Perceptions of Islam and Their Influence on American Legislative and Judicial Decisions Involving Child Custody

by Andrea L. Baker


As our world becomes increasingly mobile, intercultural marriages become more common. More and more frequently, children are raised in a home where the parents practice two different religions. When parents divorce, religion can become a point of contention between the parents, and courts are occasionally called upon to bar one or both parents from teaching extreme religious beliefs to the children. In some instances, such a prohibition has been found to be unconstitutional. In others, a legitimate interest has been found.

The majority of these cases have involved religions which, in America, are easily recognizable and not "foreign." However, with increasing frequency, these cases involve families in which at least one parent is Islamic. [1]

Much of what we as a nation learn about these cases comes from the mainstream media, not from scholarly periodicals. We read about the sensationalistic kidnapping of children whisked off to Saudi Arabia or Iran.[2] We do not hear about divorced parents who both remain in the United States, quietly raising their children with as little conflict as possible. We do not hear about the foreigners willing to remain in the United States in order to stay with their children. We do not hear about the non-Muslim women who take their children from Islamic countries, never to return.[3] What comes to mind instead is the movie "Not Without My Daughter".

These perceptions of Islam and the Middle East have had an impact on both statutory change and child custody decisions since the mid-1980's when Betty Mahmoody's plight made headlines. This paper is an attempt to analyze the relationship between mainstream perceptions of Islamic fathers and recent custody decisions and legislative change involving Islamic fathers.

The biggest obstacle to writing this paper is the unavailability, electronically, of trial court decisions. The only reported decisions are those involving cases which have been appealed and are thus unlikely to be representative of such cases as a whole.[4]


In August, 1984, Betty Mahmoody, an American-born woman married to an Iranian physician, accompanied her husband and four-year-old daughter, Mahtob, on a two-week vacation to Iran.[5] Her husband, Sayeed Bozorg Mahmoody ("Moody"), had clearly been experiencing psychiatric problems prior to their vacation. Mrs. Mahmoody had secretly seen a Michigan attorney prior to the trip, but had been told that if she divorced her husband, he would certainly be granted unsupervised visitation with their daughter. Mrs. Mahmoody had a nagging feeling that he would spirit Mahtob off to Iran, so she stayed with her husband and "visited" Iran with him.

When the two weeks were up, Moody informed her that the family was staying in Iran. She had no legal rights. Her life descended into a living hell of torment, beatings, and forced separation from her daughter. Her husband's family relentlessly spied on her; mail and telephone calls from the U.S. interest section in the Swiss embassy were intercepted. A year and a half later, knowing that her husband would soon force her on a plane to the United States and forever separate her from her daughter, Mrs. Mahmoody and her daughter escaped on horseback, over the mountains, into Turkey.

When Mrs. Mahmoody returned to the United States, she co-authored a book which described her ordeal. The book was made into a movie, starring Sally Field. She appeared on talk shows. She wrote a second book, detailing the stories of other women whose children have been spirited abroad from the United States.[6] Throughout Mrs. Mahmoody's books, she emphasizes the most strange and distasteful aspects of the foreign cultures involved, particularly Iran. Apartments are filled with cockroaches, nobody but the Americans are concerned with personal hygiene, Iranians never bathe, Pakistanis do not brush their teeth, food is infested with bugs, and even without the bugs Persian food can barely be choked down because it is so oily.

Mrs. Mahmoody is also preoccupied with the lack of Western conveniences in Iran. Although the country was at war during the time her husband held her captive there, she seemed unduly concerned with the lack of Western amenities such as fabric softener, saran wrap, dish towels, and American pizza.[7] With powerful adjectives, Mrs. Mahmoody (or, perhaps, her ghost writer), paints the Iranian majority as dirty, ignorant and ugly. She frequently comments upon the "sinister looking"[8] or "ugly" facial features of both her captors and those who helped her escape. "These were scowling, ugly women with huge noses"[9] she writes of a group of Kurdish women who assisted in her escape.

After publicizing her story, Mrs. Mahmoody was called as an expert witness at two custody trials involving Islamic fathers, one in Florida and one in Minnesota, and was prepared to testify at a third in Michigan which was canceled when the parties reconciled.[10]

Mrs. Mahmoody has also been instrumental in working toward changes in the law which could help prevent international kidnapping and revenge against the estranged American wives of foreigners. She testified before Michigan's house of representatives. Due to her lobbying efforts, Michigan passed the only legislation in the country allowing a plaintiff in a divorce action to file for divorce in a county not their residence if the other spouse is a citizen or, or was born in a foreign country, the parties have a minor child or children, and the plaintiff shows information which "would allow the court to reasonably conclude that the minor child or children are at risk of being taken out of the United States of America and retained in another country by the defendant."[11]

Mrs. Mahmoody has written that prior to the passage of the bill, she was afraid for her life and afraid to lose Mahtob again if she filed for divorce in the traditional manner. The alleged statement of a Michigan Friend of the Court (an individual appointed to represent the child's best interests during a custody dispute) lends credibility to her fears.[12] State Department had submitted papers to the Friend of the Court to back up Mrs. Mahmoody's claims.

Mrs. Mahmoody further lobbied congress to pass the 1993 International Parental Kidnapping Act [13], which makes it a federal crime to remove a child from the United States without the consent of the other parent. In part, the act reads:

(a) Whoever removes a child from the United States or retains a child (who has been in the United States) outside the United States with the intent to obstruct the lawful exercise Of parental rights shall be fined under this tide or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both.

(b) As used in this section

(1) the term "child" means a person who has not attained the age of 16 years; and

(2) the term "parental rights", with respect to a child, means the right to physical custody of the child

(A) whether joint or sold (and includes visiting rights); and

(B) whether arising by operation of law, court order, or legally binding agreement of the parties.

Mrs. Mahmoody's book has sold over eight n-million copies worldwide.[14] It sold over four million copies in Germany, two and a half million copies in France, and an estimated half of all Swedish families own the book.[15] The world over is aware of her plight. However, there are other radically different stories with which hers can be contrasted, which will be discussed later in this paper.


While it can easily be argued that Mrs. Mahmoody's story is highly unusual, records kept by the State Department indicate otherwise. The State Department's Office of Children's Issues[16] states that "(s)ince the late 1970's, the Bureau of Consular Affairs has taken action in over 8,000 cases of international parental child abduction. ... In 1996, this office received approximately 700 applications under the Hague Convention."[17]

The State Department, however, keeps no statistics on Islamic parents who have been denied custody or unsupervised visitation allegedly because of their religion or nationality. The case of Adel Mohammed Zaghdi, for example, had the potential to get ugly; an undercurrent of suspicion and distrust runs through the Missouri Court of Appeals' decision remanding the case to the trial court.



Because of the difficulty in obtaining trial-level decisions, it is impossible to make any conclusions regarding a pattern of discrimination against Muslims at the trial level. Clearly, in a couple of cases it has happened. In other cases, although discrimination is claimed, there may be good reasons for limiting or terminating an Islamic parent's involvement in the child's life, which have little or nothing to do with religion. The reader can decide.


Ahalaam Smith, a resident of St. Louis County, Missouri and an American citizen, and Adel Mohammed Zaghdi, a citizen of Saudi Arabia, were married in St. Louis in July, 1984, while Adel was a student.[18] A month later, they moved to Lansing, Michigan. Their daughter, Amirah, was born in September, 1985. In August, 1986, Adel graduated, and returned to Saudi Arabia, while Ahalaam and Amirah returned to St. Louis. There they waited while Adel obtained visas for them to enter Saudi Arabia. In December, Ahalaam and Amirah moved to Saudi Arabia. In March, 1987, Ahalaam left Saudi Arabia to visit her family in the United States for seven months. In October, 1987, she returned to Saudi Arabia, but voluntarily left again in February, 1988.

