Twelve-year-old – forced to escort his big sister on a theatre trip
He had just parked his Merc outside the main entrance to the school and was walking straight across to me. By the time he reached me he was holding out his hand in a friendly greeting. Close behind came his son, a skinny twelve-year-old, his seventeen-year-old sister and her friend, another sixth-form student of mine. I taught all three of them English.
“Hello Mr Inson. How are you?” He shook my hand and smiled. I’m glad we’ve caught you. I needed to have a word with you and it’s rather important.” He looked round at the three youngsters.
“It’s about the theatre trip.”
There was an evening theatre trip arranged for my sixth-form group. Both the girls were due to come and I had made it very clear that it was important to take any opportunity to watch a play that we were studying.
“I’m sorry that I haven’t caught up with you and explained sooner, Mr Inson.”
He was looking at me now with his hands turned out towards me.
“I’m sure you’ll understand, Mr Inson, but it’s my faith, I have to respect it. You see, I can’t let my daughter go out in the evening without a male member of the family present. If I ignore the rules of Islam I will be in trouble with my family and my friends. It’s not that I don’t respect you, but I have also to respect my faith.”
The two girls and the younger brother looked on. Father had not raised his voice to me. He was still looking me straight in the face, embarrassed, apologetic.
“I didn’t want to send a note, or a message. I had to tell you myself.”
What was I going to do? The kids were watching. It was a challenge to my way of doing things, but there was a faith to understand and respect and the man was showing his respect for me. There was no point in arguing that the other girl, his daughter’s friend was coming too; she was not a Muslim, not a member of his family. We were trapped, weren’t we?
I was not going to have a row with the man. He had met me several times, at parents’ evenings and other school functions and we got on well. Clearly, neither of us wanted to spoil things, especially with his children looking on.
“Tell me Mr Khan,” I said. “How old does a Muslim boy have to be before he can keep an eye on his sister?”
Mr Kahn looked surprised for a moment.
“What do you mean, Mr Inson, sir?”
“Well, young Aziz here. He’s in one of my classes. It’d be good for him to see the play.”
Aziz was not looking too pleased about this, but his father had got the drift.
“Of course, Mr Inson, of course Aziz can go. What a splendid idea.”
“No problem then Mr Khan.”
“No problem Mr Inson, sir.”
What did Mr Khan have to explain to Mr Inson?
How had the two men got on previously? How were they getting on now?
Why was it important for both men to find a way to resolve the difficulty?