Re S (Change of Names: Cultural Factors)

Reference: Re S (Change of Names: Cultural Factors) [2001] All ER (D) 30 (Jul)

Also referenced as:
  • [2001] 2 FLR 1005
  • [2001] Fam Law 728
  • [2001] 3 FCR 648

High Court (Family Division) ↗
15th May 2001

Before (the judges sitting on the bench)

Counsel (the barristers representing the parties)

  • Ms Khatun Sapnara (instructed by Gill & Co.) for the father (the Applicant)
  • Ms Sabuhi Chaudhry (instructed by Sternberg Reed Taylor & Gill) for the mother (the Respondent)


Mr Justice Wilson —

The applications before the court relate to a boy who is a ward of court.  He was born on 22nd October 1997 so is three and a half years old.  He lives with the mother in the London area.  The father applies for an order for contact with the child.  The mother cross-applies for permission to change the child’s names and to bring him up in the Muslim religion.

The mother is 22 years old.  She is a Muslim by religion and culture.  Her family comes from Bangladesh.  Her father, mother and younger sister live in East London, some distance from her current home.  She is British by nationality, with the result that the child is British too.

The father is 28 years old.  He is Sikh by religion and culture and his family emanate from the Punjab, where his parents still live.  He is Indian by nationality but, as a result of his marriage to the mother, he has secured an indefinite right to reside in the United Kingdom.  He lives in South London and works in an off-licence operated by a family member.  He has not seen the child since 9th May 2000.  The parents are divorced and the father has re-married a Sikh lady, who is still resident in India.  He says that she will soon join him in England.

I have found this to be a difficult case and, less relevantly, a very interesting case.  It arouses deep and, in my experience, unusual problems.  They arise from the fact that in 1996, when she was aged 17, the mother, a Bangladeshi Muslim girl, ran away from home with the father, a Sikh man then aged 22, started a sexual relationship with him and married him in Gretna Green.  She had had an extremely sheltered and, from the perspective of the Muslim community, eminently proper upbringing with her parents, her brother and her sisters in East London.

It is difficult for a white judge to understand, let alone to articulate, the depth of the shock which the mother’s family suffered and of the shame which she brought upon it, as well as upon herself, by running away with and marrying a Sikh man.  I have the benefit of two reports from experts in Indian law, culture and religion (all three of which are intertwined) in order to help me to understand the problem.  I have also had the assistance of two admirable counsel, Ms Sapnara for the father and Ms Chaudhry for the mother, who have personal knowledge of these matters and who have carefully trodden the difficult line between helping me to understand the elements of the case foreign to me and yet not themselves giving evidence.

The result is that I have come to realise how the long-standing political conflicts in the subcontinent become cruelly translated into personal lives.  The mother’s actions have had a devastating effect upon the life of herself and of her family members.  Much less opprobrium, shame and anger appear to have arisen on the father’s side of the family resulting from his running away with a Muslim girl.  Had the case been one of a Sikh girl running away with a Muslim man, there might have been stronger adverse reaction within the Sikh community.

One of the great strengths of Islam is the loyalty which it draws from its members.  But every strength has its downside; and on the evidence of this case there is in some quarters a concomitant intolerance, the strength of which, even in East London only ten miles from where I speak, is astonishing.  Analogous problems are reflected in today’s news of ugly clashes between Muslims and Hindus in Bradford.

As a result of her actions, the mother was in effect estranged from her family for three and a half years.  She is now reconciled with it but feels a deep sense of guilt for the shame which she has brought upon it.  The upshot is that she wants to eliminate the father from her life.  The problem is of course that the two of them have a son.  Her aspiration therefore is also to eliminate the father from his life.  Thus she sets her case adamantly against his having contact with him.