After Ahalaam returned to the United States, she was hospitalized on several occasions for psychiatric problems and suicide attempts. Adel returned to the United States during these hospitalizations to visit her and also attempted to reconcile with her.

While Ahalaam was in the United States, Adel took a second wife, as is allowed under Saudi law. Ahalaam knew this was permissible at the time she married him. Furthermore, she had converted to Islam during her marriage.

After returning to Saudi Arabia following his graduation, Adel became employed by Saudi Arabia Air Lines. Ahalaam supported herself by social security disability checks which she received due to her psychiatric problems (then called manic-depressive disorder). She attended classes sporadically at a number of educational institutions. There was no evidence in the record that Adel's second wife suffered from any psychiatric problems.

On September 19, 1991, Adel brought Amirah to the United States to visit Ahalaam. He also desired to reconcile with Ahalaam. Ahalaam represented to him her intention to reconcile. Ahalaam met them at the airport, where they drove to a hotel at which Ahalaam had reserved a room for Adel and Amirah. There was a mix-up with the room keys, and while Adel returned to the hotel reception, Ahalaam absconded with Amirah by way of a different door.

Adel immediately proceeded to the move of Ahalaam's mother, where he was served with a divorce petition in which Ahalaam sought full custody of Amirah. Ahalaam then obtained, ex parte, an order granting her temporary custody as well as an adult abuse restraining order. Adel was thus prevented from contacting the daughter he had raised for the past six years. Adel then filed a motion to set aside the temporary custody order on grounds of fraud.

The trial court applied the provisions of the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act as enacted in Missouri, and held that Saudi Arabia, not Missouri, had jurisdiction. The trial court then dismissed the proceedings.

The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's dismissal of the custody proceedings, because the trial court had not considered the best interests of the child with a respect to a forum.[19]

After reading this case I wondered what the public perception of this case would be. Betty Mahmoody won national attention with her daring escape from Iran with her daughter. In Ms. Mahmoody's book, she wrote that at the time of her writing, over a thousand American women and children were being held in Islamic countries against their will [20]. Could this case be interpreted as a case in which a Saudi child was held in America (albeit temporarily [21]) against her will? I conducted both Westlaw and Lexis searches, querying the names of all parties involved, of all North American newspapers and wire services and came up empty-handed. Either the parties did not want the case to become public, or the media had no interest.


In what is probably the best known and most widely publicized case of alleged discrimination against Muslims by an American court, two ethnic Albanian immigrants from Yugoslavia lost their children forever due to what appears to be a case of cultural misunderstanding.

Sadri and Sabahete Krasniqi are Albanian Muslims who emigrated to the United States in 1971 and 1979 respectively. [22] In August of 1989, Sadri was accused of publicly sexually molesting his four-year-old daughter while videotaping a marshal arts competition in which his son was competing. They were, at that time, living in Dallas Texas. Neither of them, at that time, spoke much English. They had not assimilated well to American culture.

According to witnesses, Sadri had squeezed his daughter's vaginal area underneath her underpants. He was criminally charged and jailed. He allegedly admitted digitally penetrating her to asocial worker who interviewed him in jail.[23] He also candidly admitted fondling his daughter at one of his restaurants, on several occasions, in front of customers. [24] However, a defense witness testified at the criminal trial that after being released from jail, Sadri asked for the English definitions of "vagina, penis, (and) molesting."[25] Both he and his wife needed an interpreter at the later TPR hearing. Arguably, he may not have known what the social worker was asking him.

The Dallas Child Protective Services Unit filed a petition to terminate Sadri's parental rights to both of his children, although Sabahete was allowed to retain custody rights until she allowed the children to visit Sadri (albeit in her presence) at one of the five pizza restaurants the couple owned. After this happened, the children were placed in a Christian foster home; they were later adopted by a different Christian family. Sadri would later testify that she had not understood the proceedings and had thought that he was allowed to visit the children if she was present.

Although the children were examined by three doctors, only the doctor who found evidence that the daughter had been molested was called to testify. Allegedly, the judge hearing the TPR case had stated that he did not need to hear the other two. Dr. Molly Hansen, who was called to testify, stated that she had found vaginal scarring, indicating either stroking, penetration, or other trauma (in 1995, Dr. Hansen conceded that due to medical developments between 1990 and 1993, she could "no longer conclude that the daughter showed scars of abuse back in 1989").

Furthermore, a psychiatrist who had examined the two children and recommended that the children stay with the family was also was not called.

At the TPR hearing, the district attorney portrayed Sabahete as a woman indoctrinated by her religion and unable to oppose her husband or think for herself.[26]

While the TPR and criminal cases were pending, strange things were happening in the foster home. The children were allegedly cajoled into eating pork, although the foster father claims that it was entirely voluntary on the children's part.[27] When Sabahete visited the children, her son was wearing a Jesus tee-shirt and both children were wearing crosses.

At an April, 1990 TPR hearing, a jury determined that if the children were returned to their parents, they would be endangered. Their parental rights were terminated. Both Sabahete and Sadri appealed, alleging that they should have been provided an adequate interpreter and that they should have been provided separate counsel. However, their attorney did not submit a statement of facts in a timely manner, and the Court of Appeals consequently did not vacate the decision.

The Krasniqis argued that the denial of their motion simply because the statement of facts was late violated their right to due process and also that they had been deprived of effective assistance of counsel. Again, their appeal was denied. Their parental rights were thus permanently terminated.

The children were adopted in 1990 in a special expedited process by a different Christian family. The adoption was done even though the Krasniqi's appeal was not yet final.

Meanwhile, the criminal case dragged on.

In February, 1992, at the criminal trial against Sadri, numerous witnesses including physicians, psychologists, and an anthropologist were called. They testified that "... there was no physical evidence of sexual abuse, that Krasniqi in no way fit the profile of an abuser, that the children never had been harmed and were in fact cherished and protected, that the entire case had been a fundamental, cultural, ethnic and religious misunderstanding."[28] The anthropologist who testified, Barbara Kerewsky-Halpern, had intermittently done field research in Albania for forty years. She testified that in Albania, the "sexual molestation of children is unknown but the intimate touching of them is common."

The jury deadlocked on the sexual abuse charges against Sadri. Three of the four counts were dismissed. Two years later, the district (county) judge directed a not guilty verdict in the last charge.

None of the expert witnesses who testified at the criminal trial had testified at the termination hearing.

In 1994, the adoption of the children became final.

On September 17, 1995, the Houston Chronicle reported a clear history of the Krasniqi case. Members of the public who responded to the case were divided. Joyce Bowman, a Houston resident, wrote "Muslim fathers who wish to fondle their children should go live in a country which permits such behavior."[29] The co-founder of the Texas Child Advocacy Coalition, Susie Alverson, wrote that the September 17 story was "psychobabble," that Krasniqi was trying to pull a "fast one" on the public, and that "... Mr. and Mrs. Krasniqi and all their Muslim friends (should) become familiar with the Texas Penal Code, which plainly states that the crime Mr. Krasniqi was accused of against his daughter is against the law in the United States."[30]

The September 17 newspaper article led to Sadri being charged with three counts of felony retaliation for stating in the interview that if he ever saw one of the witnesses again, he would kill her.[31] He was acquitted the following year.[32] Although jurors did not comment on their reasons for the acquittal, Krasniqi's attorney, Reed Prospere told reporters that the jurors probably thought that the statements were made in the heat of the moment and that Krasniqi did not mean them.[33]

Mr. Krasniqi was also charged with, and acquitted of, arson. This stemmed from a 1990 fire at the Krasniqi's North Dallas home, which had allegedly been started with gasoline.[34] The Krasniqi's were purportedly uncooperative with investigators.[35] One can only wonder who in their right mind would have been "cooperative," given the ordeal the couple were currently going through and had recently been through over the allegations of sexual abuse.

