JNN 27 Mar 2014 London : The British Muslim community has been facing growing challenges surrounding adoption and foster caring after the religious minority was shocked by a recent decision to allow placing a young Muslim girl permanently into the care of a lesbian couple.
“If it is always preferable to place a child with carers who share a similar ethnic and religious background, realities on the ground do not always put us in a position to do so,” Faith Harlow, who works as a social worker in East Sussex, told OnIslam
According to Harlow, demand has been growing every year for Muslim carers to come forth.
Due to a shortage of Muslim volunteers, he explained that hundreds of Muslim children had to be placed in families which did not share the same faith.
“We can only go by our pool of volunteers, and sadly too few Muslim families have come forth over the past years for us to be able to guarantee every Muslim child will be matched to a Muslim family,” he said.
Problems surrounding Muslims and adoption started after UK social services in Harrow allowed a white lesbian couple to adopt a 3-year-old Somali Muslim girl whose mother suffers from mental health problems.
Though the decision was put on hold after protests, it has ringed alarm bills for the growing need of Muslim volunteers to foster children of the same faith.
BAAF Adoption and Fostering, the UK’s leading adoption and fostering membership association, said in a recent report that not enough Muslim families had made themselves available to councils, putting a strain on social services.
“There is a growing need for Muslim foster carers to look after children and asylum seekers, particularly from Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Bangladesh,” an appeal read as the organization tries to mobilize Britain Muslim community.
Islam endorses fostering orphan kids, allowing Muslims to a boy or a girl and takes care of him or her as a real father or mother would do to their child, while keeping in mind that the child should be named after his/her biological parents.
Yet, Islam makes it impermissible to adopt a child and name him after his adoptive parents, while denying his real parents.
Recognizing the gravity of the growing problem, British imams were urged to take action and spread awareness about the merits of foster caring children in Islam.
“Many Muslims are very religiously confused when it comes to adoption and foster-caring. But beyond that there is a real problem of social stigmatization, a fear associated with caring for a non-blood relative.” Imam Abdullah Shah from London told OnIslam
The imam added that a lack of religious guidance by community leaders and imams were to blame for Muslims foster-caring apathy.
“Although Islam clearly teaches us to exercise mercy and compassion toward orphans as a greatest form of Sadaqa [charity] Muslims understands such responsibility negatively,” imam Shah said.
“Many prefer to ignore the issue as they cannot reconcile their indifference with God’s expectations of us as a society and as individuals. There is no greater mercy than caring for an orphan; yet as a community, we have failed our children.”
Imam Shah noted that while adoption as per understood by the West was not possible from a purely legal Islamic standpoint, foster-caring is however strongly encouraged and to some extent morally compulsory.
“The Islamic translation of adoption, -in the manner Islam defines it] is Kalafa, which means foster-caring, foster-parenting,” explained Imam Shah.
For some British Muslims, the experience of foster-caring an orphan child has completely changed their life.
Lamiyah Boubaker is one of them. The British Muslim registered as a foster parent back in 2011 with her council when everyone rallied around and supported her.
“There is no greater satisfaction than to provide a safe and nurturing environment for a child …. If I’m perfectly honest, my foster son has taught me more about love and acceptance than I did him,” she told OnIslam.net.
“Islam teaches us love, and love knows no name and no boundary.”