This Human Voice story forms part of CAGE’S project Separating Families: How PREVENT seeks the removal of children
See the rest of the report here.
Names have been changed to protect identities.
I have eight children, who are all home-schooled. I am a qualified practitioner in natural medicine and I used to run a cycling club that was also affiliated to my local authority.
In 2014, my one daughter was in contact with one of the ladies in Turkey and Syria without my permission. She (my daughter) wanted to study medicine abroad, so these women had got in touch with her on social media.
TheyThe tried to convince her to go join IS. She said, no, I am sorry I can’t because I don’t want to come; I want to qualify as a doctor. They said to her: “Come here, you can study and qualify in four years.”
So she left without my permission. The day she disappeared, she was gone from the house for more than an hour. My children are all close to me, we are always together, so when this happened I said to my wife: “Where is she?” She said she had gone to the library.
But when we went to the library, she wasn’t there.
We called the police. I told them my daughter had disappeared. They took the details and traced her. They brought her from the aeroplane. I went to get her at 12 o’clock at night, then I took her home.
I said to the police: “I need your help.”
They told me, “Thank you very much, we are so proud of you.”
I thought that it was finished, that I had done the right thing and that the authorities would help us.
Social workers turned on us
I came back home and we spoke to my daughter. She explained what had happened and she realised she had made a big mistake. From then on, we helped her to concentrate on her exams, on her GCSEs. She did well; she got straight As. Then suddenly after three months, after I had asked them to help me, the social services turned around and they told me I was not fit to parent the children. I was shocked.
I contacted the solicitor. I met with him, but the social worker created a big problem for me.
They were very rude to me. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks, one of them, who works for PREVENT, asked me which one of my children applauded the attacks. It was very rude.
They interviewed the children, including my son who was 7 at the time. They talked to him alone, which is totally unacceptable. They also interviewed my daughter by herself. My kids told me that they were desperate to get information about me and my wife.
I had gone to Gaza with George Galloway. They were using this. Galloway doesn’t get into trouble, but as a Muslim, they were punishing me for taking aid to the Gaza people.
They raided my home and said my medical equipment was bomb-making material
Another three months later, they came back. This time they told me I had a big connection to IS. They thought I was planning to plant some bombs. Really, I got the solicitor again after this.
But they came to our house and they took us to prison for a couple of hours. They separated us and put us in cells, for about 24-30 hours. My daughter was in tears because she was 14 years old.
They interrogated my son, who was 15, with no lawyer present. He was asked about his relationship with us, whether we pray five times a day and other questions about our religious practice, and whether I punish them physically.
They interviewed us for almost six hours each. They were filming and questioning us. They asked me all kinds of questions. They checked my computer and they found that we wanted to buy kitchen knives, and they said we were buying kitchen knives to kill members of Mi5.
I said, “This is not making any sense.”
As part of my business, I planned routes for cyclists. I did a route through Vauxhall, and my daughter also did this route. They said this was proof that she was planning an attack on Mi5. After the prison, they took us to the hotel, and they raided my home. They even took out the sink to look for bombs. They took my computers and all my equipment that I use for natural medicine.
Among the bomb evidence they said they collected was my pressure cooker with a tube protruding out from it. This is a homemade distiller used to extract oils.
They still have this equipment and my computer. The judge asked why they kept the hard drive for so long. They said it’s full of videos of “extremist” material. But the material was from my cycle routes.
Even the photos from the trip to Gaza I put on CDs, pictures of destruction and civilian deaths, and they said this was “IS videos”, but they gave them back.
They told me I was library of terrorism, that I am full of hate for democracy.
“Why don’t you have a TV to integrate the children?”
They raided the house twice, then they came back to take my daughter. They said they had good evidence that she was ready to kill the people in the street.
During the proceedings, the court maintained that I guided the three Bethnal Green girls to go to Syria in my area. The case for the removal of my daughter took place in that context.
You see, the bar for the state to prove its case was low. At that time, everything was crazy. They would rather make a mistake than take a risk. In this environment, it’s easy to take children away.
We then found ourselves in court with the a judge I call, un-Justice Hayden. [laughs]
One of the questions he asked me was; “Why don’t you have a TV? Why don’t you have a TV to integrate the children?”
I didn’t have a TV because I didn’t have the money to buy one. They forced me to have TV, and even in the news, all the journalists were saying, thank goodness you have a TV; now you can integrate. My wife’s family is Christian, and they have no TV. But nothing is said about this.
Anyway, the kids loved it. They watched Tom and Jerry day in and day out and we watched cricket. [laughs]
But he also said some terrible things to me. He told me I was “faithless”. He told me I was like a “Jeykll and Hyde”, and accused me of lying all the time, and of secretly radicalising my children.