In 1995, a civil rights lawsuit filed by Sabahete against state and local agencies was dismissed for missing the two-year statute of limitations.[36]

Allegedly, the children know that their parents are campaigning for their return.[37] They allegedly saw the Krasniqis tearfully plead for their children on ABC's 20-20. They do not want to return to their parents. According to their former foster father, the children had adjusted well to their new surroundings, earning straight A's in school and becoming active in a Christian church.[38] He also told a reporter that the children never made an effort to contact their parents although the children knew where their parents worked and that they could have called home had they wanted."[39]

One issue that the Krasniqis did not seem to grasp is the effect of intimate parental fondling on children in our culture. The evidence indicates that Sadri's actions were done out of affection, not for his own personal gratification. In the Krasniqi's former homeland, a child who had those experiences would not grow to adulthood feeling shame and embarrassment. However, the Krasniqi children were born and raised in the United States, surrounded by American values and social constructs. Would their daughter have felt abused, or as an adult experience the psychological problems associated with abuse, had she continued to be raised in that family, with those experiences? We can only postulate.


Jamel Marzouki, a Tunisian citizen, and Elizabeth Marzouki, an American citizen, met in Paris France.[40] They married in Paris in 1993. They returned to the United States in 1995. In February 1996, Elizabeth filed an action in Wisconsin for separation, which was amended to an action for divorce. In March, 1996, their son was born. Their divorce was granted six months later. At the time of the final hearing, Jamel was residing in France. Elizabeth was awarded sole legal custody and primary physical placement of their son. Jamel was granted two hours supervised visitation per day during times whenever he was in the United States.

Jamel appealed, arguing that the custody award and the physical placement award were impermissibly based upon his religion and ethnicity, and upon an unwarranted fear that he would remove the child to Tunisia, an Islamic country which is not a signatory country to the Hague Convention.[41] Judge Bolgert of Sheboygan County allegedly stated "Mr. Marzouki, this order is based mainly on the fact that people in Tunisia don't care about the orders of this court... That's a legitimate risk."[42]

The court of appeals dismissed this contention, noting that the trial had rightfully concluded that there were conditions which would substantially interfere with the exercise of joint custody, particularly the parties' inability to cooperate in future decision-making and their choice to reside in different countries.

The Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not use Jamel's religion as a factor in making the custody determination,[43] and furthermore that the trial court had refused to issue any orders regarding religious training because Elizabeth had expressed a willingness to expose their son to Islam. [44]

Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals noted both that Jamel had threatened Elizabeth and that Elizabeth feared that Jamel would abduct the child.[45] The Court of Appeals held that "Reasonable accommodations to the wishes of the sole legal custodian of the child are appropriate, particularly here where threats were made against the custodial parent."[46] The Court of Appeals also noted that Jamel had not, until a few days prior to the final hearing, had any involvement in his son's life. [47]


In the 1940's Stevenson and Laura Bey, American Muslims, were convicted three times of violating Pennsylvania's compulsory public education law for failing to send their children to school on Fridays.[48] They argued that this conviction violated the guarantees of religious freedom contained in the Pennsylvania and Federal Constitutions,[49] because Friday is the Muslim holy day. Their conviction was upheld. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that: ... the cause of education is one of the distinct obligations of the state, (and moreover) makes of it an indispensable governmental function. The power of the state over education thus falls into that class of powers which are made fundamental to our government... it ranks... as an element necessary for its very existence upon the enlightened intelligence of its citizens and electors... Thus, in this realm the right of the state is superior to that of the parents. It is subject to only one limitation. Parents cannot be compelled to send their children to public schools exclusively and debar them from attending parochial or private schools."[50]


Shamema Honzagool Sloan is the teenage daughter of M. Ismail (nee Samuel) Sloan. She has not seen her father since 1991, and has not seen her mother, Honzagool, since 1982, when she was less than one year old. She has been the subject of custody battles most of her life, and has been forced to lead the people who love her on a merry chase across four continents.

Samuel Sloan, Shamema's father, is the most interesting character I have come across while writing this paper. His unusual life has probably contributed greatly to the custody problems he faced, which is why I have devoted so much writing to his background. Samuel Sloan was born September 7, 1944, in Lynchburg, Virginia. He grew up in Lynchburg, and in high school was a winner in the Virginia Science Talent Search. He scored 800 on his math college boards, and majored in Mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley between 1962 and 1967. He was a member of the Berkeley chess team, and also the president of the Berkeley Sexual Freedom League. A photo of Sam as a student striker appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 6, 1966.

Sam alleges that while at Berkeley, he became decidedly pro-choice. He, and others, (he says) assisted numerous young women in finding physicians who would perform abortions, despite what the law said.

Between 1668 and 1975 he worked as a stock broker, and between 1976 and 1986 worked as a financial consultant.

Sloan has also played chess with Bobby Fischer.

In 1977 Samuel (who had been raised an Episcopalian but didn't believe) converted to Islam and became M. (Mohammed) Ismail Sloan after visiting Afghanistan. The following year, he found himself again in Afghanistan, this time in jail.

Before Ismail left the United States on his 1978 trip, he had obtained a visa to enter Afghanistan, but it required him to leave the country by April 28, 1978. Ismail had flown to England, took a ferry from Dover to Zeebrugge, and then traveled to Munich, where he bought a 1967 Volkswagen beetle. He drove across Austria, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Iran on the way to Afghanistan. Because he stopped along the way to have numerous adventures, he did not make it to the Afghan border by the his visa expired. Ismail had stopped along the way to visit a cousin in Turkey, who advised him not to go to Afghanistan because there had been a coup. Ismail did not heed his warnings. Ismail drove on, stopping on the way at the Afghan embassy in Tehran to renew his visa.

Ismail was allowed to enter Afghanistan. He drove to various provinces, meeting lots of people along the way, including a number of holy men. Because he was a foreigner, and because of the coup, Ismail's presence was deemed to be suspicious, and he was taken to jail for questioning, where he spent several days. He was in a rural province, however, with rather unsophisticated police officers, and it was fairly easy (Ismail says), after asking one officer to go buy him some supper, to walk out of the station.

After his escape, he was unable to receive much assistance from the American embassy, but some Canadians gave him refuge in their rented accommodation for a few days. In desperation, he purchased a turban and Afghan clothes and attempted to walk across the border into Pakistan, but was arrested on the way. He spent two months in jail (he still does not know what he was charged with), before being freed. His money, car, camera, and passport were returned to him at that time.

In 1978, M. Ismail Sloan (appearing pro se) argued a case orally before the U.S. Supreme Court, and won. The case, SEC vs. Samuel H. Sloan, 436 U.S. 103 (1978) involved federal securities law.

His oldest known child, a son named Peter, was born in 1978, and his daughter Mary was born in 1979.

