The Malaysian children held in Sweden need their own family

By Marianne Haslev Skanland
professor emeritus
Oslo, Norway

This article was first published in Free Malaysia Today (FMT), with the title Ask Sweden to return kids to M'sia, on 29 January 2014, and in abbreviated version in New Straits Times, with the title CHILD PROTECTION CASE: Try to bring kids home, on 31 January 2014.

This is the first of three articles written for publication in Malaysia when four Malaysian children had been taken by the child protection agency in Sweden and placed in a foster home, while the parents were jailed pending trial. A summary of my articles is found here: A child protection case Malaysia / Sweden, with links to the other two articles.


The plight of the Malaysian children in foster care in Sweden and their jailed parents has been given great publicity in Malaysia. Making matters public is very important and it is the right reaction, I am sure. Swedish authorities may say the opposite and the Malaysian authorities may reason that common sense put forward through quiet, friendly diplomacy and compliance - avoiding supportive 'activism' and publicity - is going to solve the case. That this is their hope is indicated by the fact that Malaysian embassies abroad whom some of us have called with a view, not to throw our weight about, but to give them some rather important information about such cases in our countries, have apparently been instructed to refuse all contact with 'activists' and the like.

But the child protection systems in Western countries, not least in Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia, are beyond ordinary, humane reasoning. Yes, what has happened to the Malaysian family is out of proportion, but this case is not an exception, it is the norm. It happens to literally thousands of families here, most of them of our own, European culture and ethnicity. Some of us have published articles and books about the wayward child 'protection' here for years but the development in practice and legislation has gone from bad to worse. You will find unlimited amounts of information on the internet to warn you of the realities. I can forward any number of links to your newspapers, blogs, websites - to your authorities too, for that matter.

Malaysian publicity, however, good as it is, has so far mostly concentrated on whether or not physical punishment/correction of children is good or bad, whether the Swedish reaction is overdone, whether the parents are treated well in jail in Sweden (no danger of anything else), and their Muslim children having been placed in a non-Muslim foster-home.

These may be important questions for general debate, but they are not the most important ones in the present situation for the family. The grave danger is actually not even whether the parents will spend a few months in a Swedish jail, but that the Swedish authorities will never voluntarily let go of their children again no matter what the outcome of a trial over physical punishment.

The child protection actions exercised in the Malaysian case do not primarily spring from discrimination, not religious, not cultural, not ethnic. Yes, when social workers find foreign habits and customs they can fix on and use against parents, they do so. Yes, a sizeable proportion of Swedes think religion uncivilised and consider it an abuse to force it on children. But if there are no such factors to be found, social workers use, even invent, something else. Scandinavian families can tell you all about the attacks, the arguments, often untrue, that have been levelled at them and have prevailed in court so that the children have been taken from their families for good.

Children, of all countries, nations, religions, cultures do not only need a certain way of living; this is not enough. They need their own parents, and - failing that - grandparents or other relatives to live with in their daily lives.

I am sure that family love - the natural feeling of togetherness in one's family - is so self-evident to most Malaysians that you perhaps do not even think it has to be mentioned or emphasised. But the child-protection-thinking of our countries has ousted the biological family altogether in their ideology, as just a 'complication'. Social workers, holding extreme power over the children, are of the opinion that 'new parents' (and in particular their selected foster-parents) are better for children than the children's own, biological parents if the parents do not meet with the approval of the 'child experts'. And parents so often do not, because 'parental rights' would put the whole system of social workers, child psychologists, foster-parents, child experts at police stations and in schools and allied units, out of business.

I hope Malaysians will think about this and read as much as possible about it. Really understanding how Western child protection operates will prevent wasting time with arguments and ideas that are not going to impress Swedish authorities even one little bit.

Demand that the children be sent home to Malaysia, without delay, to their relatives there! Do not wait for the outcome of Swedish court cases. The parents will have to return home when they can. The children are now in the power of the social services of Sweden and the parents have no right to get them back once they are in the power of the state. Here in Norway (next-door neighbour to Sweden) it took heavy pressure from even the Indian prime minister to get Norway to at long last release two Indian children who were taken on the utterly false basis of a spurious, popular 'diagnosis' of a perfectly normal relationship between the children and their perfectly normal, caring mother. Once the children were back in India, she was able to be reunited with them by taking the case to Indian courts, but the Norwegian social services had even tried to force her to sign away every right to go to court in India!

But this was just one case among so many. The Western policies of child 'protection' by child 'experts' are out of control and as long as there is no major awakening among our politicians and general population, non-Western countries should probably consult together and take a firm stand: The children are your nationals and have committed no crime, so demand them back! It is the only thing that will save them from the meaningless, forced separation from all their family for the whole rest of their childhood and youth until they are of age.


Other articles about the Malaysia / Sweden case:

Malaysian family in Sweden – children taken
Forum Redd Våre Barn, 22 January 2014 –