Issues and Articles
Children are the Future – Treat Them Well!
By Khalil Charles
In the past two weeks, there has been focus on the plight of children in the UK. Some of the focus has been negative with shocking statistics revealing that over 7,000 cases of Child Sexual Exploitation cases have been brought before the courts in England and Wales.
On a more positive note, last week was National Adoption Week and this week sees the annual charity event of BBC’s Children in Need. Naturally in Islam, Muslims are commanded to take good care of children particularly orphans who are vulnerable having, in some cases, lost both father and mother. The Quran mentioned orphans 23 times in 12 different chapters of the revelation and there are many sayings of the Prophet, may peace be upon him. For example, the Prophet (pbuh) said, "Like this it is asked from believers to be adorned with mercy, and to deal with kindness towards one and other, especially towards those who are in need of mercy.”
Who perhaps is more in need of more mercy than an orphaned child?
Over the years, there has been a steady increase in the number of Muslim children in the UK being put into care and needing either fostering or adoption services. The numbers have led to a greater demand for Muslim parents to volunteer for adoption or foster children in order to provide a safe and secure home and fulfill the religious and dietary requirements of the child. It is well known that around 77% of Muslims pass on their religion to their children, far higher than any other faith group.
In a recent case, a foster mother was struck off the fostering list for allowing a Muslim girl in her care to convert to Christianity. The story made the front page of the Daily Mail and emphasised to some the need for more Muslim foster parents to be involved in child-care services. However, speaking to the Muslim Association of Britain, a child-care expert in North London who preferred not to be named, said that Muslim parents had responded to the call and now there was no shortage as far more Muslim couples are willing to foster or adopt children. Ironically, she said that it was a little more difficult for practicing Muslims to get allocated a child, as the fostering services have to weigh up carefully whether there would be any detrimental effects on the fostered child who may not be used to following all the practices of Islam.
Across the UK there are approximately 67,000 children in care and around 7% come from minority communities and according to the expert who spoke to MAB; the reason for Muslim children coming into care is no different to the vast majority of cases where professionals have identified neglect, abuse or circumstances where parents are not able to provide safe and secure homes for children. In some cases, parents may be drug addicts or alcohol-dependent. In other cases, parents may even be disabled and needing some extra assistance.
The Muslim Association of Britain was told that it was the policy of the adoption agency to match children with the same religious background to the adopting or fostering parents. Therefore, it was unlikely that a Muslim child will be placed with a practicing Christian family or non-Muslim children in the homes of practicing Muslims couples.
However, there were a number of problems that care workers face with fostering or adopting children. Some have raised the question of inheritance where Muslim couples are not prepared to allow adopted children to become part of its family line and subsequently inherit the family’s wealth. The adoption agency told MAB that it was preferable that each child be raised exactly in the same way as a normal birth child with all the accompanying rights. Whilst in Islam all jurists agree that the adopted child does not automatically inherit, it is possible however, for parents tobequeath up to one-third of the total estate to non-heirs. Indeed, this means that, in many cases, an adopted child can still receive some of the inheritance through a bequest than the biological children receive through their fixed and unalterable share of the inheritance.
The other problem mentioned dealt with the inability of the agency to place West African Muslim children in Muslim homes as some fostering parents from South Asian heritage preferred to accept African- Caribbean origin Muslims only as a last resort. However, it was noted that the situation appears to be improving and there are increasing numbers of African-Caribbean origin Muslim now offering to become foster or adoption parents.
Fortunately, over the past decade a number of specialist adoption and fostering agencies for Muslims have began to operate; and best practice advice about how to cater for the needs of Muslim children is becoming more widely available. It is also clear that childcare issues remain important issues to Muslim couples, parents and family and the respond to the need for adoption and fostering demonstrates the willingness of Muslims to take responsibility the provision and protects of the most vulnerable in society.
Please note: Couples wishing to adopt or foster children should contact their local Children Services Department.
One Man and His Dog – An Example to the World!
By Dr. Abdul Aziz Belattar
In September, around 50 dogs were confirmed dead in a fire at Manchester Dog home. However, thanks to the efforts of more than 20 firefighters who battled the flames, a number of dogs were rescued and survived. Almost immediately, the fire services were inundated with calls from devastated animal-lovers offering homes to the surviving dogs.
One such animal lover caught the eye of MAB’s Dr. Abdul Aziz in Manchester who relates his true encounter with dog owner and Buster the dog on a Manchester bus.
“Today, I was travelling in a bus towards Manchester and I decided to go upstairs on the double decker bus. I sat near an English man and near him, a dog was sitting by the window. I noticed the dog looking at me. Then, I started a discussion with the dog owner. He told that I do not have to worry about he dog as he is afraid of strangers. He then told me that his dog is called ‘Buster’ and he had it for just only one month and the dog is four years old. He also said that he got it from the doghouse, which caught fire with the death of 50 dogs, a few weeks ago. When I asked him if he traveled in the bus before, he told me that Buster has traveled before on the bus and the dog behaviour who witnessed the fire before shows that he is always afraid of it. He added that he is going to meet the twin sister of Buster, which is looked after by his girlfriend.
“I was amazed by the dog owner’s care and how he was looking after the welfare of his dog ‘Buster’. When I asked him how Buster the dog feels when he meets his twin sister dog, he replied that they look very happy to meet each other and last visit he stayed for one week with her. All along the journey, the dog owner was cuddling Buster and talking to him like a human being by passing his hand over his head and body and assured him that everything would be fine. The amazing thing is this relationship between the man and his dog. He told me that ‘Buster’ is cautious when he sees strangers. I asked him whether he got any money to look after him as the appeal for the burned dog care house collected a lot of money? He replied that he did not get anything. This man told me that he had looked after dogs before and consequently I assumed that he was a very experienced dog handler. Then, he and Buster came to the end of the journey and the dog was very happy to come off the bus and - I presume - looking forward to see his twin sister dog.
“I was thinking as I continued my journey towards Manchester that Allah (Most Gracious) has put his mercy in the heart of this man and his care was appreciated and reciprocated by his dog Buster. Finally, I wish that humanity can show this kind of mercy and care between each other in both UK in this cold winter and many regions of the world.”
What all Muslims should recognize is that God has tasked humans with the responsibility of looking after all living things, and He made that part of the Islamic teachings. The Prophet, peace be upon him said: “A woman who had committed sin, was forgiven [by God] for watering a thirsty dog, who she noticed eating leaves out of thirst.” And on the other hand: “A woman was punished [by God] for imprisoning a cat till it died.” Truly, kindness to all living things is a highly virtuous act in Islam. It is unfortunate that many don’t practice it frequently.