Ismail has four books in print, The Slave Children of Thomas Jefferson [51], How to Take Over an American Company[52], Chinese Chess for Beginners [53], and Khowar English Dictionary, which was a commercial publication.

In 1980, Mr. Sloan married Honzagool, a woman from Pakistan. He brought her to New York, and their child, Shamema Honzagool Sloan was born in New York City on October 15, 1981. Ismail and Honzagool had separated in May, 1981. In May, 1982 custody was awarded to Honzagool. However, in August 1982 Honzagool traveled to Pakistan, leaving Shamema with Ismail. She did not return, and as a result Ismail brought ten-month-old Shamema to Virginia.[54] It is Ismail's understanding that she was detained by several of her family members. He has received word that she eventually remarried, and now has three more children.

After returning to Virginia, Ismail hired various members of the Roberts family as full-time baby-sitters for Shamema. They were paid $110 per week. Over the course of the next four years, they received over $20,000 in compensation, at least according to Ismail. During this time they also became very attached to Shamema. According to Charles Roberts, Ismail chose not to contact Shamema for almost two years during that period of time, sending no birthday cards, Christmas cards, or any other correspondence.

Beginning in November of 1982, Ismail began receiving threatening letters from various n-militant Islamic individuals who were associated with his former wife. Although Honzagool did not herself demand the return of Shamema, Ismail was worried that Shamema might me kidnapped by other members of his ex-wife's family, and decided to keep Shamema hidden at the Roberts'.

Because of Honzagool's absence from the country, Ismail filed a petition for the custody of Shamema in September, 1983. However, he was denied a hearing by Judge Dale Harris in the Lynchburg Family Court. According to Ismail, Judge Harris adjourned the hearing because neither Ismail nor his mother was willing to disclose Shamema's location because of their fears regarding Honzagool's family and their possible willingness to snatch Shamema.

After spending two years unsuccessfully attempting to get a hearing, Ismail consulted with a private lawyer who advised him to try filing a petition for custody in Amherst County, Virginia, because the judge (a former law partner of the lawyer) who would be deciding the case in Amherst County, Judge Janow, had a different view of family law.

On January 13, 1986, Ismail filed a custody petition in Amherst County, although he had never in his life resided there.[55] He had previously filed petitions in New York, and as stated above, in Virginia, asking for the same thing. However, he was never able to get a clear order granting him custody because it was impossible to serve Shamema's mother. Honzagool had disappeared and her American attorney had died.

After receiving Ismail's petition, Judge Janow also did not give him a prompt hearing. Instead, he repeatedly postponed the case, in order to ensure that Honzagool received her due process. However, she could not be located. Furthermore, although Ismail had an idea where she might be living, because she kept herself veiled and away from the public, it would have been impossible for process-servers to identify her.

Eventually, Judge Janow scheduled a hearing for August 25, 1986. However, shortly before that date, Vickie Jennings, a member of the Amherst County Court Services Unit, informed the court that she was going on vacation and had not prepared her report on time for the hearing.

On August 21, 1986, Ismail Sloan was seen by an attorney friend of the Roberts enrolling his daughter in a public school in Lynchburg. The friend informed the Roberts of this, who were upset because they were followers of Jerry Falwell and wanted Shamema to attend a fundamentalist Baptist church school. Ismail was adamantly opposed to this usurpation of his parental liberty interests; he was, however, fully aware of the Roberts' religious beliefs when he left Shamema with the Roberts.

The attorney friend of the Roberts, who then became counsel for the Roberts, contacted the judge and asked him for a hearing on the matter of Shamema's matriculation, although the Roberts were not even parties before the court. Although Judge Janow had canceled the August 25 hearing, he agreed to hold a conference that day. Frank Davidson, the Roberts' (who were not even parties to the custody action) attorney, was able to get a hearing on less than four days notice although Ismail had not been able to get a hearing for seven months after asking for custody.

On August 25, a conference was held in chambers. Neither Ismail nor the Roberts were there; it was an informal discussion between attorneys. Apparently, Judge Janow told Frank Davidson, the Roberts' attorney, that he had no choice but to award custody to Ismail because nobody else had asked for custody. He allegedly told Frank Davidson that if the Roberts asked for custody, he might be willing to entertain their petition.

After this conference, Judge Janow read his decision in open court, on the record. Custody was given to Ismail but the Roberts were to be allowed to enroll Shamema in the Baptist school. Ismail tried to speak, but was not allowed to because he was represented. Ismail alleges that earlier that day, Ismail had fired the Roberts, paid them in full, and removed Shamema from their care.

Knowing that a petition by the Roberts for custody of Shamema was probably imminent, Ismail (who had just been granted custody of Shamema) took her to Pittsburgh on the night of August 25.

The Roberts are fundamentalist Baptists. In 1986 the Roberts had Charles Esterline, the pastor of the Temple Baptist Church in Madison Heights, Virginia, perform a baptism on Shamema, unbeknownst to either Ismail or Honzagool.[56] Shelby Roberts, says Ismail, also had designs on changing Shamema's name and enrolling her in the Temple Baptist Kindergarten. For these and other reasons, Ismail abruptly terminated their services and removed Shamema from Virginia on August 25, 1986.

Two days later, Shelby and Charles Roberts sued for the custody of Shamema. Ismail was not served with any papers (admittedly, his own actions had made it impossible to serve him); service was done by publication.

On September 4 or 5, 1986, Judge Janow issued an order giving custody of Shamema to both the Amherst County Department of Social Services and to the Roberts. It was ambiguously worded, and an addendum stated that "for purposes of interpretation and enforcement of this order" custody was to go to the department "with leave to place the child with any suitable persons, including Charles and Shelby Roberts." No allegations had been made that Ismail was not a fit parent, although there were allegations of parental abandonment.

On September 13, 1986, having no idea what had already transpired in Amherst County but believing a custody battle was imminent, Ismail, Shamema, and Ismail's mother left for a chess tournament in Argentina. Ismail was managing three Hungarian sisters playing in the tournament.

After the tournament, Ismail secured a visas for the three to enter the United Arab Emirates. He was able to do so because the World Chess Olympiad was about to start there and he was a recognized journalist.

The family resided in the UAE for the next four years, during which, Ismail says, they were constantly harassed and threatened by the Roberts, who were sending the State Department requests about the "whereabouts and welfare" of Shamema. Robert Murphy, the United States General Counsel in Abu Dhabi, wrote to the Roberts telling them that Shamema was happy, healthy, progressing well in school, and that "Shamema is the brightest child that I have ever seen." The Roberts, meanwhile, were spending thousands of dollars of their own money on legal bills in order to recover the child they apparently loved and for whom they appeared to be genuinely concerned.

In 1987, Ismail was traveling in Sri Lanka. A woman from Sri Lanka, Dayawathie Rankoth, asked him for a housekeeping job. He didn't offer her a job; she ended up moving in with him. He brought her to Thailand, and then back to the UAE. Ismail (a Muslim who is allowed to have four wives) took another wife (not legally, however, because of his American citizenship status), namely Vithanage Santhilatha, also known as Renuka. Because Dayawathie was pregnant and Ismail wanted the child to have US citizenship, he arranged for her to travel to Oakland, CA to give birth. Their son, Michael, was born on June 18, 1988. Shortly thereafter, Dayawathie returned to the UAE. On September 14, 1988, Vithanage gave birth to Ismail Sloan's daughter, Jessica, in California.[57]

During the time that Shamema was either in Ismail's physical custody or in someone else's custody under the directives of Ismail, Ismail was arrested on the Island of Guam, Honolulu, and California. All arrests were related to his choice to remove Shamema. from Virginia. On all occasions, he was released without being charged with anything.

