The following article was written by Abdul-Azim; crossposted with permission from his personal blog.


“British Schools: Islamic Rules” ran the title of this week's Panorama on BBC1. It dealt with what it considered questionable material being taught in British schools.

There are several point of response, or rather, themes of objection that I have with the documentary. I highlight them in the hope that others will be able to see the questionable ground upon which the Panorama documentary was based.

OTHERING:

Othering is a process by which one identity is secured in opposition, and often in conflict, with another. In this case, it is the clear distinction between British and Islamic.

For many, myself included, there is little conflict between the two. Like millions of Muslims in the UK, I am confident in my British nationality and the Islamic principles and teachings I live my life by – and in fact I find many areas of commonality.

Yet the show with its title (British Schools: Islamic Rules) directly proposed an antithesis between that which is British, and that which is Islamic. This was a theme that reoccurred through out the show.

The presenter criticises some of the schools for teaching anti-Western views (essentially a construction of opposition between Islam and 'the West'), when the show itself is guilty of doing exactly the same in its title and narrative.

EXTREMISM AND CONSERVATISM:

Religious extremism and religious conservatism are two very distinct notions, and must never be conflated if a mature and informed discussion on religion is to take place.

Yet Panorama is sloppy in distinguishing between the two. An example found in the show is of the religious opinion it cites which disfavours music. Yes, this is a position expounded by many scholars within Islam, though not all, and is well within the mainstream of Islamic religious opinion. Does this lead to extremism, or fundamentalism, or indeed anything of concern? Of course not, and importantly, Islam is not the only faith tradition with varying opinions on the role of music.

Again, this amateurism can be found in discussions of 'medieval Islam' and the way that Muslims use the word 'kuffar' (it can be used in a derogatory sense, but also in a technical sense, as scholars of jurisprudence are prone to doing).

CLAIMS OF ANTI-SEMITISM:

It is very difficult to examine the material presented in the documentary regarding anti-Semitism. I watched the documentary with a notepad in hand, but all the issues raised were vague, brief and generalised.

Where there is hate and prejudice being taught in Islamic schools, communities must contest this. But as I can't bring a specific example from the documentary to discuss, I will simply outline what Islam teaches about Judaism, and the equality of humanity in general.

The Prophet Muhammad left no room for doubt about the nature of mankind when he stated in the Farewell Sermon, an important summa theologica of Islam: -

“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white; except by piety and good action”

Jews, along with Christians and Mandaeans are counted amongst the 'People of the Book', and honoured title within the Qur'an used for the Abrahamic traditions.

The Constitution of Madinah, a social contract drafted and signed by the Prophet Muhammad, states in strong terms that between Muslims and Jews 'there shall be sincere friendship, exchange of good counsel, fair conduct and no betrayal'.

Islam does not view the 'Children of Israel' in history as a differing religious tradition. Rather the story of the Children of Israel is the story of faith amongst humanity in the Qur'an. And so there are stories of piety and morality, of sin and forgiveness and indeed of sin and condemnation. These are for instruction and reflection of present day believers –Quranic references to Children of Israel should be understood in this context.

GENERALISATION AND SENSATIONALISM:

I refuse to accept the now token disclaimer offered by journalists and presenters who say “not all Muslims are like this, but” and then spend the whole show demonising and misrepresenting Muslims.

Despite almost all the schools mentioned by the documentary receiving 'good' or 'excellent' classifications by Ofsted (a very rare grade), the show then went on listing tenuous claims of 'extremism'.

Often this is done by quoting speakers out of context, with some ominous music playing. This is a common technique, and one which wilfully misrepresents the speakers and the content of their message, and as mentioned, conflates extremism and religious conservatism.

If the issue of Muslim faith schools, and the content of their syllabus, is to be examined, it should be done thoroughly, with adequate time and an objective analysis.

This short documentary, with sloppy terminology, lack of understanding, vague accusations and sensationalism and generalisations of a two million strong Muslim community is anything but the right way to do it.

About the Author: Abdul-Azim is a student at Cardiff University, studying Islam in Contemporary Britain, and is an involved member of the local community, working in the Muslim Council of Wales, Federation of Student Islamic Societies, and other local charity groups.

39 Responses

  1. Haytham

    I really truly believe that islamic schools need to take a closer look at their teachers and curriculum.