She also makes cross-application in respect of the child’s names.  He has three names and any Muslim would know that each of them was a Sikh name.  While he carries these names, the child is stamped, for the mother’s entire community to see, as a Sikh; and she is stamped (if I may quote the taunt that, I am sorry to say, has often been thrown at her) as “the slag” who had a relationship with a Sikh.  Thus it is that she asks for permission to change the child’s names to two Muslim names.  For a long time the mother has informally called the child by a third Muslim name.  But her Sikh nickname for the father, which was rather similar to it, now has such unhappy memories that she would prefer to abandon the Muslim name by which she has been addressing the child.

Another major issue in the case, more usual in the experience of these courts but no less important, is that the mother alleges there has been serious domestic violence perpetrated by the father upon her and even upon the child.  She goes on to allege that the father wrongfully abducted the child to India.  These allegations the father wholly denies.  In the history which I am about to recount there are substantial, indeed surprising, issues of fact.  I have found their resolution difficult.  Both parents, who gave evidence with interstitial contributions from interpreters, proved to be excellent witnesses.  One of them must be an excellent liar.  In the course of their apparently convincing testimony perhaps both of them have told untruths.

On the application of conventional tests deployed by judges for discerning truth, the court would probably, in at least some areas of the case, find that the mother was the untruthful witness.  But that might be to attribute a modicum of worldly wisdom to her.  I have to make allowance for the fact that, although far from unintelligent, the mother did not have a westernised upbringing.  I must bear her naivety well in mind and carefully consider her allegation that the father has set for her an elaborate set of traps to make the case which he might want to present, and has presented, appear true.  But, if I make those allowances and nevertheless find that in part at least the mother’s story is untrue, I consider that, to the best of my ability, I will have done my duty to discern the truth.  An allied complication is that, in order to achieve the forgiveness of her family, the mother may have been driven to invent or at least to exaggerate the father’s misbehaviour.  It is indeed a big part of the father’s case that she makes the allegations against him in order to justify herself to her family and her community.

The story begins in about October 1996 when the mother, who had come to England with her family in 1990, was living with her parents in East London.  At that time the father, who had come to England in about 1995, was working in a shop run by members of his family in the street where the mother lived.  The father saw the mother in that street and made it clear to her that he liked her and wanted to have a relationship with her.  The mother was at that time a student and, at her age, forbidden by the norms of her community to have any relationship with a boy of whatever background.  She was flattered, shocked and excited by his attentions.

In about November 1996, in a moment of impetuosity for which she will never forgive herself, the mother packed her bags and secretly ran off with the father.  For a month they lived in the home of the father’s grandparents, who were not in occupation of it at that time.  The language in which the two of them communicated was mainly English, a language in which the mother is rather more fluent than is the father.  They began a sexual relationship.  The mother was totally ignorant about matters of sex and immediately became worried that she was pregnant.  Of course, in her culture, her having sexual relations outside marriage defied another strong taboo.

On 27th December 1996 the parents went to Gretna Green with an uncle of the father and married there.  When her family learned of what she had done, it disowned her.  Her mother became seriously ill; the spirit of her father, who was already frail, became broken; and her brother was appalled.  It was only her younger sister who, by the odd telephone call, kept in touch with her.

There is no doubt that, when he married her, the father knew that the mother was a Muslim.  There is, however, an issue as to whether, when she married him, the mother knew that he was a Sikh.  The father has no beard and wears no turban.  To my untutored eye, he does not look obviously Sikh.  But the father says that of course the mother knew that he was a Sikh and that she is driven to deny the truth in order to save face with her family and in her community.  The father says that one has only to look at his names in order to discern his Sikh background; that he was working in a Sikh shop close to the mother’s home; that it was his custom to wear a Sikh chain; and that for the month prior to the marriage they were living in the home of his grandparents, with all the trappings of a Sikh home.  The mother denies these matters.  She protests that it was not until soon after the marriage that she realised that he was a Sikh.  She says that she had never entered that shop because her father had forbidden her to do so on the ground that there were too many young men working there; that she noticed no trappings of a Sikh home in the home of the grandparents; and that she saw no significance in the chain worn by the father.  It is unnecessary for me to make a finding in relation to this issue.

