Though the story broke in a barely-reliable "news" source, it took milliseconds for people to respond in shock and horror to British tab News of the World's claim that 9-year-old Slumdog Millionaire star Rubina Ali was being peddled for adoption by her father.
Let's just say the odds were stacked against Ali's father, Rafiq Qureshi: Ali's biological mother publicly praised the paper for releasing the story, even duking it out over the matter with Qureshi's wife (and Ali's stepmother) in the streets. And people have been naturally suspect of the Slumdog showbiz dad after his name first emerged, amidst controversy--after the film was a raging success, he felt his daughter should have been paid more (despite the fact that filmmakers arranged the Jai Ho Trust to provide the young actors and their families with education and housing needs).
While speaking to CNN with the young Ali, Qureshi did in fact admit to meeting with a wealthy Dubai couple (who turned out to be News of the World journalists), with the rather dubious caveat that he actually never intended to accept money for his daughter, and that he was misunderstood because of his poor English.Ali added:
"'I talked to them in the room,' Ali told CNN of the meeting, conducted by undercover News of the World journalists. 'My dad said I could meet people if I want to, 'But I will never give my daughter away for any amount of money.'"
But here's the rub: although the undercover reporters argue that they have seven hours of taped evidence showing Qureshi and his brother negotiating the sale, the video has no sound. And this week, Mumbai police dropped their investigation of the father, citing a lack of evidence. So perhaps Qureshi didn't attempt this terrible thing, and maybe he did. As is often the case, the truth is difficult to discern amidst the chaos.
All we can say is that we feel deeply for poor Rubina, who really just can't seem to catch a break. And to anyone who's actually thinking about it, might we suggest following PETA's advice (not something we'd often do), merely applying it to adorable, talented, potentially-up-for-grabs children: