Child forbidden to play with non-muslims

by Peter Magee on January 24, 2011

Peter MageeAn article titled “Dad Forbids Daughter to Play With non Muslim Children” was published in the Herald Sun on 6 August 2011. The article, written by Shelley Hadfield discusses a Federal Magistrates Court matter in Victoria where the Federal Magistrate found that the father was trying to alienate the girl from the non Muslim community in Australia. The Federal Magistrates Court heard that the girl had refused to play with another fair haired girl during a visit with a family counsellor and that she had explained to her mother that she was not allowed to play with non Muslim children. The Federal Magistrate also found that the father was trying to alienate the daughter from her mother and grandmother and also that the father had complained to the family counsellor about the mother’s style of dress. The Federal Magistrate ordered that the child live with the mother and spend time with the father every second weekend and expressed the view that the father was a loving parent but that he did not appear to have an understanding of his daughter’s developmental needs. The Federal Magistrate found that the father’s “conduct in seeking to alienate the girl from both the non Muslim component of the Australian community and from her mother and grandmother is very disturbing”. The law requires that Courts place the best interest of the child first when making parenting orders. In this case the Federal Magistrate found that this involved protecting the child from any harm and facilitating a meaningful relationship with both parents. In this matter the Federal Magistrate may have thought that the father’s actions where harmful to the child in some way and therefore it was still in the best interests of the child to not provide for the child to have equal or even substantial and significant time with the father. The Court may have taken the father’s comment’s about the mother’s dress, as showing that the father was not trying to facilitate a meaningful relationship between the child and the mother. Setting this aside, and focusing on the father’s wanting to contain the child to playing with children only of her background, arguably it is a parent’s domain to raise a child as they see fit, in terms of religious beliefs and who the child is to make friends with. The reality is that parents often seek to raise their children to socialise in certain circles and groups in societies.  Some exclusion of the rest of society can be seen in the decisions by parents to send their children to religious schools, and to insist that they partake in certain activities and extracurricular activities that keep them within a certain milieu. However, on the other hand it could be seen as harmful to a child to encourage them to be fearful of a large section of the Australian population and there is a policy argument that this is also damaging to Australia at large. At what point does a parent’s personal and subjective prerogative to raise their children in certain social circles become something that can be objectively identified as harmful?  Perhaps the unclear line in the sand can be found in the subtle difference between encouraging a child to make friends with a certain group and inciting fear in a child with regards to those who do not belong to that group.

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