The Child and Family Agency was asked to explore the provision made for the religious education of Muslim children in a rural town when Care Orders for two children came up for review in the District Court.
The barrister for the mother said that the main issue for the parents was the religious upbringing of the children, who were in non-Muslim foster care.
The judge said the Care Order had been granted, and the major issue in the case was the emotional abuse to which the children had been subjected by way of domestic violence. “What the experts are telling me at the moment is that the priority is for their emotional needs. The parents want the major focus on religious and cultural issues.”
The mother’s barrister said that he fully agreed on the importance of the emotional welfare of the children, but he understood there was a Sunni Muslim imam in the town and it was possible for Sunni Muslims to meet on Fridays.
The solicitor for the Child and Family Agency said that the agency had identified a person who could act as a cultural mediator.
Judge: “A person’s religious and cultural identity is extremely important. At this moment in time priority has to be given to the emotional welfare of the children who have experienced great trauma due to their exposure to domestic violence. I do want a plan put in place for the religious and cultural needs of these children. The wishes of the parents have to be respected with regarded to their religious and cultural needs. But at the moment the placement is the most appropriate in relation to their religious and cultural needs.”
The CFA solicitor said that psychological matters had to be dealt with first. However, to bring the children to a religious service on Fridays could expose them to triggers of their post-traumatic stress.
The judge said he used to act for members of the Muslim community, and he was sure they had children who had to be catered for.
The mother’s barrister said he did not accept a religious meeting would have an adverse effect, and did not accept it could be equated with domestic violence. The CFA solicitor said she did not mean to suggest this in any shape or form.
The judge said he was adjourning the matter until after the summer holiday and wanted to see as much progress as possible with the local Sunni Muslim community in relation to its provision of religious education for its children.