Very little has been said by our free and fearless press recently about the so-called Muslim Fostering Case, which was the subject of several articles in the Murdoch Times authored by Andrew Norfolk. He had gained considerable credibility from his reporting of the Rotherham grooming scandal; his name on the by-line therefore carried significant weight. The story was enthusiastically picked up by the Daily Mail.
There is a good reason for the lack of subsequent press interest - the story was seriously flawed to the point that all that credibility Norfolk built up previously has been expended. As the press has gone quiet and moved on to other ways of demonising Scary Muslims (tm), which was, after all, the whole purpose of Norfolk’s attack, Tower Hamlets council has released a statement demonstrating that the Times and Mail stories were bunk.
The five-year-old girl at the centre of the row was alleged to have been distressed; this was a central allegation in Norfolk’s articles. However, the statement tells “The child was visited in the second placement after two days due to reports at contact that she was distressed and the social worker saw her happily playing and settled”.
Moreover, “The child … wrote a letter to the Judge in August being supported by the Children’s Guardian to do so, wherein she expressed always being happy in the placement”. Did the foster mother, as was claimed, wear a burqa in public? Er, no: “The child’s original foster carer is Muslim and wears a hijab not a niqab or a burka”.
It was claimed that the child had a crucifix removed from her possession. Er, no again: “The Maternal Grandmother (MGM) states that she had one of the child’s crucifixes in the child’s bedroom in the MGM’s country of origin and that this had been given to her by the child’s mother in March 2017. The other is a large gold piece of jewellery that belonged to the child’s great grandmother … It is now in the possession of the MGM”.
Was the child unable to eat pork? What about the alleged rejection by the Muslim foster carers of a carbonara meal prepared by the mother? “Tower Hamlets found that there had been no rejection of food brought for the child by the mother for religious reasons. The foster carer stated that on one occasion the food was not put into a secure container so it spilled onto the buggy”. And what of the claims that the foster carers didn’t speak English?
“When spoken to by the social worker during Tower Hamlet’s enquiry, the child said they only spoke English at home and outside the home”. And there was more: “The allegation that the foster carer had made derogatory statements about European women to the child was not substantiated. Conversations between the social worker the child found that the child does not know what Europe is”. And it gets worse for the Times and Mail.
“In respect of the allegation that the child said ‘Christmas and Easter are stupid’; the social worker has talked to the child about the festivals and she expressed excitement and described having an Easter egg hunt at the foster carer’s home and receiving an Easter egg from the carer. She brought an Easter egg to contact to share with her mother. She expressed no negative views about Christmas, Easter or any religious festival”.
Was the child made to sit on the floor to eat by the Muslim foster carers? No once more: “the child said she sometimes ate apples on the floor whilst sitting with the foster carer’s child. She also sometimes ate on the sofa and at the table. There was no question that this was not a matter of choice or that this was a cultural imperative”.
And what did the Maternal Grandmother make of all the hostile publicity? After all, she will be caring for the child for the time being. She “has been distressed and angered by the allegations against the foster carers which she has said were false and lies. She has a good relationship with the carers and is grateful for the excellent care she says that they have provided to the child. The child has told the MGM that she is missing the foster carer and has asked the MGM if she can have contact with the family”.
Andrew Norfolk has robustly defended his reporting. But, as the Tay Jiva concluded back in mid-September, in a Comment Is Free piece for the Guardian, “Careless reporting needs to be held to account for the damage that can be done, particularly to vulnerable individuals”. But there will be no apology or retraction.
Neither the Times, nor the Mail, will take any notice of the Tower Hamlets findings. They do not need to do so: our sham press regulator IPSO will do nothing more than wipe their backsides for them. That’s not good enough.
There is far too much demonising of “the other”, and especially Muslims, being done by an increasingly unchallenged and irresponsible press. It has to stop. That is all.