    I dont know why we have to wait till the media come knocking on our door to start acting and investigating.. .this is the most repeated tactic that is being used to expose Muslims and their beliefs. Heck, it is why journalism existed in the first place, to keep people in check.

    I have yet to see any Muslim organization that has an “internal affairs” department or a functioning “quality control”… Lets not jump the media every time they report (i agree that some of them are bias and intend ill to Islam and Muslims, but its us that gives them the chance to succeed in their endeavor), and lets jump some of the idiots who run some of our organizations and hold them accountable to what they teach our children!

    Food for thought!

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    • Umar

      This was front page news on the BBC and puts pressure on the very existence of Muslim schools, so I feel the author does have a right to feel aggrieved.

      I can’t comment too much about what br haytham is saying, as I didn’t attend a muslim school, but as I understand the curriculums are not engaging and relevant to the pupils.

      I would extend br Haythams idea to Friday khutbahs. I don’t know if it is just in the uk, the western world in general or the whole ummah, but some of the khutbas I’ve sat through have major room for improvement.

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    • Mansoor Ansari

      Haytham…

      What have they been teaching wrong to begin with that they need to held accountable for it?

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      • Haytham

        I wouldnt know Mansoor. I am not the quality control officer nor am I an education expert to tell you that. The bigger problem is… there arent that many people who can answer your question because we dont have quality control committees who are qualified to monitor the quality of our schools.

        Again, my initial comment was a general comment and not necessarily specific to the BBC program.

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    • Daughter of Adam (AS)

      I haven’t seen the show, but I do attend an Islamic school.. I don’t know about taking a second look at teachers and curriculum in particular. I feel that everything in our community should have more than a second look taken at it… but that’s veering off the point. It’s hard to say “in general”, about Islamic schools because there are so few of them, but I think that a school is a good representation of the interests, levels of maturity/planning, and organization of an entire community. Everything needs to be prioritized and organized better. And I hate saying that, because I feel that before criticizing I need to be able to think of a positive solution as well as offer my own help…
      the only solution I can think of again is to prioritize within a community and be more organized.. we need to all work together to improve our schools and invest in good people more, not buildings…

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  2. Naha

    The Farewell sermon on wikipedia is fake (it is not from an islamic source). The only real SUNNI farewell sermon is found in “Tabari – History of the Prophets and Kings ”

    The one in wikipedia is from the book by a pakistani Author (muslims schoalrs have denounced his version, as it is fabricated)

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  3. Jamshed

    I’m going to assume that Haytham didn’t actually see the programme itself. It was completely one-sided biased reporting all the way through, where everything was sensationalised or left to the power of suggestion. Nothing concrete was presented, and even the comments of scholars and that of classical Islamic text was twisted out of context. At no point was there any attempt to present a balanced point of view, or even two opposing points of view – there was only one side given, and that’s the scary thing!

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    • Haytham

      @ Jamshed,

      I didnt watch the program, however I read about it.

      My issue isnt with the program itself, its much bigger than this. My issue is with our institutions and how they are run, especially with Islamic schools.

      Let me try to explain:

      Let me begin by saying that I will never put my child in an Islamic school due to their incompetency. Rarely (if ever) would you find an Islamic private school that would compete with a catholic or jewish school. Not in education, not in facilities, not in quality of teachers, not in quality of its governing board or its principle.

      The only difference is the “islamic” ambience and curriculum offered by the school.

      The question now shifts from whats bad about an Islamic school to “which is more important, educating my child in a reputable educational institution with no Islamic education or should educate my child in Islamic school and risk his/her educational progress?”

      We all can agree the “religious private schools” have the good and the bad. I have heard and read about sex scandals, drug abuse, and “intolerant” religious teachings in Catholic, Jewish, and Muslim schools… What we would not agree on is the level of education and the quality of teaching offered in Islamic schools vs. Catholic schools for example.

      If that is the case, then what have we done to produce a better education for our children in Islamic schools? Who did we hire to run our schools? What experience do they bring with them? Who teaches in our schools? what qualification and certifications do they bring forth? How about our school facilities? Do we bring forward a state of the art computer, chemistry, biology labs? Do we have an indoor basketball courts and indoor swimming pools? How about a school newspaper? or clubs and organizations within the school? do we have debate teams, football teams? Hows the parent-school relationship like? Are they informed about the children progress in school? are they involved in the process of educating their children?

      Tell me, how much do Islamic schools charge? Where is the money going? how come we seem to be always in need of capital? Is it because we lack the “business” sense to keep any organization afloat? Or is it our leadership who cannot lead or even look 1 year into the future to determine the needs of their students today?