I am not silly. I take responsibility for my children, and of the family. All my children are home-schooled and they all passed with As before all this happened.
When we told the judge about their academic achievements, he was surprised. We even got a reward from the mayor of Tower Hamlets.
The judge was very biased.
In court, I found myself thinking that these people really hate Islam. They didn’t listen to anything I had to say. Even on my social media, I was writing against IS, but when the judge saw this, he just said: “You are a liar.”
The media coverage also didn’t help. The newspapers were saying all these things and worse.
My daughter’s story is what “deradicalising” looks like
The judge decided that my daughter had to be taken into care. He took my daughter.
My solicitor said that she should go to a Muslim family. They told me, no, the Muslim family will brainwash her again. So they put her with a non-Muslim family.
When they took her, my daughter was crying. The lady that was going to foster her said to her: “Don’t worry; we have a nightclub around the corner, and you can go there, and you will be happy.”
When they took her, I said to her: “You remember your religion.”
I am telling you, based on my experience, they are wanting to pull the children out of Islam.
Later that evening I was attacked on the street by a group of thugs. They said I had bombs in my bike tyres. I had bruises all over and especially on my neck. I reported it to the police, but even now, nothing has come of this. I believe the authorities instructed the attackers.
When my daughter was with the foster family, she didn’t go to school as no school wanted to take her because of all the media around the case, and she didn’t do any exercise either.
The case affected all my children, because after they reached GCSE and I tried to put them in a school, they told me the kids would brainwash other kids and they couldn’t go to school.
They really isolated us. The local authority was really watching us closely all the time.
When my children eventually did go to school, they failed the exams because they had missed out. The head teacher was very rude to us.
This period was very difficult. When I went to visit my daughter, which they allowed me to do once a week, I saw they were smoking cigarettes and there was a smell of bacon cooking.
As a family, we eat healthy food. We don’t eat processed food. When I saw her, she was pale and she was putting on weight. I asked her: “What kind of food are you eating?” She opened the fridge and it was all just processed food.
She used to cry a lot.
During these visits I was not allowed to speak Arabic to her. Someone would stand with us. Even when I went to the toilet, someone would go with me. I had to leave the toilet door open.
I took her to the swimming pool once a week, just to get some exercise. She has asthma and she suffered very badly because she got such a poor diet and no exercise. She was so sick.
Even the doctor, when he checked my daughter, he said there was no threat from us. He submitted this report. But when he sent this report to the social worker, they didn’t accept it.
After a year, the social worker eventually admitted that they had made a mistake. The court records admitted that she felt isolated and desperately wished to return home. The judge was forced to say that it was the best thing for her to come back to us.
When she came back, her character had changed. She was very different. Her clothing was different. The environment was very bad for her.
But when she came back, the social worker made a big speech and they said, “She’s much better.” She said it like they had achieved their goal – she never read Quran, and she never associated with any Muslim person.
But they admitted that she was in poor health. They offered me 200 pounds compensation.
Unsure about this
No income, no passport, no apology – but my daughter is back
In my view, social workers are trying to take our children out of Islam, and they are doing it while making an income out of us.
Really, I am fighting for my dignity and the dignity of my daughter and family, and they are fighting for their wages.
After a very long process, and many reviews, eventually a final review by <insert name> Hassan led to the whole thing being closed at last. He said that we did not have any “extremist” beliefs.
But it was too late. My daughter had been away for a year and it was very traumatic situation.
Alhumdullillah, my daughter is better now. She is studying to be a doctor and she is reading and memorising Quran. When he heard this, the judge was so annoyed with me.
I would say to Muslims: never trust a social worker. They use you for their wages and they tried their best with us. My case was finished, twice, but they tried always to stretch it. My case shouldn’t have gone on for more than six months, but they stretched it for two years.
Any Muslims, I would say don’t trust social workers and don’t trust PREVENT.
In the last meeting I had with the social worker, they told me, that I have now come back to my sanity, as if they had finished deprogramming me.
My daughter is still in wardship of the court, but she is living with us. The social workers are still providing mentorship, so if she needs help and she can contact them.
But I can’t get a job. Last time I was interviewed for a job, they called me and said: “We’re sorry; we can’t take you because there is pressure.”
I said: “What pressure? From who?”
They wouldn’t say.
See the rest of CAGE’s Separating Families: How PREVENT seeks the removal of children report here.
(NOTE: CAGE represents cases of individuals based on the remit of our work. Supporting a case does not mean we agree with the views or actions of the individual. Content published on CAGE may not reflect the official position of our organisation.)