The father’s visa permitting him to remain in England expired at around the time of the marriage.  When confronted by the Immigration Service with its expiry, the father explained that he had married a British citizen.  He was told that he would nevertheless be deported to India but could thereafter apply for a visa to return to England.  It appears that soon after the marriage he was detained with a view to deportation and that he was deported in about February 1997.  The mother chose to accompany him to India.  For several months the parents lived with the father’s parents in India.  The mother, disowned by her own family, gravitated towards his family.  She liked his parents and got on well with them.  While they were in India, the parents underwent a Sikh wedding.

Inevitably there is an issue as to whether the motive of the father in enticing the mother away and marrying her was to secure a right to reside in the United Kingdom indefinitely.  The mother and her family are convinced of it.  It would be ingenuous for me to find that it played no part in his thinking.  Nevertheless I have received the strong impression from both parents that, when they married, they were genuinely, and perhaps in a literal sense madly, in love with each other.

While they were in India, the father successfully applied to the British High Commission for a visa entitling him to return to England.  In August 1998, after he had been back to England for a year, he secured the conversion of his visa to one which now gives him an indefinite leave to reside with us here.

It was therefore in August 1997 that the parents came back to England.  After several months they found a flat in the area in which the mother’s family had lived.  But such was the disgrace which the mother’s marriage to the father had brought to it that meanwhile her family had had to move.

On 22nd October 1997 the child was born.  He was registered in the three Sikh names to which I have referred.  The mother says that the father insisted upon his carrying those names; but I find that at that time she was more than content that he should do so.

It is the mother’s case that soon after the child’s birth arguments developed between her and the father which led to violence on his part towards her.  She says that it took the form of his slapping her, punching her and pulling her hair; and that he demanded that she should tell no one what was happening.  She says that these incidents occurred as frequently as two or three times a week and that the child sometimes got caught up in them and on one occasion suffered a cut to his lip.  In her second statement the mother seems to enlarge upon her case.  For she says that “the assaults were every day occurrences.”

These allegations of violence are, I have to say, convincingly denied by the father.  Ms Sapnara also asks: where is the evidence to corroborate the mother’s serious charges?  I agree that there is none.  On the other hand I must not forget the mother’s lack of friends and family support and the possible inhibition upon her from telling anybody, even for example a doctor, about what may have been going on in the home.

Judges are now aware that they have to be extremely cautious in appraising allegations of domestic violence in proceedings relating to a child.  They have to be cautious before accepting such allegations, partly because their wrongful acceptance works such injustice upon fathers, and equally cautious before rejecting such allegations, partly because wrongful rejection works such injustice upon mothers.  But the central point is that, in either event, our erroneous findings or absence of findings too often lead to orders which fail to serve the child’s interests.

I find that there were some violent incidents of a minor character between the parents at this time but that they have been exaggerated in the mother’s evidence.  It may be that the mother has convinced herself, and indeed has felt a need to convince her family, that her life with the father was worse, and in particular more violent, than it was.

In March 1999 the mother issued a petition for divorce.  Ms Chaudhry is keen for me to note that one of the allegations of unreasonable behaviour was an allegation that the father had perpetrated violence upon the mother on many occasions.  The petition was undefended.  A decree nisi was pronounced in August and made absolute in November 1999.

There is an issue between the parents as to the nature of the divorce proceedings.  The mother alleges that it was a genuine, arm’s-length divorce, following a departure on the part of the father from their flat in January 1999.  She says that therefore, when the petition was issued, the parties were separated; that the marriage had broken down; and that she was living alone with the child in the flat.  The father, on the other hand, alleges that the proceedings were in no way genuine; that he had not left the flat in January 1999; that he remained living there with her and the child throughout that year; that they went together to consult the solicitors who appeared for the mother in the divorce proceedings; and that her proceeding with a divorce was conducted so that she could appease the wrath of her family and of the East London Muslim community.

In her first statement signed in these proceedings, the mother, describing the period after the father’s alleged departure in January 1999, said: “[He] did not contact me for a whole year and then out of the blue he contacted me in December [1999] and apologised for his behaviour.”