      Questions like these are avoided everyday in almost every Muslim organization/institution, and until we stand up and face them and improve from within rather than superficial improvement………. we will always be an easy prey for those who don’t want us to flourish.

      I hope this makes sense! My initial comment was not about this program in specific, I was talking about a phenomena that exist through the western muslims in general.

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      • ummousama

        Assalamu alaikum,

        How many Islamic schools have you visited? There are some very good Islamic schools in the UK, one of which is Al-Muntada Islamic School.

        It started 20 years ago, very small and nearly closed down a few years later because of a lack of pupils. It grew up a lot and now, people are on waiting list to go there.

        Why are there problems with Islamic Schools?

        1. People expect Islamic Schools to be cheap. It is hard to run a good school for cheap.

        2. Not enough people qualified: this, with time, should get better. 20 years ago, there were very few qualified Muslim teachers; this is changing.

        3. Islamic Schools cannot afford qualified teachers: go back to the first point. Taken from Wikipedia, this is the cost of a private school in the UK:

        Fees range from under £1,000 per term to £7,000 and above per term for a day pupil, with wide variations depending on the age of the child, the staff/pupil ratio and so on – and up to £9,000+ per term for boarding.[15] Many parents must make substantial sacrifices to afford such fees, but there may be a large number of scholarships and burasaries available

        The fees charged by the school I gave above is probably around £4,000 YEARLY now. So, it is at the lower scale of the range of fees with no support from outside. How do you want them to compete with other schools? Yet, they fare very well with the Ofsted.

        4. No external body gives money to those schools. Catholic schools are supported by the Church and Jewish Schools are supported too. Who supports Islamic Schools in the West? Two countries actually run their own schools in some countries: Saudi Arabia and Libya. Unfortunately, in London, Saudi Arabia ditched their own curriculum for the National one and the Libyan School went part-time; otherwise, it was quite a good school before that.

        5. From what it seems, we cannot teach the Shariah in Islamic Schools anymore? If that is the case, it is great time for all Muslims to get out of Britain or out of the West altogether. School cannot teach Shariah, Mosques have to be careful to what they say and how they say it. What will be left of Islam very soon?

        6. As for where the money goes, maybe you should join a trust to see where the money goes. My kids could ask the same question to me: where does our money go? Well, food is not cheap, then there is rent, utilities, school fees, … For trusts, there is rent, tax, wages, tax on wages, utilities and a bit of investment. I have seen my dad raising fund for an organisation in Belgium that didn’t qualify for government or Church help. It is not easy at all, requires a lot of effort and lots of volunteers. It also requires constant donations. Why? Because they give respite to disabled children and want to ask from parents as little as they can afford so they rely on donations. Would they charge parents what other institutions charge, they would be well off and they wouldn’t need donations. Same for Islamic schools.

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      • Amad

        Ya Haytham, be careful of making statements such as “I’ll never put my child in Islamic schools”. When you do become a parent, when you do face a choice between a public school (or even private if you could afford it) where the prom is the event to look forward to 3 years in advance, and an Islamic school which is struggling but could be accompanied with tutoring to make do, you may have to think very hard about the choice you make.

        As for the money that Islamic schools charge, one word… pittance. I have been part of a school. Eventually, we merged it with another, because there was simply not enough support. Most Islamic schools charge a fraction of private schools, and it barely covers expenses, let alone make someone rich. You really need to sit down with an Islamic school finance officer and understand the dynamics.

        There are many Islamic schools that are doing wonderfully well, all over the Western world. Where they are not, it is important to get involved a few years before your child is school-age ready, so that you can become part of the solution, and not the problem. Most of the time, it’s a chicken and egg issue. Parents don’t put their children in because of quality, schools don’t improve because lack of support. Somewhere, Muslim parents have to make the appropriate sacrifice.

        Unless we invest in these schools with our time and money, we will really be sorry when our children graduate from strong academic institutions but turn out to be doubters in Allah.

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      • Sidiq

        Unless we invest in these schools with our time and money, we will really be sorry when our children graduate from strong academic institutions but turn out to be doubters in Allah.

        We can always send them to Almaghrib , a double weekend of some serious aqeedah with Shaykh Yasir aught to do the trick lol! :)

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      • think again

        that’s only if they’re willing to go to AlMaghrib

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  4. Abdul-Azim

    Salaam all,

    Br Haytham, jazakallahu khair for comments.

