A British father has been banned from taking his son to a church after the boy’s Muslim mother won a controversial court order preventing the boy from attending.
The father – a non-practising Muslim who has forged close connections to his local Christian community and is divorced from the boy’s mother – has been warned that he could be denied access to the nine-year-old if he attempts to take him to church or to a leisure centre it runs.
Now the father, who was born in the UK to Pakistani parents, is challenging the ruling made by District Judge Williscroft at Derby County Court earlier this month.
Last week, he lodged an appeal with the High Court to have the order overturned. ‘This judge is simply scared of being branded Islamophobic,’ he said. ‘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.’
The father, who cannot be named for legal reasons, said his ex-wife insisted their son, whom she is bringing up in the Muslim faith, could ‘become confused’ if he is subjected to other religions.
‘My son is being indoctrinated and the only way I can show him other things is to take him to other places,’ said the father.
‘If I don’t show him other types of life he will become just like a dumb sheep. I want him to see and learn about different cultures.
‘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.’
The man and his ex-wife married in 2003 and led a ‘Western lifestyle’.
‘That was important to me because of the strict religious manner in which I was brought up,’ he said.
‘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 Pakistani-born wife turned to the Muslim faith after her father’s death in 2007, when her mother told her that because he had not adhered to his faith he was in Hell, and would remain there unless she became a devout Muslim.
She began attending a madrasa – an Islamic place of learning – wearing a hijab and shunning the couple’s Christian friends. She left her husband in 2013, taking their son with her. The couple divorced last year.
The boy lives with his mother but sees his father every other weekend. ‘After my divorce, the Christian community embraced me,’ the man said.
‘They run many activities my son enjoys so I go to the church and would like to take my son.
‘But when his mother found out, she applied to the court and won the order which prevents the boy being taken to any Christian building.’
The order bars the father from taking the boy to any religious event. It decrees he must provide only Halal food and reassure the child he is ‘an ordinary Muslim boy following Muslim rules’. The judge who made the ruling had courted controversy in 2014 when she said an eight-year-old girl should be moved to live with her father, a former drug addict with a criminal record.
Last night, leading Christians and legal experts voiced outrage over the decision.
Barrister Andrea Williams, of the Christian Legal Centre and a member of the Church of England General Synod, described the ruling as ‘pandering to Islam’.
‘This is a form of judicial bullying,’ she said. ‘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 Islam-ophobia.’ Her views were echoed by Simon Calvert, of the Christian Institute, who said: ‘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.