Tuesday, 24 March 2015
Qurban Hussain deserves our sympathy
The tabloid press has been keen to highlight the fact that the peer not only brought the Pakistani child not the UK illegally, but also lied about it. He told the British High Commission in Islamabad that the boy was his own and therefore eligible to be a British citizen.
Given the furore, and the predictable reaction from some quarters - including Labour calling for a resignation - a sense of balance and perspective is needed.
Lord Hussain has resigned from all party activity after speaking with party leaders on Saturday. This seems sensible and a proportionate response.
Some facts are usually helpful if we're to cut through the sensationalist headlines and challenge the outrage. In this case, it's clear the incident happened in 1992 - well before Hussain was either a member of the House of Lords or a Lib Dem. There is no question of him abusing his position. Furthermore, he was a member of the Labour party for several years prior to defecting to the Lib Dems in 2003 - so, if Labour really are so "outraged and appalled" perhaps they might wish to tell us what information they had rather than trying to score cheap political points?
There can also be no doubt that Hussain is not acting in the interests of terrorist networks or aiding international criminals - although you might not know that to read some of the headlines. Let the facts speak for themselves: Hussain's wife was asked to adopt a boy in 1990 by a poor family living in Kashmir and to take him to England when he was two years old. Mr and Mrs Hussain did this, and raised him as their own for 21 years. The boy is now 25, a successful graduate and happily married.
Hussain recently told the Daily Mirror: "I know now it is illegal. I realise it was legally wrong but morally it was the right thing to do. The child's mother begged my wife to take him. You have never seen levels of poverty like this family lived in"
Police are now investigating and it is only right that the party allows them to follow the lead of the evidence to reach their conclusions. Whatever the outcome, there can be no disputing Hussain's intentions and to those who have been quick to cast stones I would ask what they would have done if they thought they could have rescued one child from a life of grinding poverty in war-torn Kashmir of the 90s. I'd also ask whether they'd react the same way if Hussain wasn't a politician - are his actions so different from those of Donald Caskie, Oskar Schindler or Raoul Wallenberg - or the many others throughout history who have overstepped legal boundaries to save or improve human lives?
Clearly there are distinctions between what appears morally right and the law. While Hussain has acted outwith the parameters of the law, there may be grounds for accepting this as a common law adoption, or "private fostering". He was acting compassionately in the interests of someone else, someone who now has life opportunities that would otherwise have been denied.
Right or wrong? - it's not for me to make a judgement. That is precisely the point. No-one (and certainly not the Labour Party or the tabloid media) should make a moral judgement on Lord Hussain. He deserves our sympathy rather than our derision.
I for one am already tired of the denigrating of politicians by the (usually) London-based media - which is often far less honest than those it targets.