The Murdoch Times invested a significant amount of the supposedly upmarket paper’s credibility on its story claiming that a five-year-old Christian girl had been somehow forced into a foster placement with a Muslim family, as did the reporter whose name appeared on the by-line, Andrew Norfolk. But it was not long before the claims made by the paper began to unravel. Now it seems they will unravel yet further.
After it was revealed at the end of August that the child, far from being unhappy with the foster placement, seemed happy and settled, and that the claims of “they don’t speak English” were bunk - foster parents don’t become foster parents if they can’t speak English - all went silent for a while. Now, there has been a further hearing concerning the case. And what has been revealed so far is bad news for the Times.
As Callum May of the BBC has reported, “BBC News, Sky, the Times, Telegraph, Mail, Guardian and an agency called National News were all in court”. The Times and Mail have been noticeably silent this morning. But the Guardian filed its report with admirable speed.
Jamie Grierson’s article tells “A girl placed with Muslim foster carers in a case that ignited a media storm had a ‘warm relationship’ with the family and wants to see them again, an internal council investigation has found … In August, claims that the five-year-old, who was described as a ‘white Christian’, had been left distressed after being placed in a Muslim household became the focus of a political and media furore”.
There was more. “The judge, Khatun Sapnara, reading extracts from the Tower Hamlets report, said the findings were a ‘very interesting and robust’ defence against the allegations raised in the Times … The child’s maternal grandmother ‘in fact has a warm relationship with one of the foster carers - as does the child’, she said … The judge added that child AB ‘misses the foster carer and another child in the same placement’”.
And what of the stress that was put upon the child being Christian? “The hearing on Monday also heard that the child was of dual nationality. She was christened but was not taken to church by her mother or anyone else, the court heard. Her maternal grandparents are Muslim and while they do not attend mosque, they do pray at home, the court was told … The girl’s mother has a criminal conviction and is appealing against it”.
This story is not the simple Christian versus Muslim one that was splashed across the front pages of the Times, and then with considerably less subtlety, the Daily Mail. We are also reminded of the emergency circumstances of the foster placement: “the child’s mother had applied for a Scram bracelet - a tag to monitor levels of alcohol consumption - and her solicitors requested permission to supply results for cocaine testing”.
Now, we are getting closer to seeing how the press has apparently manipulated this story to fit its Muslim-bashing agenda. It is likely that there will be more revelations soon. As Grierson has noted, “The judge has given the authorities until Friday to draw up a redacted version of the report so it can be published”.
Our free and fearless press never learns. But its declining readership already has.