A British father has been banned from taking his nine year old son to church, as his ex-wife is a Muslim. The ruling stipulates he must also feed the boy Halal food and assure him he is an ordinary Muslim boy.
The father has been threatened with loss of custody if he breaks the ban – but he has vowed to challenge the ruling, saying that his son is being brainwashed into Islam and that he doesn’t want him becoming a “dumb sheep”.
The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was raised as a Muslim by his strict Pakistani immigrant parents. But he has rejected the faith of his birth, and said he and his wife led a “Western lifestyle” while married.
Following his divorce he has been forging close connections to his local Christian community and would like his son to attend with him, hoping to broadening his world-view. But his ex-wife has secured a court order by District Judge Williscroft at Derby County Court, preventing him from taking his son to church or even to the leisure centre it runs.
“After my divorce, the Christian community embraced me,” the father said. “They run many activities my son enjoys so I go to the church and would like to take my son.
“I was taught that Christians were heartless and immoral, that only Muslims have a peaceful faith and all others are evil. It was only when I began mixing with Christians that I learned this was nonsense.”
But his ex-wife has insisted that their son could “become confused” if exposed to religions other than Islam – a notion the boy’s father rejects.
He told the Mail on Sunday: “This judge is simply scared of being branded Islamophobic. I want my son to have a balanced life in which he is exposed to different faiths and can make up his own mind about which, if any, religion he follows.
“My son is being indoctrinated and the only way I can show him other things is to take him to other places.”
And the order goes further: banning the boy’s father, who has custody of his son at weekends only, from taking him to any religious event or Christian building. He must also only feed the boy Halal food, and, bizarrely must reassure the child he is “an ordinary Muslim boy following Muslim rules.” The father has lodged an appeal with the High Court to have the order overturned.
“If I don’t show him other types of life he will become just like a dumb sheep,” he said. “I want him to see and learn about different cultures.”
And he said the ruling is affecting his relationship with his son: “This is nothing short of brain-washing him. Already he is telling me that I have a black heart; that I am a bad man, because I am not a practising Muslim. I am heartbroken that I have to keep him away from activities with local children.
“He is being fed the same lies I was as a child and I want better for him. This judge was so busy being politically correct that she has ignored the influence of myself as a loving father. I am terrified that he will stop wanting to see me because of his indoctrination.”
Christian groups have condemned the order, which they say is yet another example of institutional deference to Islam, and bias against Christianity.
The ruling was “pandering to Islam,” said barrister Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre and a member of the Church of England General Synod.
“This is a form of judicial bullying,” she added. “The wife is using the law to coerce and silence a father’s right to determine his son’s religious experience. This chimes generally with what we see with the judicial system acting as if it is afraid of upsetting Islam and therefore showing a willingness to suppress the Christian faith and punishing those who practise it.
“This would not have happened the other way around. If a Christian parent was trying to deny a child access to a mosque, there would be a huge outcry and claims of Islamophobia.”
Simon Calvert of the Christian Institute was in agreement, commenting: “This is not the first time that I’ve heard of proceedings where the authority has tried to prevent a child being exposed to the Christian faith.
“One has to ask if the courts would have done the same with any other faith. There is a general feeling that Christianity is an easy target because there is rarely any public backlash. I think the fact that the father is himself of Muslim heritage shows there was no need for such over-sensitivity.”