    I am suprised by your comments regarding the quality of Islamic schools. Almost all the Islamic Schools in the UK I’ve read and seen are highly rated by Ofsted (the regulatory body for education in the UK – why do we need a ‘Muslim’ quality control body when there is a perfectly functioning national one, no state school as a ‘internal affairs’ or ‘quality control’ dept).

    I can’t stress enough how highly Islamic schools rate in Ofsted inspections, I can name a dozen which achieved a ‘good’ and a handful which are rated as ‘outstanding’. This is in a climate when more than half of non-religious state schools achieve only ‘satisfactory’. In fact, there is even a case of a Muslim school helping a nearby state school improve it’s performance.

    I am sure that not all Islamic Schools are amazing, fantastic, wonderful places and some struggle in performance, or financially, or in the content of their teaching. But even that being the case, I think your comment below is highly unfair and slightly unqualified.

    “Let me begin by saying that I will never put my child in an Islamic school due to their incompetency. Rarely (if ever) would you find an Islamic private school that would compete with a catholic or jewish school. Not in education, not in facilities, not in quality of teachers, not in quality of its governing board or its principle.”

    The Panorama show itself was not some expose of Muslim inadequacy in the field of education – rather it was a confused and sensationalist piece of filmaking. The Islamic Schools in the documentary were all rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, confirmed by their own presenter.

    There are lots of things the Muslim community can be criticised on – but the quality of Muslim schools is quite certainly not one of them.

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  5. Mezba

    I have worked with (and my mother was a teacher at) few of the private Islamic schools in Toronto. I would never advise anyone’s kid to attend any private Islamic school that is run cheaply. Most Islamic schools are not only incompetent but also dishonest. I will give some examples.

    - At more than one school, kids of four classes were grouped and taught together. That was 50 students for the teacher (which broke Ontario laws).

    - Teachers were paid very irregularly. Promised wages were deferred and sometimes you had to go to court (I know a couple of teachers who did this via Small Claims Court) to get their wages.

    - Overworked teachers who are expected to deal with situations sometimes they are not qualified for (for example medical emergencies).

    - Unruly kids never disciplined (because their parents would of course then withdraw the student from the school). The problem is multiplied if parent has more than one kid in the school.

    - Generally unqualified teachers (many don’t have Teacher’s certification / experience) and most are just housewives looking to make an extra $$.

    - Non-halal meat sold as ‘halal’ in the cafeteria (if there is one).

    And this is not even the curriculum – which can be another topic for discussion by itself.

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  6. Mansoor Ansari

    iERA’s Response to “British schools, Islamic Rules” Program

    http://www.iera.org.uk/pdf/PRESS_RELEASE_iERA_Responds_to_the_British_Schools_Islamic_Rules_Panora
    ma_Programme.pdf

    Also,

    Brother Ghulam Haydar who is leader of iERA’s ‘Mission Dawah’ Team in Manchester, said;

    “My brother is a teacher at Oldham Academy. The BBC came into film with the pretence of filming the new academy role in promoting community cohesion.. but after filming they wrote back saying “the format of the programme has been changed and they will be editing the footage for the new programme”.. They did not inform the school of the programme..They have used this footage in their BBC panorama programme

    Oldham Academy is a non religious school. The BBC deliberately targeted the school using false pretences to show Bengali majorities and pass it off as a “Islamic School” with non white majorities.. Nothing to do with Islam, Muslims.

    Oldham Academy have reported this to Ofsted and Ofcom”

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    • chemaatah

      There’s nothing unfortunate about this turn of phrase. It’s not a criticism of the position of housewives anywhere, but a statement that some women Mezba’s encountered in some Canadian schools simply have no teaching qualifications. Which makes them just housewives, not teachers. Like some teachers are not Ph.D. They’re just teachers. There’s no reason to assume just was used in a denigrating way here.

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  7. Bushra

    In all honesty, the schools were attacked not for their curriculum but for their associations with speakers and fatwa organisations. Shaykh Riyadh ul-Haq was mentioned as was Shaykh Haitham, both of whom were taken out of context completely and videos of them were shown for two seconds.
    The only school that was attacked for its curriculum is a weekend school that teaches a Saudi curriculum. To be honest, I didn’t find much weight in their arguments against the schools at all.

