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Our Lord’s words on persecution in Matthew 10 were at the forefront of my mind at the weekend.

On October 2, 2015, an article appeared in the Daily Mail about the Hussain family from Bradford who converted to Christianity from Islam 15 years ago.

Since 2003, the persecution — broken windscreens and harassment — from Muslim neighbours has not stopped. The police largely refuse to intervene. To date, only one investigated incident has resulted in a successful prosecution. The Mail states:

Mr Hussain said he feels so let down by police he has lodged a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

He also criticised the Anglican Church for failing to provide any meaningful support.

In fact (emphases mine):

Mr Hussain had worked as a hospital nurse but was diagnosed with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work. He owns several properties and now lives off rental income.

Although their faith remains strong, Mr and Mrs Hussain no longer attend church. ‘We have given up on the Church of England, they have done nothing for us,’ said Mr Hussain.

A meeting, arranged by a friend, with a local imam – who ‘listened and promised to help’ – also led to nothing, said Mr Hussain.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: ‘We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation. All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.’

Poor reaction

The younger Hussain children attended a local Church of England primary school. Most of the students are Muslim. The Hussains arranged a car sharing arrangement with Muslim neighbours whose children attended the school. When the neighbours found out the Hussains were Christian, the ride-sharing stopped. This escalated as word circulated among the other students at school. The Hussains’ youngest daughter was bullied:

Leena, now 14, was told by her friends ‘our parents say we mustn’t mix with you because you are a convert.’ Mr Hussain said: ‘She was heartbroken and made to feel like a second class citizen.’

England’s foremost Anglican blogger, who writes under the pseudonym of Archbishop Cranmer, finds the school episode:

frankly, quite literally incredible. Teachers and headteachers bend over backwards to ensure that Every Child Matters: when it comes to children’s well-being, Church of England schools have rigorous anti-bullying policies, in accordance with statutory requirements on child protection and safeguarding. And they implement them.

I’m not so sure about it being ‘frankly, quite literally incredible’ under the circumstances. It is quite possible that teachers would not want to intervene in an interfaith conflict, especially if any disciplinary action brought out angry older brothers, fathers and uncles en masse. Has Cranmer thought this through?

He added:

Bradford’s churches and schools are now under new management: the Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales. The new Bishop of Bradford is the Rt Rev’d Dr Toby Howarth, and his boss is the Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Rev’d Nick Baines, who had been Bishop of Bradford for the preceding three years.

He concluded:

If it be the case (and it may well be) that no ministry team in Bradford has provided “any meaningful support” to the Hussain family, might we have a few more details? If it be true (and it may well be) that the Church of England has “done nothing for us”, could we please know a few specifics and particulars, so that Bishop Toby and Bishop Nick might learn from the Church’s past errors, shortcomings and pastoral deficiencies? Instead of just trashing the entire institution (though it may well deserve it) in the Daily Mail, might someone who knows something please get in touch and explain why a brave family of Bradford ex-Muslims has been so terrorised and persecuted by gangs of devout Bradford Muslims that they had no choice but to depart the Church of England?

Why didn’t Cranmer look for more information himself? A simple search would have uncovered InfidelsAreUs, the website of Anniesa Hussain, age 21. Anniesa has documented everything.

Anniesa’s story

Before exploring Anniesa’s story, it is worth mentioning that Mr Hussain was one of the converts featured in a 2008 Dispatches documentary on Channel 4. I saw the programme and was deeply concerned for the safety of all the ex-Muslim families involved. They were incredibly bold to appear on television. Although most of the filming was done discreetly, someone who wanted to harm these people could probably identify them. And so it was in the case of the Hussain family.

However, their persecution did not start then.

Anniesa tells us that it started in 2000. (Incidentally, the family converted to Christianity through a mostly Jamaican Pentecostal church.)

From the time I was 6 years of age, my siblings and I endured daily verbal abuse, physical altercations, car and house window smashing. School playground hostility and school-mate deprivation. Death threats. Mob rule. Initial prevention of riding our bicycles in the neighbour common ground to then prevention of us playing on the street directly outside our property. I watched my father’s effort in erecting a 6ft fence in his backyard to protect his children become effectively decimated. I can’t ever imagine his pain, his helplessness when his fence still never stopped the glass bottles and bricks being hurled at his children as they played in their own back garden.