In February, 1988, Dayawathie was arrested for what was essentially disorderly conduct and was asked to leave the UAE. She returned to Sri Lanka, leaving Michael with Ismail, his mother, and Shamema. Ismail returned to Sri Lanka twice and legally married Dayawathie on August 9, 1988 so that she could come back to the UAE as his wife and circumvent the worker visa requirements. She immediately became pregnant again. They returned to the UAE. In February, 1989, Ismail brought her to New York where she was immediately admitted to hospital for a month. She gave birth to their second child on April 28, 1989.

On June 17, 1990, Shanti Vithanage informed Ismail that she was inside the Dubai airport with a boarding pass, that she was leaving for Sri Lanka to marry someone else, and that she was going to leave Jessica with Ismail, and never come back. Shortly thereafter, Ismail took the family (including the baby, Jessica) to Thailand and the Philippines to recruit domestic help.

In August 1990, Shanti Vithanage returned to the UAE, after changing her mind about getting married. The house was empty, and she began making telephone calls (running up a $2,700 bill for Ismail) trying to track them down. She even called the Roberts.

In the meantime, the Roberts had retained a Thai attorney named Boonchoo. Boonchoo paid for Shanti's plane ticket to Thailand so that she could pick up Jessica. Boonchoo allegedly offered Shanti some money and told her that he would find a good home for Jessica.

Although photos of the family were posted at all borders and airports, by paying a bribe the family was able to exit safely into Malaysia, and then return to the UAE. Boonchoo allegedly called Shanti on the telephone and threatened her life unless she pushed Shamema out the door; Shanti looked out the window and saw two Asian men standing outside their house.

In response to this threat Ismail moved the family to a Tanzanian friend's home (in Abu Dhabi), where they stayed for a week, before returning to Fujairah. A week later, Shanti, tired of being hounded by the State Department, Boonchoo, and various other Roberts' contacts (and probably tired of Ismail, also), gave in to the Roberts' request that she bring the children to the United States . While Ismail was napping, she took the children to Abu Dhabi, where she picked up three round-trip tickets purchased by Jay Roberts' [58], Charles and Shelby Roberts' son. Strangely, the Roberts had purchased tickets for Shanti, Shamema, and Jessica, but not for Michael.[59] Shanti tried to leave Michael at the American embassy, but they refused to take custody of him or accept responsibility. She decided then to abandon him on Harridan Street in Abu Dhabi, but while there ran into a Syrian named Jamal who offered her a job as a housemaid. Jamal offered her and the three children shelter for the night. The next morning, Shanti abandoned Michael at Jamal's house, and with the two girls, boarded a 9:00 am flight to Kennedy Airport, with stops in Bahrain and London. Neither the Roberts or Shanti had any right, under U.S. or UAE law, to remove Shamema from the UAE. Custody was still, at that time, with the Department of Human Services, who were not making any attempt to recover Shamema from the UAE.

The Roberts picked Shanti, Shamema, and Jessica up on October 9th.

In the meanwhile, Jamal brought Michael to the local police station, which was able to link together his presence with a missing persons report Ismail made. Ismail was able to collect him at the Abu Dhabi police station.

On November 8, Ismail brought Michael to New York and called Dayawathie. Ismail had left Dayawathie in New York in March with a group of Afghan refugees whom he knew from his stay in jail in Afghanistan in 1978. She had, in the meantime, been befriended by a Sharon Haberer, a fundamentalist Christian and acquaintance of the Roberts. Dayawathie had moved in to Sharon's. When Ismail called Dayawathie, Sharon got on the phone and invited him to bring Michael over. Ismail did not.

On November 9, Sharon, her husband, and two men from their Community Bible Church went to the apartment of the Afghan refugees and demanded to see Michael. Michael was not there, the refugees told them. On November 9, Ismail Sloan had called Lynchburg and had been directed to the Amherst County Department of Social Services. The social worker on the case, Rick Groff, told Ismail that if he came to Amherst, Gross would arrange for Ismail to have contact with Shamema. Furthermore, Shamema had been refusing to speak to any adults since being brought to Virginia.

Sharon, her husband, and the two men from their church came back to the apartment of the Afghan refugees on November 11th, but were again unable to see Ismail or Michael. Ismail left New York the same day, taking Michael to Lynchburg.

On November 13, Ismail took Michael to the office of Rick Groff. He was promptly arrested, and Michael was taken away.

In November, 1990, the public prosecutor of Fujairah, UAE, issued a warrant for the arrest of Charles Roberts and Vithanage Santhilatha. The warrant was transmitted through Interpol, to the Washington D.C. office of Interpol, on November 5, 1990. The United States has been unwilling to become involved. Charles Roberts and his wife are aware of the Interpol warrant. They have a Muslim acquaintance who traveled through the UAE and attempted to have it dropped while he was there. They are unsure if he was successful; Charles Roberts says that he is not going to leave the United States for a couple of years, because even the United Kingdom would send him to the UAE. Ismail further alleges that Roberts has been tried in absentia and sentenced to death; Roberts says that he doesn't know anything about being tried in absentia and thinks that Ismail is making that up.

When Ismail finally tracked down Vithanage and Jessica, he took them back to his home in Lynchburg. The Roberts informed Judge Janow, and Lynchburg police descended upon Ismail's house, removing Jessica and Vithanage, who apparently was not able or willing to do anything on her own but would only do what other authority figures, such as Ismail or the Roberts, told her to do. George and Michael were in the hospital and Ismail did not tell the police where they were.

Vithanage, fearing that Judge Janow would take her daughter Jessica away and give her to the Roberts, fled Virginia with Jessica, taking her to California. Ismail was unable to track them down. Many months later, however, he received a summons dated November 7, 1991, telling him that Jessica had been abandoned in California and that if he did not come to California he could have his parental rights to Jessica terminated.

As a result of his attempt to obtain Jessica in California (at the directive of a California court), he was arrested in Virginia for violating a restraining order which had been granted ex parte.

A pattern would develop where orders would be granted ex parte, Ismail would violate them, and he would then be thrown in jail. The Amherst county Department of Social Services eventually concluded that the Roberts were not acting in Shamema's best interests and that Shamema belonged with Ismail, not the Roberts.

After a protracted hearing in 1991 during which there was much mention of Ismail's choice to have more than one wife at a time, Islam, and Christianity, the court decided to send Shamema to live with the Roberts, regardless of what the social workers thought.[60] Shamema (who had spent the past year living with the Roberts, unable to contact her father) had testified that she wanted to live with the Roberts. The court, in its written decision, considered Shamema's wishes, Ismail's decision to remove her to the UAE, and his decision to have two wives at the same time. The court thus considered Ismail's home environment as "clearly an unfit and immoral environment."[61] After the Roberts were granted custody of Shamema, Ismail, who lived in New York, would schedule visitation with Shamema, but the Roberts would repeatedly cancel it, claiming that they had forgotten that Shamema had piano lessons or making similar excuses. The only time they ever actually followed through with visitation (according to Ismail [62]) was the day that he was supposed to appear pro se in front of the Virginia Supreme Court for an oral argument regarding the custody of Shamema. According to the Roberts, Ismail attempted to abduct Shamema that day; according to Ismail, he was set up and arrested in order to prevent him from getting to court.