The father marshals a mass of material to rebut the mother’s case.  He exhibits to his statement numerous documents which show that throughout 1999 their flat remained his address.  In response the mother says that post did arrive for the father at the flat, and that in due course he collected it.

Even more tellingly he alleges that the mother became pregnant in the summer of 1999 and underwent a termination of pregnancy in October 1999.  Faced with that contention, the mother now accepts that there was what she describes as “a short reconciliation” during which she became pregnant by the father and that accordingly her first statement had been wrong.

I am driven to find that in this area of the case the father is largely telling the truth; that he did remain living at the flat during 1999 and that the divorce was something of a charade.  I accept his case that by 1999 difficulties of a cultural and religious character had surfaced between the parents which led them to accept that their marriage could not continue indefinitely; but that they did continue to cohabit, even when the suit for divorce was proceeding.

In truth the divorce decree was something that the mother could show to her family and to the Muslim community in order to seek to present an end of her relationship with the father which did not correspond with the truth.  There was also, I find, a financial benefit to the family flowing from the divorce.  The tenancy of their flat was transferred into the mother’s sole name in February 1999.  In due course the mother applied for housing benefit to enable her to pay the rent.  The benefit officer required her to produce evidence of separation from the father.  The evidence which she produced was the decree nisi of divorce.  Once that was produced, housing benefit of £ 120 per week was paid to the landlord.  The mother alleges that contact between the father and the child began in December 1999.  But it follows from my findings that the father was having contact with him under the same roof throughout 1999.

It is agreed that on 18th April 2000 the father took the child to India and that they stayed with his parents; that on 30th April in India the father underwent an arranged marriage to a Sikh lady; and that on 9th May the father returned from India without the child.  The mother’s primary case is one of wrongful abduction of the child by the father to India on 18th April.  [Mr Justice Wilson looked through the evidence and then ended his judgment.]  The mother’s account of these matters is on any view highly improbable.  Ms Chaudhry urges me not to underestimate the mother’s naivety nor the father’s cunning.  While I do not underestimate the mother’s naivety nor forget the father’s far greater worldliness, my conclusion on the balance of probabilities is that the mother did agree to the child going temporarily with the father to India to stay with his parents.

I have already referred to the fact that during his stay in India the father re-married.  Ms Sapnara on his behalf suggests that the mother’s fierce forensic activity against the father in subsequent months was in part a reaction to his marriage to another woman.  At all events we know that the father returned to England without the child on 9th May and it seems that he and the mother lived together until 6th June, when the mother locked him out.  On any view it is curious that nine days after marriage the father should return to live, as I understand it even in a sexual relationship, with his ex-wife.  But of greater moment is the question: why did the father leave the child in India?

The Children and Family Reporter has expressed great concern about the father’s irresponsibility in leaving a child then aged only two and a half on the other side of the world with paternal grandparents whom he hardly knew.  This leads to Ms Chaudhry’s subsidiary submission, if she fails to establish a wrongful removal of the child from England, that the father nevertheless wrongfully retained him in India.  The father’s case is that the mother was content with that course of action; that at that time she was concerned to secure a teaching job in a nursery school; and that there is no problem in retrieving a child from India to England, suitably accompanied by a family member, upon no more than about a day’s notice.  Ms Sapnara also bids me to bear in mind the admirable tradition of Indian people to allow children to be cared for by grandparents and other family members for substantial periods of time.

I do not feel confident about making findings either way in relation to this part of the story.  I consider that it is at least possible that the father decided, in the wake of the true end of his relationship with the mother and at the time of his creation of a new marriage, to take control of the child and to take advantage of the fact that the mother had consented to his going, as she assumed, for a short period of time to India.  On any view, however, it is clear that, as soon as he learned that the mother had taken legal proceedings to cause the child to be returned to England and restored to her, the father became extremely angry.  Those proceedings began on 2nd June, when the mother obtained an ex parte order from a district judge that the child should be a ward of this court and be returned to England.