After the Dispatches programme aired, the Hussains’ neighbours accused Mr Hussain of making hateful statements about Islam, which he never did. Family A spread the rumours. As for school:

Life at school for my youngest sister became increasingly unbearable. She’d come home in tears, weeping that her Pakistani classmates had turned on her and weren’t allowed to associate themselves with a Christian – something I knew all too well. Dad could never comprehend the hostility in he found himself in the school playground as he collected my sister, nor why he would receive glares and jostles as he walked by certain parents. Until one day when he was approached by one parent to say ‘you haven’t said anything offensive about Islam! I’ve researched you on Youtube’. Seeing Dad’s baffled expression he explained that one of the brothers of family A had many of the school parents convinced that Dad was anti-Islamic and was preaching hatred on Youtube. However, upon his own research and refusal to rely on this ‘information’ of Dad, this parent – Muslim himself- proved to be a loyal supporter, berating any school parent who treated Dad with contempt. The school situation deteriorated to the point where the brother of Family A stormed up to Dad provocatively, threatening to kill him in order to goad him into a fight. That incident marked official police involvement in our lives yet again. Numerous meetings have been set up with school leaders, police officers and religious leading figures in the community, to achieve the most politically correct of outcomes: nothing.

Anniesa’s posts are well worth reading in full for the rest of the family’s story. She writes beautifully. I hope she becomes a journalist.

More on the family’s trials

Cranmer might also want to look at the articles about the Hussain family on the Barnabas Fund site.

After Britain’s May 2015 elections, Mr Hussain wrote to his MP. The Barnabas Fund includes the full text of the letter. Part of their preface to it reads as follows:

Nissar Hussain, a British man who converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, has written a letter to his local MP recounting some of the long catalogue of violence, abuse and other attacks that he has suffered at the hands of some Muslims in the area of Bradford where he lives. Recently Nissar and his wife, Kubra, who have six children, have each had false allegations against them brought to the police for separate “offences” resulting in each of them being held at the police station for hours. Their car has been maliciously damaged four times, making it almost impossible for the family to meet the repair and insurance costs. Yet despite appealing to local authorities and organisations for support, Mr Hussain has struggled to find support and help.

In August 2015, the Barnabas Fund reported:

a mob of around 40 Muslim young men of Pakistani descent gathered outside his home in Bradford on 18 August in a patent display of intimidation.

In response to the Daily Mail article from October, the Fund issued this statement:

Patrick Sookhdeo, International Director of Barnabas Fund, says, “Barnabas Fund has supported Nissar Hussain throughout the violence and persecution he faced after his conversion to faith in Christ. We work with converts and with Muslim and Christian leaders to bring about a day when no one will be penalised and persecuted for accepting the claims of Jesus.”

Premier Christian Radio interviewed Mr Hussain after the Mail article appeared. They contacted the police and local clergy for a response:

West Yorkshire Police said in a statement: “We are aware of an ongoing matter involving Mr Hussain and are working closely with partners to resolve this situation.

“All reports of crime are taken seriously and are investigated thoroughly.”

The Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Toby Howarth (in the new Diocese of West Yorkshire & the Dales), said: “I am aware of considerable attention and support which has been offered and indeed provided to Mr Hussain by his local Anglican vicar, supported by myself and my predecessor.

“Mr Hussain’s vicar has met with him on many occasions and has worked with the local police, the local council and other bodies including representatives of the local Muslim communities  in trying to resolve this difficult matter.

“I fully support the ongoing work of  the Multi Agency Hate Crime Conference, of which the local vicar is a member, which continues to try to bring a resolution to this situation.”

It would appear that Mr Hussain is not wrong. Indeed, what he has said about lack of real help appears to be accurate.

In 2014, Christian Concern reported that he was planning on starting a series of safe houses in the UK for ex-Muslim converts:

It is hoped that the network, provisionally named “Converts to Jesus”, will launch in the Autumn and be chaired by Nissar Hussain, a convert from Islam, who lives in Bradford. 

Nissar, his wife and children, have all suffered as a result of following Jesus. He has been shunned by his family and labelled a “Christian Jew dog” while his wife has been sworn at and spat upon and his children have been ostracised by school friends.

In a related story from 2014, Rob James for Christian Today said that Jesus is weeping for His Church:

Hussain talked about how he was also upset by the reception he got from Christians. “We are broken people” he said, “I have given up on the Anglican church and independent churches. We are in a no man’s land; we are completely and utterly isolated”.

Is this the kind of Church Jesus envisaged when he said “A new command I give you: love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another”?

We need to remember that Jesus views this sort of love as a key to mission too for just before he died he prayed “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”.

Jesus will build His church, of course. And He will take care of Nissar Hussain and his family. But I do wonder how He feels when he sees a Muslim convert admit that his experience of church has left him feeling “broken” and “utterly isolated”.

Too right! However, how to accomplish this is not easy in a school context when most of the pupils are Muslim. Rightly or wrongly, teachers may well fear reprisals.

Conclusion

The more I read about the Hussains’ plight, the more I pray for them.

However, it is difficult to understand why they have not moved to a safe majority-Christian area after all these years. That is the story which interests me.

Matthew 10:23 says:

When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Let us pray that the Hussains find a new home in a new community soon. If I see an update, I’ll be sure to report on it.

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