Mother of M’sian prodigy sues for divorce

Posted: April 1, 2008 in Iedashi Vs Newspaper

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The Yusof family (from left) Iskandar, Farooq Yusof, Sufiah, Zulaika, mother Hamilaton and Aisha in happier times. — PHOTO: NORTHANTS PRESS AGENCY
LONDON – THE report on Sufiah Yusof working as a prostitute was the final straw for Ms Yusof’s mother, Halimahton, a devout Muslim.

The Daily Telegraph reported on Monday that she left the family home in Coventry to arrange her divorce from her husband Farooq Yusof. The couple’s marriage was already under intolerable strain following his guilty plea last week on charges of indecently assaulting two 15-year-old girls while working as a personal tutor.

The Yusof family’s humiliation was complete.

‘We want nothing to do with my dad,’ said Sufiah’s brother Isaac Abraham, 26, speaking on the doorstep. ‘He was so abusive to us. That’s why Sufiah had to get away.’

Ten years ago, Mr Yusof had been lauded as a pioneer in hothousing – the intensive personal tutoring of young children.

The subject of his experiments in education were his five children. Early life for them was a regime of spartan intensity.

The temperature in the family home was always low to ensure their attention, morning prayers were followed by stretching and breathing exercises.

Television, pop music and anything else that might lead to ‘shallow thinking’ was banned. Fresh air, said Mr Yusof, was essential for a fresh mind.

Punching helped as well. ‘It depended on whatever mood he was in,’ said Abraham. ‘He used to wake us up in the middle of the night by punching our faces. It was awful what he put us through.’

Born in Pakistan, and considered a prodigy himself, Mr Farooq basked in the publicity that followed Sufiah’s admission to St Hilda’s College, Oxford at the age of 13 in 1997. Her siblings Iskander, 12 and Aisha, 16, later studied together in the Warwick University, making them the youngest in university at the time.

Those were happier times for the Yusof family who were hailed as the brightest in Britain.

Mr Yusof stressed that his children’s achievements were the result of his teaching rather than their brains.

Still, Sufiah was the star, the only one to reach Oxbridge. The problem for Mr Farooq was that she had not only a fine mind but one of her own.

Although younger than her contemporaries, Sufiah took part in the campaign against tuition fees and joined a number of university societies, even attending the odd meeting of the Socialist Workers Party.

While her father was promising ‘more Sufiahs’, as if his daughter was some kind of production-line model, she was growing up.

In 2000, Sufiah ran away from Oxford where she was studying maths because she could not deal with the ‘intolerable pressure’ put on her by her parents to succeed.

Two weeks later, she was found in Bournemouth but refused to be reunited with her parents. A bitter email to them followed, describing her childhood as a ‘living hell’.

‘I’ve finally had enough of 15 years of physical and emotional abuse,’ she wrote, claiming that she had twice tried to kill herself at the age of 11.

Her anguish had been met with the nickname Crybaby Soo-Fi. ‘Maybe the public will have a different view of you as devoted parents. I’m not Crybaby Soo-Fi any more.’

Mr Yusof had a history of dishonesty. He was jailed for three years for his part in a 1.5 million-pound mortgage swindle.

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