    I must admit though…some Muslim schools do need to teach better non-isolationism, because some children find it difficult to speak or relate to non-Muslims whilst living in a non-Muslim country. This is, however, down to the parents of the children to teach them how to be this way.

    Nevertheless, I wouldn’t rule out sending my kids to an Islamic school, because a)they score very well with Ofsted and b) I just don’t think secular schools are any better.

    I remember a lot of things about my time at secular primary school and although it was ok, I think things have changed a LOT since then. I wouldn’t want my kids to feel isolated for not being part of the nativity play, or a musical or going to the church to sing Xmas carols. I also want them to be able to express their Muslim side freely. As far as learning about British culture goes, then who better than myself and my husband to teach them that?? We have taken the best of it and have turned it around so that it benefits us rather than rejecting it completely and I want my children to learn to do that too, insha’Allah. At the end of the day, I don’t think it’s a good idea to rule out Islamic schools. Many of them in the UK are excellent, Al Muntada, Al Khair, Islamia Primary (founded by Yusuf Islam), and Gatton School in South London. It seems that the ones in North America are in need of some help, perhaps because they are still new and in need of funding.

    All of the abovementioned are private, except for Gatton School, which is a state-funded school and has received excellent Ofsted reports. If you look into Al Khair’s secondary prospectus, they seem very professional in which they even have a school play at the end of the year. Whilst each school may have its problems, it is down to parents to ensure that the rules their child is taught at school is also enforced within the home, something which is impossible to achieve if your child is attending a secular school, e.g. if female teacher wears hijab, mother should also display that when out and about or in front of non-mahrams. Compare that to a female teacher at a secular school who gets knocked up out of wedlock and tells her students who the father is(true story!).

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    • Yahya Merchant

      The Imam of my local Mosque in Califoenia was educated at a school in UK near Manchester. I will not name it. It was visited by an Inspector who went back to the Department of Education and said that State Schools should be run in as good a way! The Imam has just sent his children to the same school all the way from California. It is almost impossible to get admission unless a family member is an allumni so we should not generalize about schools but check and pick a school with a good record.

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  8. Iftikhar Ahmad

    John Ware is nothing more than an Islamophobe and an Islam basher. To single out Islam as the only religion where such so-called teachings are given proves Ware’s own prejudice, bigotry and hatred.
    The documentary contained many close-up images of hijab-clad girls set to sinister music, as well as slow-motion shots of so-called radical preachers and Muslim men praying in mosques. The message was that Muslim communities are isolating themselves from mainstream society. It gave the impression that Muslim parents who send their children to faith schools are exercising ‘voluntary apartheid’, as one Oldham primary school teacher of South African origin put it.

    West is still racist, xenophobic and Islamophobic. It is unable to forget and forgive the seige of Vienna in 1683.

    Please do not Demonise ISLAM, Read the Noble Quran to understand what ISLAM really is.

    There is a social and economic pressure on bilingual Muslim children that they must speak English, adopt British values and ditch their religious beliefs, to assimilate into this country rather than maintain their cultural traditions and historical ties. Speaking English does not promote integration into British society and broadens opportunities. The result of such a policy is that British schooling is guilty of producing Muslim youths who are angry, frustrated and extremist. Majority of them leave schools with low grades. They find themselves cut off from their cultural heritage and are unable to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Thanks to British schooling.

    It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. Muslims were already disproportionately being targeted by police with programmes such as the Prevent project. Focusing on Muslim schools for investigation would tell Muslim young people “you are different” and further alienate them. Singling out Muslim schools threatened to add to already “dangerous” levels of Islamophobia, which he compared to the amount of anti-semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.

    The Policy Exchange Think-tank should concentrate on institutionally racist British schooling with chicken racist teachers. Muslim parents do not want their children with behaviour probems that include unprovoked aggression, promiscuity, violence, eating disorder, bullying and alcohal. According to ATL, teachers believe behaviour is worse than it was five years ago, with even five year olds being disrespectful, intimidating and violent. This is the true picture of British borken society and the Muslim community does not want to be integrated.
    Iftikhar Ahmad
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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    • Yahya Merchant

      My son went to a supposedly good school here in USA. Academically, it was good with very high numbers going on to University. I wondered why he always rushed to the toilet as soon as he got home. So one day I asked him why he did not use the toilets at school. He told me because that is where the kids went to smoke pot! So I said dont the teachers know. He told me of course as they smoke pot there too!!!

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  9. Abdul-Azim

    Salaam,

    @Mezba – it seems we’ve had different experiences of Islamic schools. I suppose Canada and the UK are different – but importantly, I think the UK shows that faith schools can work.

    @Bushra – isolationism isn’t great, but it’s not terrible.

    First – it’s the natural reaction of a migrant community when it finds itself in an unfamiliar enviroment. It is a temporary stage, but all migrant communities have gone through this stage, and so too will the Muslims. Isolation is needed for the community to resolve many internal debates about their own confidence and the way they want to engage with the majority culture and norms.

    Second – there is a conception that by chucking lots of different kids together, they will learn to get along, not be racist/prejudice. This isn’t true.

    If interaction is to produce toleration, respect and engagement it needs the different partners to be on equal terms, with equal resources, and a strong shared common ground.

    Many state schools are ethnically diverse, but there is a huge amount of racism that exists since due to various factors, the different groups begin othering each other.

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    • Bushra

      @Bushra – isolationism isn’t great, but it’s not terrible.

      Oh, I totally agree with you. It’s not a terrible idea. I think too much exposure to too many things at a young age can be quite damaging. It’s important to maintain isolation in healthy doses.

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  10. Djalili

    I’m confused, did any of you see the same programme as me?! Panorama started with praise for most Muslim schools, showing Al-Furqan as an example of what most schools are doing right. To show that 5,000 British children are attending classes where they are encouraged to despise Jewish people and homosexuals is important work. This should not happen. Of course they use dramatic imagery and music – this is television!

    I am a secondary school teacher. I’ve worked in both Muslim faith schools and secular British schools. While the faith schools did not tolerate any of the isolationist practices highlighted in the programme, the pupils there often lived in a bubble, with very little interaction with the greater society. When I told my students that most of my friends weren’t Muslim, because I have friends from many different faiths and ethnicities, they were shocked. They shouldn’t be! We live in a country where Muslims represent a small proportion of the population, so naturally we should have entourages of various beliefs.

    My parents chose to bring me up in this country, because we could have a better life here than in their homelands. I feel very lucky for the opportunities that decision has afforded me. As a result, I think that any preachers who criticise Western values and yet enjoy the benefits of this country are extremely disrespectful. Undoubtedly British society has its problems, but I’d rather live here than anywhere else. Nobody in the position of educator, whether it be at a weekend or after-school class, should be exposed to the language of hatred of the other. How can we possibly cry about Islamaphobia when we refuse to acknowledge that some of our own community’s role models are xenophobic themselves?

    I urge you to watch the programme again and to realise that it raises issues we need to face. Instead of being defensive, this should wake us up. Yes, these negative elements are in the minority, but they are still there. Just as I would advocate battling the doctrines of the BNP, so I think we need to face our own demons.

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    • Julia Afaghi Simmons

      If you can go to a country that subjugates other countries with the help of a strong bully ally of America and I mean: Britain and live better than your old Arab country that is nice for you. That is like a jew who became freinds with Nazis because he could live better thru the WWII hell. As a woman I have often taken that way out of pain and suffering: be with the winners. But what if the winners have turned into smirking liars like Blair. He actually laughs and smirks about his lies and you need to watch that whole investigation they did into how the Iraq war started to see just what kind of sneaking outside the law that Bush and Blair did to start their “shock and awe” attack on Iraq. Countries that are the superpowers need to be watched for these kinds of tricky secret agreements to deceived millions of people into useless bloodshed, torture and destruction of water and electricity for innocent civilians who they were supposed to be “liberating”. Okay so live in London amongst high society and sit in a coffee house and talk about Palestine from a whole different viewpoint than the poor Palestenian sheepherder whose huts are mowed down by Isreali bulldozers. You no longer are the Afghani pregnant woman who was shot at a checkpoint on ther way to deliver the baby. Now you shop at Harrods and listen to pop music and have your steak and potatoes. Others are being stomped on.

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    • ummousama

      Assalamu alaikum,

      Did I live in a bubble when living in London? Maybe. All my friends were Muslims. I interacted though very easily with my son’s doctors and therapists and teachers. I was very well respected in the market I used to buy from and I always had a smile for and from those who served me in the local supermarket. Does this mean I lived in a bubble?