In 1996, after another hearing on the matter, Ismail was again awarded visitation with Shamema. Her court appointed attorney was directed, by the court, to arrange this. However, it was never done, and several months later, after Ismail had repeatedly complained to the court, the court, with no further hearings, changed the order and denied him visitation. By this time Ismail had no money to hire legal counsel,[63] and under Virginia law he could only have a court appointed attorney in a TPR proceeding. Since Ismail has no visitation with his daughter and is not allowed to make any decisions regarding her life, his parental rights have arguably been terminated, but not so under Virginia law.

Although Ismail was arrested either fourteen or fifteen times over the custody of Shamema, he has only been charged with and convicted of Attempted Abduction over the incident in which he claims he was set up, and Failure to Appear for refusing to show up at a hearing associated with that charge. He was sentenced to five years, and served nineteen months before being released on parole. Once he was released (he says), the Roberts continually called and faxed his parole officer making allegations about him; his parole was never revoked and he has now been discharged from parole. The other side to this is that Ismail constantly bombarded the Roberts with legal proceedings which they were compelled to answer within twenty days, paying an attorney $ 100 per hour.[64]

Today, Ismail has weekly telephone contact with his daughter Jessica in California. He sees his youngest children in New York on an almost daily basis. His oldest children who also reside in New York rarely see him, bitter about the divorce between Ismail and their mother [65]. He has not seen Shamema in almost eight years. Shamema has recently made a number of surreptitious collect calls from a pay-phone at her school to Shanti in California, trying to track Ismail down, but he has unfortunately not been there at anytime when she has called.[66] Charles Roberts is not aware of these calls. He says that although he would understand if Shamema decided to get in regular contact with her father when she becomes an adult, he would be disappointed.

Clearly, Ismail has established a pattern of getting involved with unstable, dependent women. Clearly, Ismail has an established pattern of philandering. But does this mean that all visitation should be cut off?[67]

Ismail, unlike the Roberts, has demonstrated that he craves and seeks out adventure. One only needs to look at his free-love days in Berkeley and his later adventures in Europe and the Middle East to make this conclusion. He puts himself in positions where he is likely to cause himself a little grief. He has been in 76 different countries, including some which have been in the middle of revolution and civil war. The Roberts don't do this. Their idea of adventure is going on vacation to South Carolina.

When talking to Ismail in person, one is struck by the rate at which he speaks. He speaks very fast, albeit coherently. One cannot help, after hearing and reading about his life story if he has some of the mental illness and eccentricity that some postulate goes along with genius.[68]

Ismail can think of a few things he would do differently. He says that when he and Honzagool started having problems, he would have taken her to California and gotten her away from her crazy fundamentalist friends. He says that he also would have taken Shamema away from the Roberts earlier.

Charles Roberts does not regret getting involved. He and his wife clearly love Shamema. She is active in their church youth ministry, and attends the Lynchburg Christian Academy. Charles wants her to be able to attend Liberty College (a fundamentalist Christian institution) when she graduates from high school.

Charles Roberts says that Shamema is as normal a teenager as can be, considering what she has been through. He says that she has gravitated toward kids from troubled families, and that most of her friends come from broken homes.

One of the issues that it most irksome to Charles Roberts is Ismail's lack of financial responsibility. Ismail pays no support (both Ismail and the Roberts stipulate to this) for any of his children. Roberts thinks that it is inexcusable that Ismail lets Catholic Charities pay for the births of his children while he is off gallivanting around the world with other women. Roberts, showing a surprising understanding of Islamic family law, wants to remind Ismail that the Holy Quran only allows Muslim men to have up to four wives if they can financially support them all, and in different houses.

When asked what he would do if a court were to give him Shamema but only on the condition that he would raise her a Muslim, Roberts says that under those circumstances he would not get involved.[69] Roberts says that Islam is idolatry and that Muslims kill for their god. He says that Muslims would just as soon kill a Christian as look at one. He says that just because Shamema's parents are Muslims doesn't mean that she has to be one. "Just because you're born in a garage doesn't make you a car," he says.

Charles Roberts calls himself a fundamentalist Christian and is a self-professed follower of Jerry Falwell. While talking about the procedural history of the case, he digresses and talks a lot about the Lord and Jesus and being Saved.[70] While it is easy to sit her in my ivory tower (or even my Eagle Heights Apartment) and conclude that he is delusional,[71] in Madison Heights, Virginia, his beliefs are probably the norm. Despite the thousands of dollars in legal fees (Roberts has lost track, although several years ago it had climbed to $30,000) he has spent, he still hopes that Ismail will come to know the Lord and be Saved.

The Roberts would not be the first choice placement for a social worker placing a newborn infant for adoption. Their religion is not conducive to creativity, free thinking, or tolerance. The fact that their son's homosexuality was cured by Jesus sends out all sorts of warning signals. The homosexual children of accepting, nurturing parents do not need to be cured or Saved by Jesus. What if Shamema is a lesbian and does not yet realize it? Clearly, they are the adults with whom Shamema bonded as an infant. But does this mean that Ismail should not have any visitation?

Another disturbing aspect of this case Was the removal of Shamema from the UAE. Procedurally, Ismail had never received his due process, or even been served with the Roberts' custody petition. At that time Shanti removed Shamema from the UAE, neither Shanti nor the Roberts had legal authority to remove Shamema from the UAE. Under the law, Shanti had kidnapped Shamema and the Roberts had acted as accessories. Despite these legalities and Ismail's repeated attempts to have the Roberts prosecuted, there has been no prosecution of the Roberts (at least not in the United States). If, for example, a fundamentalist Muslim had paid the nanny of an American Christian child whose parents were temporarily residing in Denmark to remove the child from the country, there is no doubt that the State Department would look at the case with interest. Ismail's complaints have fallen on deaf cars.

What troubles me the most about this case is that if Ismail were a moderately religious Christian instead of the moderately religious Muslim that he is, and if the Roberts were Fundamentalist Muslims instead of the Fundamentalist Christians that they are, it would be unlikely for a Virginia court to have decided things the same way. Would any Virginia judge order a four-year-old to be enrolled in a Fundamentalist Islamic school against the wishes of, say, a Methodist or Baptist parent? The Roberts dressed Shamema up in t-shirts which depicted bibles and American flags. How would a Virginia court handle Islamic foster parents who forced their female foster children to wear rosaries and chadors? Would a Virginia court allow it? Would such a family even become licensed foster parents in the first place? Would a Virginia court prohibit any visitation for the Christian parent?


Betty Mahmoody's publications have been read the world over. Since Betty Mahmoody publicized the events surrounding her husband's attempt to prevent her from leaving Iran with her daughter, other international child abduction cases have become more widely publicized.

In addition to publishing two books, one of which was made into a movie, Mrs. Mahmoody also testified before the Senate. Her organization, One World: For Children, provides counseling and other referrals for the left-behind parents of abductees. [72]

Perhaps due to this publicity, it appears from published cases, at least, that trial courts are more willing to prevent Islamic, non-American fathers from having unsupervised visitation with their children, if there are indications that the father might abscond with the children. Furthermore, legislative bodies have fashioned responses which attempt to deal with the problem.

In addition, perceptions, whether accurate or not, of Islam and/or Islamic cultures have colored custody TPR proceedings. Clearly, it is much more common for foreign parents to abscond with their children than it is for foreign parents to be discriminated against in child custody proceedings due to their religion or nationality. Moreover, although some courts have been heavy-handed toward Muslim parents, that same heavy-handedness is apparently not directed toward foreign parents of cultures similar to our own, although the possibility of the child not being returned to the United States may be virtually identical, such as the refusal of German courts to comply with the Hague convention.

