A five-year-old “white Christian” girl was taken from her mother by police and forced into Muslim fostering care, last March. Or so claimed the front page of the Murdoch-owned London Times of August 28, picked up next day with screaming headline by the Daily Mail. The child, with people who could not speak English, was crying in distress.
There was a media and internet conflagration. Hate groups such as the English Defence League and Britain First spread the story as an example of Muslim take-over. The borough council was afraid that the identity of the parties might be revealed and there could be violence.
There was a response in the Guardian of September 1. This article was mild and rather jumbled. Quotations from professionals about complexity and “multiple perspectives,” and references to long documents and remaining questions, came before and among clues to what had actually happened.
With effort, one could piece together that child AB’s father had disappeared and her mother had trouble with alcohol and cocaine. Endangered children need to be placed in safety immediately, and not far from their family, school, and friends. This is more urgent than placement with someone of the same religion. Foster homes are not easily found – there is a shortage of people ready to give the necessary time and love. She was placed temporarily with a family that happened to be non-practising Muslims. A court-appointed guardian visited and found her “settled and well cared for.” The borough wanted her to be placed with her maternal grandparents, which could not be done immediately because of the required “strict vetting,” but was done the next day, the grandparents having undergone a full assessment and the judge having approved.
One researcher mentioned that there are far more examples of the opposite kind: Muslim children, such as unaccompanied refugees, being placed with white British families, successfully.
The Daily Mail did not have a photo of the people concerned, and so the photo it used, at large size, was of a Muslim woman and little girl in Dubai. And the photo was doctored with the addition of a black veil over the woman’s face!
Why I want to mention this affair is that it is an example of something I think I have noticed more widely. One side argues clearly, loudly, ferociously, with over-simplification, and with distortion if that makes for easier grasping by short attention-spans. The other side tends to convolution, awareness of uncertainties and the possibility of different viewpoints, civility that can seem like weakness. Not always.