On 10th June, armed with the English order, the mother travelled to India to collect the child.  It is of significance that the father’s uncle who had accompanied the eloping couple to Gretna Green accompanied her to India.  Notwithstanding that the uncle has not given evidence in these proceedings for either party, that seems to be an indication of some lack of honour in the father’s stance at that time.  Even with the uncle’s help, the mother clearly had an arduous time in attempting to secure the recovery of the child in India.  She applied to the Indian court for an order to enforce the English order.  The judge in India gave the father, who was of course in England, time to respond to the mother’s application.  On advice, in my view on wise advice, the father chose not to defend the mother’s application to the Indian court.  Thus she was allowed to bring the child from India to England and did so on 27th June.

After he learned of the steps which the mother was taking against him and found himself on 6th June locked out of their flat, the father behaved perhaps uncharacteristically but in a manner that has contributed enormously to the problems with which I now have to wrestle.  I find, contrary to his evidence, that during those days he harassed the mother’s family and in the few days following her return to England harassed the mother herself.  Upon her return to England with the child on 27th June, the mother went to stay with her parents.  I find that on 28th June it was she who answered one of the father’s calls to that house on the telephone and that he was swearing and shouting down the line.  I find that on 29th June there were a number of occasions when, parked outside, he rang her family home, made threats and got out and banged on the door.  I find that on 30th June there were further such incidents and that the father followed the mother, her sister and the child to the doctor, as a result of which they repaired to the police station.  On the same day the father was arrested; and significantly it occurred outside the home of the mother’s family.  He was charged with offences of harassment and of wrongful abduction of the child.  He was remanded in custody until 23rd August, whereupon he was granted bail.

In due course the charges against the father were dropped.  The charge of abduction was the first to be abandoned.  Ultimately, at court in February 2001, the prosecution offered no evidence in support of the remaining charges.  The father was bound over to keep the peace.

Thus, although I have rejected substantial parts of the mother’s evidence relating to events prior to June 2000, I find that the incidents which she and other family members allege against the father during that month did substantially take place and that they have precipitated acute fear on the part of the mother and her family.  In due course the mother moved to a refuge and since that time she has moved to the address which has been kept secret.  Out of fear of him, the mother’s family again moved home within East London.  It transpired during this hearing that the father knows of that address.  At the end of her evidence, the mother’s sister said in desperation, “Now we will have to move again.”

My assessment of the father is therefore that he was extremely angry at the mother’s unaccustomed assertiveness in the actions which she took in June 2000 and that by way of reaction he behaved threateningly and aggressively, as a result of which it is unsurprising that the mother and her family should now be fearful of him.  It is however my provisional judgment that, although understandable, the fears of the mother and her family are exaggerated.

The father, as I have already indicated, was a good witness.  I believe that he brings his application for contact not in order to harass the mother or her family but to preserve some limited role for himself in the life of the child and, to use his own phrase, to retain the child’s ‘ID’ as being half Sikh.  The father has couched his requests to the court moderately.  He has conceded that the mother is a good mother.  It is true that at times he spoke of the possibility of the child living with him but only in the context that, were he to live with him, there would be no such problem about his having proper contact with the non-residential parent as presently exists.  It may be helpful to everyone, including the father, if I say that I cannot foresee a situation in which it would be appropriate for the child to reside with him or indeed other than with the mother.

There has been no incident of harassment on the part of the father to the mother or to any member of her family since his release from custody in August 2000.  There has been no such incident, even though he has for some time known of the address where her family now lives.  The mother and her family say that his good behaviour is only a reflection of the pendency of these proceedings.  I think, however, that the father is developing for himself a new life; is creating for himself a new home in south London; is pursuing a new job; and is about to create a new home with a new wife about to come to England.  At all events, on 5th September, an injunction was issued in these proceedings which restrained him from removing the child from England or from perpetrating any act of violence or harassment upon the mother.  That injunction will continue indefinitely until the court makes a further order.  Moreover, if (which I regard as extremely unlikely) the father sought to abduct the child to India, I have no doubt that my colleagues, the judges in India, would send the child straight back to England.