Despite the few cases which may indicate a certain willingness by courts to discriminate against Muslim parents, it appears that the problem is not widespread. Moreover, it appears that there are far more instances in which Islamic parents have unlawfully removed their children from the United States than there are instances in which Islamic parents have been discriminated against in American courts.


[1] The author notes that this is not an entirely new problem. In 1936, for example, in In re Vardinakis, a New York Domestic Relations Court was called upon to decide which religion four minor children or divorced parents were to be raised in. The children had been placed in care because the mother was ill and could not care for them and because the father had been found to be neglecting them. The court held that the oldest child, age fifteen, who had expressed a desire to be a "Mohammedan" like his father, was sent to live in the home of a paternal uncle. The second oldest child, who had expressed a desire to be a Catholic, was allowed to be taken to services by his mother. The two youngest children were allowed to be taken to religious services by the father. Although the children had originally been placed in a Catholic home, they were moved to a Protestant foster home with the court's instructions that they were not to be provided with any religious instruction in the foster home. 160 Misc. 13, 289 N.Y.S. 355 (1936). In the Vardinakis written opinion, the court quoted a Harvard Law Review article, noting that 'there is perhaps no situation which has betrayed the judiciary to yield to its own religious prejudices so subtly as the issue of paternal abandonment in the fact of rival religious claims between parents or relatives over some poor child who had been made the object of religious zeal.' Id. at 14, 358; 29 Harv. Law. Rev. 485, 492 (1916).

[2] For example, take the case of Lilly Waken. In mid-1992, Ms. Waken's Syrian husband kidnapped her two daughters, taking them to Damascus Syria. Her husband returned to Miami for a divorce hearing, without the children. Although Lilly was awarded custody of the children, her husband flouted the order, returning to Syria. The children were not returned., Grief Remains When One Parent Whisks Youngsters Out of U.S. Custody: Often the Children are Snatched During a Bitter Divorce. The Abductors Usually Have Strong Ties in the Other Country. L. A. TIMES, May 1, 1994 at A1.

See also Elizabeth Fernandez, Guns, Money, and Tears: Patricia Roush's I .1-year odyssey for the return of her kidnapped daughters from Saudi Arabia. S.F. EXAMINER, April 20, 1997 at M8, telling the story of an American woman whose paranoid schizophrenic Saudi Husband kidnapped her two girls to his homeland in 1986. Although Ms. Roush won a custody order and there are federal and state arrest warrants as well as an Interpol "Red Alert" for her husband, the Saudi government has been uncooperative. In 199 1, after waiting almost five years, Patricia's hired commandos attempted to kidnap the girls. The attempt failed, one commando was killed, and another was jailed. The girls were age 14 and 18 at the time the San Francisco Examiner published the article.

[3] The MIDDLE EAST NEWS TIMES published a brief story on July 15, 1997, titled New Law to Protect National Children. In its entirety, the story reads:

Dubai Police are proposing anew law to protect national children of mixed marriages from being "kidnapped" by their foreign mothers. According to some sources, when a mixed marriage breaks down, the children are often trapped in long legal battles because there are no international child custody agreements, and there is frequently a refusal to accept the custody orders of a foreign court. According to Maj. Gen. Siraj Al Din Al Rubi, head of Egyptian Interpol and vice president of Interpol, even if there is an agreement between two countries, the native country to which the mother flees may refuse to hand the child over to the father of another nationality.

[4] The only case available almost in its entirety is that of Mohammad Ismail Sloan, an American convert to Islam who has been in litigation since the early 1980's over the custody of his daughter. The only reason that all of the pleadings are available is that Mr. Sloan has posted all of the pleadings on his web-site in an attempt to draw attention to his unusual situation.

[5] Betty Mahmoody, NOT WITHOUT MY DAUGHTER (1987) (hereinafter, NOT WITHOUT).

[6] Betty Mahmoody, FOR THE LOVE OF A CHILD, (1992) (hereinafter FOR THE LOVE).

[7] It never seems to dawn on Mrs. Mahmoody that even though her standard of living in Iran was much lower than that which she was used to in the United States, there are children in the United States growing up in much more depressed conditions than she experienced in Iran. The children of Mexican-American migrant workers come to mind.

[8] NOT WITHOUT at 381.


[10] Paul Gustafson; Staff Writer Woman's status as expert questioned, STAR TRIB. (Minneapolis-ST. Paul), February 28, 1991, at 2B..

[11] MICH. Comp. Laws. ANN. Sec. 552.9 (West 1997). [12] Mrs. Mahmoody's book reads: "I don't believe in restricting visitation from fathers," (the Friend of the Court) began. "I think it's better for the children to have open visitation by both parents."

"But don't you know what my daughter and I went through to get back to America?" I asked.

He coolly replied, "I have little sympathy for adults who get themselves into awkward situations."

At that moment I grasped what we were up against. If someone like myself- with all the publicity, and with my case documented with the State Department- received this kind of response, what chance did other parents have? FOR THE LOVE at 47.

[13] 18 U.S.C. Sec. 1204 (1997) [14] Bob Strauss, Timing, tampering give doubt: Controversy dogs film of Mahmoody story, 1/14/91 Sacramento Bee, January 14, 1991 at B5.

[15] Big Seller, ATLANTA J. & ATLANTA CONST., July 10, 1991 at E3.

[16] The Office of Children's Issues maintains a web-site and publishes numerous pamphlets on Islamic family law, custody decisions in various Islamic countries, and so forth. Their publication on Islamic Family Law states:

The information contained in this flyer is intended as an introduction to the basic elements of Islamic family law. It is not intended as a legal reference.

It is designed to make clear the basic rights and restrictions resulting from marriages sanctioned by Islamic law between Muslim and non-Muslim partners. For Americans, the most troubling of these restrictions have been:

- the inability of wives to leave an Islamic country without permission of their Muslim husbands;-- the wives' inability to take their children from these countries without such permission; and- the fact that fathers have ultimate custody of children.


Interestingly enough, although the State Department has publications on Islamic family law and veiled warnings to women who contemplate marrying a Muslim, there are no similar warnings advising women that despite Germany being a signatory to the Hague Convention, none of the thirty-seven children who have been kidnapped there by a parent in the past two years have been returned by German courts. Lara Cardom. The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child A Abduction as Applied to Non-Signatory Nations.- Getting to Square One, 20 Hous J. INT'L L. 14, n. 104. (1997). Although one German court ordered a German parent to return a kidnapped child to the United States, the parent did not obey the order and no legal action was taken against her in Germany. Morton v. Morton, 982 F. Supp. 675 (1997). The Hague Convention is apparently recognized as a paper tiger by German judges. The record is clear that Germany is as bad about returning children as Egypt or Syria are, but nobody is vilifying German parents as a result. The State Department does not attempt to dissuade Americans from marrying Germans.


[18] State ex. Re. Ahalaam Smith Rashid v. Drumm, 824 S.W.2d 497 (Mo App 1992). While discussing the facts of this case, I will not insert further foot notes.

[19] Id. at 499.

[20] NOT WITHOUT at 419. In context with that sentence, she said nothing regarding the dual-nationality of these women and children. They might very well be American under American law, but they are also Iranian under the law of Iran, Libyan under the law of Libya, and so forth.

[21] An e-mail message to the mother's former attorney elicited a response indicating that at the trial court level the mother did in fact lose custody to the child's father. respectively."

