Mayor taken to court by own borough council over daughter's truancyBy LUCY BALLINGER
Last updated at 23:00 14 April 2008
Liaquat Ali: Fined £450 by Magistrate
A mayor who took his daughter out of school to go on the Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia has been taken to court by his own council.
Liaquat Ali and his wife Zailnab took their youngest child on a family pilgrimage to Mecca - making her skip school for 12 days.
The whole family including the couple's four other children who have left school - travelled to Saudi Arabia for the Hajj - the largest annual pilgrimage in the world.
The Mayor for Waltham Forest thought he and his wife Zailnab had escaped punishment for the absence of their 14-year-old daughter last December.
But their case went to Waltham Forest magistrates court last week, and they were fined £450 in total for unauthorised absence of their child from school during term time.
Ali, who was a magistrate at the court before he became mayor last year, did not attend the court case.
He claims he had no idea he had been taken to court by his own council until after the fine was imposed.
The councillor called the judgement by a magistrate in Walthamstow last week a 'misunderstanding'.
Ali, who has only been Mayor for 11 months, said: "I didn't know anything about it to be honest.
"Nobody sent us a letter or a summons to the court. I was really surprised when they spoke to me and told me I'd been fined.
"In exceptional circumstances I took my child out of school in order to make a trip abroad with the entire family. I'm sure most parents will understand that it was not an option for us to leave her behind.
"I do however apologise for this decision and wish to make it clear that I would not condone this behaviour in normal circumstances.
"It was sorted out beforehand, although we were a couple of days late getting back."
The Hajj attracts an estimated two million pilgrims every year. Muslims must complete it at least once in their lifetime, so long as they are physically and economically able.
The council's policy on holidays specifically excludes pilgrimages as avoidable absences. Other time off for religious matters is limited to a maximum of three days at the discretion of the school.
A council spokesperson said: "Waltham Forest Council does not condone removing young people unnecessarily from education during term time.
"This disrupts their learning and may lead to young people missing vital lessons.
"The Council will seek to punish those responsible regardless of status or position within the local community."
Ali became a magistrate in April 2004, but stepped down in May 2007 when he was made mayor. He has four sons and a daughter.