Mentally ill West Yorkshire man should not fast during Ramadan, judge rules

Leeds Court
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A mentally-ill man from a Sunni Muslim family should not fast during Ramadan, a judge has ruled after a hearing in a specialist court.

Mr Justice Cobb has also concluded that the man, who is in his 30s but has the mental age of a three-year-old, should not have his pubic and underarm hair trimmed in accordance with Islamic practice.

He had considered issues relating to the man's observance of Muslim customs at a hearing in the Court of Protection, where judges make rulings relating to people who do not have the mental capacity to take decisions, in Leeds, and has announced his conclusions in a ruling.

The judge said the man, who was born in Pakistan but had grown up in West Yorkshire, could not be identified.

He said the man had a profound learning disability and lived in specialist accommodation provided by a council.

Mr Justice Cobb said he had been asked to decide whether fasting and hair trimming were in the man's best interests.

He indicated that everyone involved in the man's care felt that fasting would not be a good idea.

But the man's father had thought that he should have his hair trimmed.

Mr Justice Cobb said he had heard evidence from a psychiatrist, social services staff and academic Mansur Ali, a lecturer in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Cardiff University, before making decisions.

"I was wholly satisfied that it was not in (the man's) best interests for him to be expected to fast during Ramadan ... or indeed at all," said Mr Justice Cobb.

"I have concluded that it is not in (his) best interests for his pubic and axillary hair to be trimmed.

"I have been advised, and it is accepted, that this is not required of him in accordance with the tenets of the Islamic faith; there is no other benefit to (him) in undergoing this procedure, which carries avoidable risks of harm to (him) and his carers were he to become stressed in the process."

Mr Justice Cobb said the level of the man's intellectual impairment meant that he had no understanding of religious matters nor of the consequences of hair removal or fasting.

"I have faithfully endeavoured to consider these issues from (the man's) point of view, while ultimately applying a best interests evaluation," said Mr Justice Cobb.

"(He) has a life-long developmental condition and has never had the capacity to understand the tenets of Islam; the benefits of adherence to such rituals do not obtain for him, but for others.

"The fact is that by reason of his disability (he) is absolved of the expectation of performing this recommended procedure, and there is no other clear benefit to him."

Mr Justice Cobb added: "The trimming of the pubic and axillary hair would serve no other purpose. I am anxious that (he) should be spared additional stresses in his life, and wish to protect him and the staff from the risk of harm - an approach which itself has the endorsement of Islamic teaching."

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