In considering the mother’s application to be allowed to change his names, the child’s welfare must be my paramount consideration.  But the reported authorities relating to the change of names seem to me to be of negligible assistance because the problem raised in this case is not one which they address.  The problem is identified by Professor Haleem, the Director of the Centre of Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, who gives evidence in support of the mother’s case in the following terms:

“Unfortunately, for historical and social reasons, there is a marked animosity between the Muslims of South Asia and the Sikhs.  A child with a Sikh name will not be accepted socially and culturally, as a child or an adult, within the Muslim community or the Bangladeshi community, even if he is raised as a Muslim, by a Muslim mother within a Muslim society.  In my opinion the child will be accepted in the Muslim Bangladeshi society if he is given a Muslim name and is raised as a Muslim.”

The father’s expert witness, Mr Lau, a barrister and also almost as distinguished an academic in the field of Islamic and South Asian law as the professor, says:

“I agree with Professor Haleem on the social consequences of the child’s name: a child with a Sikh name living in a Muslim community will find it difficult to be accepted by that community.”

The father’s primary case is that there should be no change, whether formal or informal, in any of the child’s names.  His secondary case is that there might be an informal change of one of his names and that, if she wishes to do so, the mother might informally continue to call him by his existing Muslim nickname.  But it is clear that all three of the child’s current names are Sikh names.  In particular his surname and middle name cry out that he is not a proper, nor in cultural terms a legitimate, member of the Muslim community.  I am clear that, if it is appropriate for there to be some change in the child’s names, it has to be reflected in a change of all three of his names.

I also consider that, if there is to be a change in his names, the child should retain as his first name the Muslim nickname which his mother has for long given to him.  It seems to me that the mother’s proposal to eliminate that name and to give him an entirely different Muslim first name shows limited insight into his emotional need to have an enduring sense of who he is.  The reason which she gives, namely that that name is not unlike the father’s Sikh nickname, is, with respect, flimsy and even self-indulgent.  If there is to be any change in his names, it must in my view be a change to his existing nickname as his first name and to the Muslim second name suggested by the mother.

I turn from the effect on the child to the effect on the mother of his retaining his present names.  The professor says:

“Within the South Asian Muslim community, and the Bangladeshi community in East London, the mother will not be accepted if she has a child with a Sikh name.  It will keep the fact alive that she married a non-Muslim, especially a Sikh, and retained the name of the child as a non-Muslim and she will feel ostracised in society.”

Mr Lau says that the history of the case:

“will have an impact on her ability to reconcile with the Bangladeshi community.  In my view the most significant factor is the fact that she married outside her own community and her religion.  The fact that her child’s name is Sikh will also impose difficulties.”

There has been discussion of a particular consequence for the mother of the child’s retention of his present names, namely her capacity to find a husband.  It is very important that this young woman should be able to re-marry; and this time she must marry a Bangladeshi Muslim man.  As things stand in her society, such is essential to her social acceptance.

I have no doubt that at the moment she has a lonely and troublesome, as well as stressful, existence and is struggling, albeit well, to run the home for herself and the child single-handedly.

The father’s case is that, were the child’s names changed, the child’s Sikh identity would be hidden from any prospective husband of the mother.  This the mother denies; and in her denials she is strongly and in my view convincingly supported by her sister.  The fact is that the East London Bangladeshi community knows all too well the history of the mother’s marriage to a Sikh.  Any husband that the mother took would be bound to discover sooner or later, probably sooner, that part of her history; and her family could not run the risk of arranging a marriage on what would be false pretences.  I have little doubt that her parents and she herself would feel obliged to tell any prospective suitor of her previous marriage to a Sikh and therefore of the religious and cultural identity of her son.