      My family is non-Muslim so I interact with them but I feel more and more distant from their lifestyles as it can be. Why? All they talk is about holidays and buying a house and things that are not in my interest anymore. They work to be able to go on holidays. My brother goes on holidays 7-8 times a year; yet when I hear that, I can see the emptiness of their lives. Alhamdulillah, I don’t need that to be happy. They speak about their latest invitation, … My family organised a big invitation two months ago because my brother turned 50 and my father 80. It made me sad when my dad said that it was the best celebration they had since my parents celebrated their 25 years of marriage. That was 27 years ago. How empty is that kind of life? BTW, my dad is a “bon vivant” as we say in French, he is a very well-balanced individual, optimistic in nature, never put down because of problems and never been depressed or felt low.

      Alhamdulillah, I came from Europe and went to live in a developing Muslim country. I gave up some of my comfort for my kids’ sake so that they have better opportunities to learn the deen, Quran and the Arabic language (even though they were fluent before moving).

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      • ivoryTower

        @ummousama

        I don’t understand why you keep calling your relative’s lives ‘empty’? Do you have any evidence to prove that their lives are ‘empty’, when you yourself said that your father was “optimistic in nature, never put down because of problems and never been depressed or felt low.” That does not sound like a person with an ‘empty’ life?

        BTW, why do we as muslims automatocally assume that if someone is going on holiday or having a fabulous party, or having fun in general, then their lives must be ‘empty’. As if all muslims who pray and fast all have tremendeously fulfilling lives. I just dont get it.

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      • Linda (part II)

        I agree 110% percent with the above comment. Thank you for sharing it.

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      • Ummousama

        My dad’s life is not empty but I consider my brother’s life empty. The difference? My dad believes in God, my brother doesn’t. My dad is a volunteer and tries to impact other people’s lives, my brother doesn’t. There is nothing wrong with having fun but it is wrong that your goal in life is to have fun. There is nothing wrong with going to work; indeed, it is very noble to go to work, but there is a problem if life=work and you neglect your family or never do anything else. There is nothing wrong in being a da’ee, indeed it is encouraged to be a da’ee but it may become wrong if your family is neglected. Islam is the religion of moderation and of balance.

        If what drives you in life is the next party or the next holiday, then I consider your life empty. If what drives you is being a good Muslim, then you have fulfilled the reason why you were created. If what drives you is making a difference in the world you live in, then you have accomplished a great deal.

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  11. Julia Afaghi Simmons

    Thank you for very interesting information about muslim schools. I am glad that there are some great ones and sad to hear there are some bad ones. It is nice to know that people of our religion can raise their children the way they feel is right and give them the education to form them into the kind of humans their culture and religion and families want. One of the saddest things I have watched happen in America is the removal o all differences and cultures from peoples. This goes along with the frustration when travelling of realizing every town has the same set of restaurants: i.e. McDonalds, Burger King, Denny’s, etc. In California they would build whole new huge towns. And they all look just alike and have the same stores, churches, schools and businesses mostly.

    My mother always said “It takes all kinds of people to make a world”.. Thank goodness there are those like many who wrote on here that are holding onto your individuality and right to believe as you see fit. I personally hate to think of the upcoming generations having a religion called “capitalism” or “consumerism”…but if we don’t watch it — that may actually happen. Thank you from Oregon.

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  12. Abdul-Azim

    Salaam,

    Just a general note – I feel we should be careful not to generalise our statements.

    We may have had an anecdotal experience relating to Muslim schools, but this is far from conclusive that all are like this, or that we’ve fully understood the factors behind our experience.

    And in the absence of proof otherwise, let’s hold a good opinion – husn ad-dhun and all!

    Jzk khair,

    Salaam.

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  13. Salam

    As-salamu Alaykum,

    I think that you cannot compare Islamic schools in the UK with Islamic schools in other countries, unless you have actually lived in both countries and have intimate knowledge of how the schools are run. I do not understand why people from the U.S., Canada and elsewhere are commenting on the British schools as though they are the same everywhere.

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  14. Joshua

    This is the NY Times write-up of the documentary.

    I think the important question, for giving proper context, is balance. Christians do say those of all other faiths are destined for hellfire. It shouldn’t be shocking to hear Muslims saying similar things. If you disagree, that’s fine, but people who thought each other were going to hell can live together in civil society just fine.

    Saying “Jews look like monkeys and pigs,” describing how homosexual behaviour should be punished by death (of what sort is a subject of debate) is not something that you can say and still live together in civil society. Talking about Jewish intent toward world domination is part of a long and bloody tradition of excuses for persecution. It’s analogous to those who talk about the imminent threat of al-Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood imposing Sharia law on the west. If they have a vast conspiracy, of course they’ll lie and say they’re moderates while they plot to mix our children’s blood in their Matzo for passover!