[22] Jim Schutze, Albanian Cleared of Crime but Loses Kids Anyway: Clash of Cultures Catches Couple, Hous. CHRON., Sept. 17, 1995 at A I (hereinafter Schutze, Albanian Cleared); Farah Sultana Brelvi, News of the Weird: Specious Normativity and the Problem of the Cultural Defense, 28 COLUM. HUM. RTS.. L. REV. 657 (Spring 1997). The facts of the Krasniqi case, for purposes of this article, are gathered from these two sources, unless otherwise indicated by footnote.

[23] Transcript at 56, Dallas County Child Welfare Unit v. Kathy Krasniqi, et al., No. 89-1244 (Dist. Ct. Dallas Cty., 1990), quoted in Brelvi, supra, at n. 57.

[24] Schutze, supra.

[25] Transcript at 640-42, Texas v. Sadri San Krasniqi, No. 80841-91, 8-842-91 (Dist. Ct. Collin Cty., 1990), quoted in Brelvi, supra, at n. 5 1.

[26] The district attorney posed the question: "Would it be difficult for a women (sic) who has been raised in the Orthodox faith or the Moslem faith for many years, would it be difficult for a women (sic) to exercise any independence away from her husband after being raised in a faith that prescribes that the husband is the one that makes the decisions? Would it be difficult for her to exercise independence?" Transcript at 26 1, Dallas County Child Welfare Unit v. Kathy Krasniqi , et al., No. 89-1244 (Dist. Ct. Dallas Cty., 1990), quoted by Brelvi, supra. The District attorney was apparently unaware of the gender equality promoted by Socialist Yugoslavia.

[27] Sherry Jacobson, Religious conflict adds twist to case, state officials say, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, November 29, 1995.

[28] Id.

[29]View points, Hous. CHRON., September 21, 1995 at 35.

[30] 7d.

[31] Jim Schutze, Saga takes another turn I Muslim father who lost children jailed over remark, Hous. CHRON., December 23, 1995 at 33.

[32] Steve Scott, Man found not guilty of threatening witness: Comments followed child custody hearings, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, October 24, 1996 at 3 IA.

[33] Id.

[34] Sherry Jacobson, Questions persist in adoption of Muslim family's 2 children: Case clouded by claims of sex abuse, cultural differences, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, November 29, 1995 at IA

[35] Id.

[36] Muslim woman's suit over children dismissed, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, December 1, 1995 at 36A

[37] Questions persist, supra.

[38] Sherry Jacobson, Religious conflict adds twist to case, state officials say, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, November 29, 1995.

[39] Id.

[40] Marzouki v. Marzouki, 1997 WL 716133 (Wis.App. 1997). In discussing the facts of this case, I will omit further footnotes.

[41] ld.

[42] Cary Segall, Abduction Fears Upheld on Appeal Tunisian Man Claims Judge Discriminated, WIS. ST. J., November 20, 1997 at 3C. The author has been unable, using either LE3GS or WESTLAW, to locate any cases where such a comment was made about a German court.

[43] Marzouki, Supra, at 2, n. 5

[44] Marzouki at 2.

[45] Marzouki at 3

[46] Id.

[47] 1d.

[48] Commonwealth v. Bey et al, 166 Pa. Super. 136, 70 A.2d 693 (1950).

[49] Id. at 694, 139.

[50] Id. at140-141, 695

[51] Orsden Press, Japan (1992)

[52] Orsden Press, Japan (1992)

[53] Ishi Press, San Jose, 1989, 1992

[54] According to Charles Roberts, Ismail kidnapped Shamema first and after that Honzagool left for Pakistan; given the lack of any police reports to back this up, I am choosing to endorse Ismail's version of events.

[55] When things didn't go his way, Ismail continually tried to claim that there was a lack of jurisdiction, apparently ignoring his choice to waive that court's lack of jurisdiction.

[56] According to Charles Roberts, Shamema made her own decision to be "saved," despite her age of four years. The assistant pastor at their church interviewed her first, to make sure it was a choice made of her own free will. Parents cannot have a child baptized; the choice must be made knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily, much like one giving up one's Miranda rights.

[57] Charles Roberts does not believe that Ismail is a true Muslim; he believes that Ismail only pretends to be a Muslim to serve his own "lustful" ends.

[58] Jay Roberts is (according to Ismail) a reformed homosexual, apparently saved by Jesus. A recent article appearing in a local Virginia paper reports him as currently married and traveling around bringing the Word to the unsaved, with his wife, Elizabeth.

[59] 1n a telephone interview, Charles Roberts informed the writer of this paper that Shanti had told him that she was going to leave Michael with a friend. Mr. Roberts also stated that even had he known of her plans he would not have sent her a plane ticket for Michael because that would have been kidnapping.

[60] RE: Shamema Honzagool Sloan, Order 7312, Virginia: In the Circuit Court of the County of Amherst, November 18,1991.

[61] Id. at 5.

[62] Charles Roberts acknowledges that they only allowed visitation on this one occasion, but maintains that they had genuine reasons for canceling, such as piano lessons.

[63] The writer of this paper as a soon-to-be attorney wonders what attorney who did not want to lose his or her mind would even take this complex case.

[64] Charles Roberts states that although he and his wife tried to prevent Shamema from knowing just how much they were spending on legal fees, she found a bill one day and for a while wanted to be a lawyer when she grew up after realizing how much the hourly billing fee was.

[65] His oldest son, Peter, recently initiated contact with him at a chess tournament.

[66] One can't help but feel sorry for her, caught in the middle, unable to frankly tell either of her families of her attachment to the other without feeling that she will cause disappointment or anger.

[67] The "best interests of the child" standard is used to determine custody in Virginia. VA. ST. Sec. 20-124.3. Factors included when parents are suing over custody include the age and physical and mental condition of each parent, the relationship existing between each parent and each child, the role which each parent has played and will play.... the propensity of each parent to actively support the child's contact and relationship with the other parent, the relative willingness and demonstrated ability of each parent to maintain a close and continuing relationship with the child, and the ability of each parent to cooperate in matters affecting the child... Id. What is so disturbing about this case is that the Roberts have demonstrated a complete unwillingness to encourage Shamema to at least contact her father.

[68] One of his Berkeley cohorts estimates his IQ to be around 200. Donald P. Baker, VA's Terry Challenged by Inmate, WASH. POST, November 14, 1992 at B07.

[69] Apparently, his god comes before his family. What would he do if, like Abraham, he heard the voice of god telling him to sacrifice Shamema?

[70] After speaking with me on the telephone, Mr. Roberts was kind enough to send me a copy of the final order. He also sent me two religious tracts on being saved, and a letter encouraging me to be saved.

[71] While participating in clinical programs through this law school, between Mendota Mental Health Institute and the Segregation Unit in the Dane County Jail , the writer of this paper has met Moses, Elija, Zeus and Krsna.

[72] FOR THE LOVE at 285

Here are links: To: andrea lea baker From: Sam Sloan Subject: Re: more questions regarding your custody problems I have just moved and my telephone is in the process of being transferred. I will call you as soon as I get my service back. Ismail Sloan At 09:07 AM 3/11/98 -0600, you wrote: >Thank you. My home number is (608) 231-6931. I can also be contacted at >(608) 238-1083. Right now my hard drive is crashed so am using a >university computer to write this. I will be working more on the paper >later this week. > >Thanks again. > >Andrea Baker > >At 07:50 PM 3/6/98 -0500, you wrote: >>At 01:15 PM 3/6/98 -0600, you wrote: >>>Two more questions here, if you don't mind (and I'll quite happily send you >>>the finished product). >>> >>
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