my dad’s views and philosophies stayed with me to this day – that you should always tip cabbies and hairdressers well, that West Ham are dear to my heart, that it is better to pretend to play the drums when listening to music than play air guitar, and his sense of antipathy towards Unions and Union bosses.
I’ve never had a Union treat me badly or double-cross me, or let me down, but I do have a hostility towards them, an innate, programmed hostility that comes not from my own experience but the beliefs my dad instilled in me about what a bad lot they were. Why, even this week, when I heard that Bob Crow had died, my initial gut reaction was the one my dad would have had, and not one bourne out of any personal antipathy towards a man who had no adverse impact on my life at all.
Listening to politicians suddenly speak out about what a great man Bob Crow was reminded me of this classic Not the Nine O’Clock news sketch
Anyway, the point of this long rambling intro is that in Re M, the High Court were preparing themselves to tackle the issue of the influence that a father could have on his children, for good or for ill.
The father in this case is a Libyan man, with seven children. He came to England and married an English woman and started that family. The marriage ended when the mother began to drift back to her earlier Christian beliefs, the father being Muslim. There were problems about the children being returned from an arranged holiday in Libya and a dispute between the parents as to whether this was an attempt by the father to move the family lock stock and barrel to Libya. There were allegations made by the mother about the way that the father treated her and the children – those allegations are not proven or tested and were to be the subject of a fact finding hearing in private law.
The Local Authority had been asked to undertake an investigation and they reported that the children were fine and happy with mother and they had no concerns.
At paragraph 10, under a heading “Recommendations”, the social worker wrote,
“The children are happy and content in the care of their mother, having gone through a period of instability since last year. They are attending school and many other activities. The behaviour of [the eldest two sons] has calmed significantly and [the second son] has become very close to his mother. [The mother] is providing a physically and emotionally safe environment for the children.”
The report commented also upon the relationship between the children and their father that had been observed during occasions of contact. It said at paragraph 6.6,
“[The father] was observed during contact with the children. He was very warm and affectionate towards the children. His interaction with the children was age-appropriate during the contact and the children found it a positive experience. However, all children apart from [the eldest son] requested for future contact to be supervised.”
It was therefore something of a surprise to Holman J, when the day before the fact-finding was to begin, he received a communication from the Local Authority that they intended to commence care proceedings.
On further enquiry, it emerged that fresh allegations had been made to the Local Authority, who were greatly concerned about them. The substance of those allegations were that the father was “radicalising the children” and promoting radical fundamentalist thoughts associated with terrorism, that he was not simply promoting and advocating Islam as a faith but insisting to the children that anyone who was not following the Islamic faith was an ‘infidel’
This was something that had not been raised as a specific allegation or that the Court had been asked to deal with at the fact-finding hearing, although there was this reference to it in mother’s statement
“Immediately following my return, both children were extremely hostile and rude to me and used concerning language which includes calling me a ‘fucking bitch’, a ‘Christian witch’, and [the second son] told me that I am evil and going to hell. When I asked the children where they had got these ideas from, they said that their father had told them …
On 22 May 2013 I spoke to [the eldest son] about his behaviour and he told me that he cannot love me because I am going to ‘hell fire’. He was crying and said that I was going to hell because I am not a Muslim. I comforted him and his behaviour gradually improved from this time on. [The second son] however, continued to be extremely angry and volatile. [The eldest two sons] are showing signs of radicalised behaviour and have said that they want to be a jihadist when they grow up since a young age, and that they hate England and Christians …”
The Judge made it plain that no findings had been made against the father and these allegations were both untested and strenuously denied
- The father himself very strongly denies nearly all of the allegations that have been made against him and which were intended to be the subject of the fact finding hearing this week. I understand from his counsel today that he also very strongly denies that he has said, or done, anything to any of the children which might lead any of them to say the things or behave in the ways described by their mother in the passage that I have just read.
The Judge felt that it would be unfair to start the finding of fact hearing when father had had no notice or warning of these allegations and that the detail of what was alleged was not available to him, nor had he had the opportunity to respond. The case was therefore adjourned to gather that evidence, let father have the proper chance to respond and for the allegations to be tested. It is, of course, the mother (or the Local Authority) who have to prove these allegations – it isn’t for father to disprove them.
It will be an interesting judgment to read when the finding of fact hearing is concluded – I don’t want to comment particularly on this individual family as the allegations are yet to be tested and no real detail is available for anyone to form any view as to their truth or not – the whole thing might be a misunderstanding, an exagerration or even outright falsehood.
