, a 5-year old girl whose blood vessels ruptured in her brain in February, is the latest in a line of well-known cases like Charlie Gard
, Alfie Evans
and Isaiah Haastrup
. Unlike in these cases, Tafida's parents won a rare victory in early October: They were allowed to transfer her to a hospital in Italy that has agreed to keep her on life support because Tafida does not meet their criteria for switching it off (which is being diagnosed as brain dead, and Tafida has not been). The judge gave due weight to "the religious and cultural tenets
by which Tafida was being raised" in his decision. Doctors, and the lawyer representing the National Health Service trust that runs the hospital where Tafida was treated, had said
more treatment would not help and would cause "physical degradation."
Shelina Begum has been crowdfunding for legal fees and her daughter's treatment in Italy.
While I fully sympathize with the parents' desperation for any support they could garner, what was worrying was that like in many other cases, religious groups offered support in order to further their own agenda.
Christian evangelicals opposed to euthanasia, abortion, same-sex marriage and the right to die provided legal assistance, people power and campaigning skills in the cases of Charlie Gard
and Alfie Evans. In the case of Tafida Raqeeb, religion raises its head yet again in a way unique to Islam; while it meant a victory for the Raqeeb family, it also sets a dangerous precedent for the role of religion in society, which can easily spill over into other issues of social policy.
The mother, Shelina Begum, despite being a British-trained solicitor, had obtained a fatwa (a religious ruling) from an adviser on the Islamic Council of Europe (ICE) which condemned the withdrawal of life support from Tafida as a "great sin" and "absolutely impermissible."
Sheikh Haitham al-Haddad, an Islamic jurist, described the NHS proposal as a "killing" and asserted that "killing one soul is like killing the entire humanity." The Christian right has used similar language in this and other controversial cases.
Maryam Namazie, spokesperson for the British secular legal group One Law for All
, the mission of which is to "bring an end to the use and institutionalisation of Sharia and all religious laws," calls the fatwa "yet another attempt by the religious-Right to impose their rulings into the proceedings of a civil court and normalise a regressive agenda."
Barts Health NHS, the trust which runs Royal London hospital, where Tafida was being treated, had applied to remove members of the family acting as litigation friends
, arguing that they cannot be open-minded about the child's best interests in light of the fatwa. The family's barrister described it as an "outrageous" act of discrimination against the family member; the judge rejected the hospital's case.
Tafida's mother told the court of Tafida's commitment to her religion through her behavior, explaining how she would pray, participate in fasting and had requested to wear a headscarf. All of this