    I’ve got my prejudices confused.

    My point is, the program, as edited, says clearly offensive things. There’s no reason to defend any of it. Don’t complain about the program, get the other side of things. Actually create a fuller context for these supposed events (what context justifies asking children to list the offensive things about Jews?) rather than complain about the lack of context in the program.

    “Othering” is what the schools were apparently doing to Jews and homosexuals. Standing with them is only self-inflicted othering.

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  15. Abdul-Azim

    Dear Joshua,

    Thanks for your response.

    The point of my article was to highlight the issues I had with the documentary. I completely agree that there needs to be media produced by the Muslim community which offers the other side – which gives the context, which highlights the good and generally counteracts sensationalist and not-so-positive media. Yet I still feel there is a role to make particular comments about the documentary. Part of the reason I wrote it (for my personal blog) was because several people had asked me to comment, including a Jewish co-student in my university.

    Something I didn’t add in the article, but wish I did, was a clearer and stronger message condemning anti-Semitism. It has no place in Islam whatsoever. That is obvious I hope.

    The reason I took a distanced stance from the textbooks was because I am slightly skeptical of the claim that it is used to teach 5000 Muslim students in the UK. I’ve yet to manage to get my hands on a copy of it, let alone know of any schools that use it. I wanted to ascertain more reliable facts beforehand. I also wanted to see a copy since I wanted to make certain the text said what the show claimed it did. I do so, since although I wouldn’t be terribly suprised if the textbooks were anti-Semitic, it would be an injustice if I didn’t clarify the facts beforehand.

    In the spirit of positive media, he’s a video I hope you’ll take 10 minutes to watch. :)

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  16. Iftikhar Ahmad

    Academies bill will enable a radical overhaul of England’s schools, giving every school the chance to convert to an academy and giving parents the right to create free schools outside the control of LAs.The new schools will drive up standards and the education would be in accordance with the needs and demands of the parents. It will help native Brits, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities to set up their own schools for the education of their children. It is nothing to do with integration or segregation. Segregation already exists in British schoolings, it is not going to widen. President Obama supports free schools in America because they have benefitted the least well off the most. Educating children is the priority.

    It is wrong to assert that a small unrepresentative group of Muslim activists tried to Islamises a state primary school in Woking. The silent majority of Muslim parents would like to send their children to state funded Muslim schools. They are not extremists who want to change of ethos of those schools where Muslim children are in majority. It is the democratic right of every Muslim parent to see that their children receive balanced education, so that when their children grow up, they do not find themselves cut off from their cultural roots and linguistic skills. It is a question of common sense, humanity and reason that bilingual Muslim children must be educated in state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. The whole world believes that people who speak more than one language is a vital economic asset. Pupils who speak more than one language do not cause difficulties. It is the politicians and monolingual teachers who are the problems for bilingual pupils. Muslim school will help to cultivate the child into a healthy, fully flourishing individual with a passion for learning. There are hundreds of state and church schools where Muslim children are in majority. In my opinion, all such schools may be opted out as Muslim Academies.

    Muslim schools are not only faith schools; they are more or less bilingual schools. Bilingual Muslim children need to learn and be well versed in Standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. State schools with monolingual teachers do not teach Standard English to Migrant children. Bilingual Muslim children learn English in the playgrounds and in the streets. They speak street language with its own grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The teachers let them speak the same accent in the classroom. They have no courage to stop them or correct them. This is one of the main reasons why one third of children have difficulties with reading when they leave primary schools. Majority of such children are Muslims. In other European countries and in the sub-continent argot and slang are not allowed into the classroom. In Britain primary school teachers do not feel that it’s their role to interfere with self-expression in any shape or form. They encourage children to read poems and stories written in ethnic dialects.

    Muslim faith schools are more or less bilingual schools. Priority will be given to the teaching of Standard English, Arabic, Urdu and other community languages. All Muslim children will learn and be well versed in Standard English and Quranic Arabic and at the same time they will learn and be well versed in one of the community language to keep in touch with their cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. Majority of children will learn Urdu language because it is a lingua franca of the migrants from the sub-continent. And majority of British Muslims are from Pakistan and their national language is Urdu.
    IA
    http://www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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