I do think though that the case raises interesting debates about whether there is a bright line between sharing your beliefs and values – even if those might not be the cultural norms of the UK – and emotional harm to children. Is this a Hedley J Re L case, where society ought to tolerate a broad spectrum of behaviour and views and values, or a Supreme Court Re B case where the behaviour of the adults was held to cross the line into significant harm?
The Judge captures this very elegantly
“Radicalising” is a vague and non-specific word which different people may use to mean different things. There is quite a lot of material in this case to the effect that the elder of these children are committed Muslims who like to attend, and do attend, at a mosque and wish to display religious observance. This nation and our culture are tolerant of religious diversity, and there can be no objection whatsoever to any child being exposed, often quite intensively, to the religious practices and observance of the child’s parent or parents. If and insofar as what is meant in this case by “radicalising” means no more than that a set of Muslim beliefs and practices is being strongly instilled in these children, that cannot be regarded as in any way objectionable or inappropriate. On the other hand, if by “radicalising” is meant, as appears in paragraph 12 of the draft addendum report that I have already quoted, “negatively influencing [a child] with radical fundamentalist thought, which is associated with terrorism” then clearly that is a very different matter altogether. If any child is being indoctrinated or infected with thoughts involving the possibility of “terrorism” or, indeed, hatred for their native country, which is England, or another religion, such as Christianity which is the religion of their grandparents and now, again, their mother, then that is potentially very abusive indeed and of the utmost gravity.
It is very difficult, when you start thinking of concrete situations, to see where that bright line would be.
For example – a man says to his fourteen year old son
1. Islam is a faith with many followers throughout the world, it is something that I firmly believe in. I also believe that there are substantial elements of Western society that are decadent and not in keeping with my faith and tradition and the world would be a better place if more people followed Islamic traditions.
seems fine to me
2. There are those in the Western world that are threatened by Islam, and are frightened that their time of dominance based on greed and capitalism will come to an end. As a result, they oppress Islam, they stir up fear and hatred of Muslims, they scapegoat us for the ills of the world and start wars against Islamic countries using lies and deceit.
Now let’s add
3. There are Muslims who fight back, who resist this oppression. They risk their lives for what they believe in. They stand up for what is right, and they are honourable men to do so. We cannot fight against the West with tanks and planes because we do not have their resources and might – instead we rely on brave men who sacrifice their life to do what they must to bring the West to realise that what they do to Muslims is wrong. Being a martyr for something you believe in is better than tolerating oppression.
[For the avoidance of any doubt, I do not suggest at all that these views are in any way representative of mainstream Islamic thought or belief – it is just laying out a trail of how one might move away from mainstream Islamic thought and justifiable feelings of wanting to share your faith with your children towards the very tiny proportion of radical fundamentalist viewpoints]
Even that third one still seems to me to be an expression of faith and values – it might be edging towards stuff that might make people uncomfortable, but if you live in a free society you don’t just defend the right of people to say things that you agree with – sometimes people need to be free to say unpalatable things, unpopular things.
Almost certainly before you get anywhere near the point where the child is going to start hating the West or wanting to take action, you’ve got many many more steps than that – but how many? How far down that route do you go before what is happening is not an expression of views but emotionally abuse and indoctrination or radicalisation? But putting your finger on where that point is that crosses the line between expressing your faith and views and saying what you believe and becomes harmful is not easy.
Even if the Judge has a verbatim account of what was said to a child, fixing that the bright line has been crossed might prove to be a difficult task.
The Telegraph have written on this case too – “Judge to probe jihadist claims over boys aged 12 and 11”
(I think “probe” rather suggests that it happened, and the Judge is going to find out more about it, rather than that allegations are made that are going to be investigated and a decision made as to whether they are true or not, but I can see that “probe” fits into a headline, and I’d be a sub-editor’s nightmare. Also, the Telegraph do quote Holman J later in the article that these are no more than allegations on mother’s say so at this point)
The interesting thing the Telegraph do add is the reference to Boris Johnson’s speech that children around the country are being radicalised but that care proceedings aren’t being taken (presumably as a result of political correctness). We don’t know whether that speech played any part in the LA decision-making here.
Are there going to be more of these cases to come?
I’m with the judge, how do prove the allegations much less the substance there of. I was raised Catholic though I do not practice any religion I would not say speaking of one’s religion necessarily denote radicalization. One must also take into account prejudice and/or bias from one religion to the other. Two questions, one how would these children be so easily brainwashed in one contact meeting? Secondly, wouldn’t it be easy enough to verify through the children what had taken place?
Justice Holam is a man of good reputation who has prooved in many cases that he is wise and can not be coprrupted by any hypes. With him, I have hopes that this case will be dealt with fairly.
suesspiciousminds – there is a presedence case, that is frequently used by LAs when it comes to argue “wrong beliefs”. The case was of an English mother who had converted to Islam and had (allegedly) told her children to pray (to many times, in the view of the LA in charge at the time). The case went through and the children were either taken into care or ended up with relatives.. do you remember that case from your work and have you got a reference for it? I think the case was around 2008-2010.
I don’t recall it – there are some cases that in effect say that the Courts should not weigh up one form of religious expression against another (see for example the orthodox v ultra-orthodox jewish schooling cases) BUT that where that expression becomes harmful the Court can still intervene. [If the manifestation of the faith had gone into delusion or religious mania, it is possible, I suppose – praying too much doesn’t sound like it would be, but it could potentially be that if the mother was making the children pray thirty or forty times a day then it was going beyond even unusual religious beliefs and into interfering with their lives. For example, if someone were to be an ultra-puritanical Christian and be urging the children to self-flagellate if they thought wicked thoughts, that COULD consitute significant harm]
I have never myself been involved in a case where religious expression was a problem or feature.
Thank your for taking the time to respond. I have to dig the case up.. thought I could take the shortcut via your law encyclopaedia of a mind.. 😉
I will have a look for you
Re A and D 2010 is the only care proceedings and religion one that I can find in last ten years, and that’s not it. That one was the s22(5) duty to bring a child up in recognition of his religious background, and what to do when the mother changed from Catholicism to Islam. Which religion should the child be brought up in?
The rest of the cases that come up on a family law + religion search are schooling, circumcision, and one about whether foster carer’s Christian belief that homosexuality was wrong was a relevant factor in approving them.
Newcastle v Z 2005 – that’s the one that says a religious belief that adoption is wrong doesn’t circumvent the Adoption and Children Act.
I am not coming across any where religious beliefs went to threshold (that’s not to say that there hasn’t been one, just that I can’t find it)
Baroness Hale in Re B 2013 says this :-
But the State does not and cannot take away the children of all the people who commit crimes, who abuse alcohol or drugs, who suffer from physical or mental illnesses or disabilities, or who espouse anti-social political or religious beliefs.
Thank you for this Susspicious Minds – I think at first glance Re A and D 2010 is the one. I will dig up the case where the case of “Catholic Mum turned Islam” is used as reference to make an argument against a mother for “her false beliefs”. Those beliefs at the time were not religious but that the father is abusing the child. How such a reference can be made to provide a solid argument for another – based on your feedback seemingly rather unrelated – treshold case scenario I really have to double check now. After all I want to make sure I am not stating things blindly. I will be back on that one.
Btw.. the marriage between the parents was performed under Islamic Law.. and Justice Holman also made a public statement on 16/3/14. If one wants to take it all much further this could be considered a case of “Sharia Law”..
Do you happen to have a full link to Re A and D 2010?
But why care proceedings?
Good point Norma. Seems to become standard these days, whenever a mother alledges abuse by former partner. In this case most likely to “better protect from potential flight to Jihadi training camp”.
That’s what makes me a bit cautious about the Boris johnson speech, where he urges LA’s to take action. This seems to me to break down to either (a) the mother was right, in which case contact will only take place under supervision or (b) mother was wrong, in which case there’s no child protection risk. I don’t quite see why this stops being a private law matter – albeit one where the LA would have an interest because they might be called upon to be the supervisors of contact in scenario (a)
Yes, it is an interesting point and one to closely observe. Judge Holman is a stickler for evidence and facts, so the LA would really have to flip over backwards to craft this case into a model of their liking, if this is what is on their agenda. Wondering now what was there first, Johnson or the LA, it’s like chicken or egg..
Regarding why Care Order?
“An addendum to a s.37 report stated:
“[The Mother] described her ex-husband as an overly controlling Islamic fundamentalist and expressed the fear that he was negatively influencing the eldest son with radical fundamentalist thought, which is associated with terrorism. She said this revolves around the superiority of Islamic thinking over any other belief and seeing non-Muslims as ‘infidels’
The initial sense of protectiveness [since her return from Libya] does not appear to be the case anymore as the mother seems to be overwhelmed by a feeling of loss of her husband. In feeling that way [the mother] may be unable to protect the children from unsupervised contact with father and appears to be lacking insight into her own vulnerability in resuming contact with [the father] by contacting him for support, despite knowing that he abducted the children to Libya with a view to radicalising them.”
As to NASA, it’s time the truth was revealed.
Apollo did not go to the Moon. It went to Mars.
It only took five days to get there, not months and months, because NASA had invented a means of jumping through hyperspace (in fact the journey was instantaneous, and they just orbited Mars for five days as a smokescreen) – but it was suppressed to protect the oil companies.
You read it here first.
That was random.