There is no doubt that the mother’s history will reduce the pool of suitors available for her to marry.  Her relationship with a Sikh man; her elopement, contrary to parental consent, with him; her premarital sexual relationship with him; and then her divorce from him.  All these factors contribute to the substantial problems which she will face in finding parents prepared to allow their son to marry her.

I believe however that she will still remain an acceptable bride to some parents of young men in Bangladesh; and, to look at the matter cynically, the indefinite right to reside in the United Kingdom which she could confer upon any husband would be of enormous benefit to many of them.

I am convinced that, in order that the child and the mother, whose well-being is inextricably linked with his, should be enabled to integrate into the obviously appropriate environment for them, namely the Muslim community, he must be known on a day-to-day basis by Muslim names.  He must be known by his existing Muslim nickname and the Muslim second name suggested by the mother.  He must be registered at school and at the medical and dental practices in those names.  I doubt whether there is a practice of actual registration at the mosque; but in my view he must be known by those names there.  I reject the father’s contention that it is satisfactory, particularly for a boy, to receive instruction in the Muslim faith only within the home.

Thus in my view I should permit the mother to cause the child to be known by those names.  Does that mean, however, that I should permit her formally to change his names by deed poll?  What, I ask, would a formal change of his names add to the permission which I am minded to grant?

A formal change would entitle the mother to secure a passport for the child in his new names.  Does it, however, prejudice him that, when travelling abroad, he should travel under his existing names?  In her final submissions Ms Chaudhry postulated that it might be difficult for him to enter the holy city of Mecca under formal Sikh names.  But, as she hastened to add, there is no evidence to that effect before me.  The disadvantage of a formal change of the child’s names by deed poll is that it would contribute to a comprehensive elimination of his half Sikh identity.  As Ms Sapnara submits, the mother is attempting to do the impossible.  She is attempting to re-write his genetic identity.  That, says Ms Sapnara, would be very damaging for him.

I see no benefit for the child in his names being formally changed by deed poll and I see substantial dangers for him in the long-term of the type to which I have referred.  In this regard I agree with the following remarks of the Reporter:

“It may be in [the child’s] best interest if he retains his birth name, while being called by his Muslim name by his mother at the mosque and at school.  It is not unusual for children to be called by different names by different relatives and friends.  Maintaining his Sikh birth name will represent the reality of his parentage.  Should this be formally changed, it could be experienced by him when he is older as endorsement of a desire to erase any reference to his Sikh heritage.”

I turn to the question of the child’s religious upbringing.  Islam is so central, so enviably central as many of us outsiders might say, to the life of the Muslim community that, as the father in effect accepts, the reality is that he should be brought up in the Muslim faith.  A child cannot be brought up in two faiths simultaneously so, admirable though Sikhism is, he cannot be brought up as a Sikh.  That however in no way precludes his becoming aware of his Sikh identity.  I agree with the father that it in no way precludes his being encouraged to respect the Sikh faith as well as the Muslim faith, although in my view encouragement will be appropriate only when he has become significantly older.  Thus I grant the mother permission to bring him up in the Muslim faith.

There has been discussion in court about circumcision.  The father is not circumcised.  He would not want any son of his to be circumcised, although he has not articulated any specific objection to it.  Circumcision is central to Muslim practice.  The professor says:

“I am certain that, as far as boys are concerned, circumcision is a religious obligation in Islamic religious law in general, although it may not be in statutory laws in Muslim countries.  It is also very important from the social and cultural points of view Muslims’ feeling towards this and their insistence on this being done to their sons goes to an extent that surprises me.  If this child is seen to be uncircumcised, in a changing room at school, for instance, or at the swimming pool, Muslim children would find this shocking to the extreme.”

The mother says that she is in no hurry to secure the child’s circumcision but that she understands that it has to be done under Muslim law and custom by the age of ten.  I accept that, by that age, he should have been circumcised; and my order will so provide.

Text of judgment is Crown Copyright ©.  Presentation, mark-up and all other content is copyright © Deed Poll Office Ltd.

Orders of the court

Order accordingly.