Finland: Islam in schools should contribute to anti-radicalization

Finnish pupils in elementary education have started their school year of 2016 with a new national curriculum. In Finland, every school is obliged to offer subject education in Islam for Muslim children, when at least three students would select it instead of the majority Evangelic Lutheran religious education or alternatively Ethics. Whereas until now the contents of teaching and learning for minority religion subjects (i.e. not Evangelic Lutheran) such as Islam, Baha’i, Mormonism etc. were determined in a separate document, the curriculum for Islam has been revised so that it is now for the first time included in the new national curriculum.

The change means that Islam as a school subject is now treated with the same degree of attention as all the other subjects are. As for each religious subject the curriculum is categorized into three different content areas; “Relationship to one’s own religion”, “Religious diversity in the world” and lastly “Good life principles”, the contents of Islam are hence comparable also with other religious subjects such as Catholicism and Judaism, ensuring equal literacy in their respective religions for students of these subjects.

The new curriculum aims at empowering the pupils of today to be able to deal with issues concerning the Finnish society in the early 21st century. The content areas outlined for the subject of Islam throughout the class levels 1-9 include for example reflections on religion as part of one’s cultural identity, the historical influence of Islam in the European culture, political Islam, inter-religious dialogue and religion in media and popular culture. Moreover, alongside with the traditional content-based learning the new curriculum emphasizes phenomenon-based learning in all subjects. Hence, for example in Islamic education children are encouraged to research and learn about current trends and phenomena in the society and analyze and critically think about them from the standpoint of their religion. The curriculum gives as well more space to co-operation across subjects, while for example visits to local worship places (e.g. churches or mosques) can be done together with Muslim and Christian student groups.

The importance of religious school education has been lately discussed in the Finnish media in terms of how it prevents radicalization and enhances social cohesion. The sociologist Karin Creutz commented in an interview that when Islam is taught in the schools, it will give tools and skills for the Muslim children and youth to understand and know their religion and hence avoid being drawn into radicalism and the dark-side of the violent Islamism, like the Islamic State. Also the Islam school teacher Suaad Onniselkä confirmed on a radio program what Creutz was as well had argued for, that Islam as a school subject will contribute positively to the construction of the Self-identity among Muslim children in Finland. Hence, according to Onniselkä, religion functions as an empowering element.

When Islam is now taught in schools on a comparable level with other religious subjects, it will support holistically the understanding of differences in religious structures and culture as such. Such a school education shall help to raise generations who will be enabled to build world peace. Yet, education in religious literacy should not merely be restricted to school children but should be expanded to the communal level, Creutz again argues. Thus, the general knowledge on religions and the discourse at the societal level should be more inclusive of aspects of religion as part of people’s lives in a world in which religions are falsely stigmatized in a pseudo-secularized society.

France-Qatar Agreement

January 28, 2014


France and Qatar signed an agreement to regulate problems that had emerged in the Lycée Voltaire in Doha. The agreement stipulates that Islamic studies and Arabic will be implemented in the school, and separation between male and female students will be reinforced in its future secondary school.

The president of the school’s administration board declared, ‘our French friends have been understandings, since it is essential is to let French-speaking Qataris remain close to their language and religion.’

The school, founded in 2007 by the Mission Laique France, had already experienced conflicts over the nature of the curriculum with their Qatari counterparts disagreeing with some of the science and history books. The Lycée Voltaire, numbering a thousand students, is now run by Qatar.



Muslim Council attacks Gove’s proposed history curriculum

13 April 2013


The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) one of the UK’s leading Islamic organisations has warned that plans to revise the school history curriculum risks ignoring the Muslim contribution to western civilisation – an omission that will only foster alienation.


The MCB says the plans ignore the contribution of Indian Muslim, Hindu and Sikh soldiers to two world wars, particularly on the western front in the First World War. They also, it adds, fail to acknowledge “the preservation and enhancement of ancient Greek and Roman learning by classical Muslim civilisation, which percolated into Europe via Spain and Italy, leading to the European Renaissance”.


It is not the first body to criticise the proposals. In a joint statement the Historical Association and the Royal Historical Society claim the curriculum has been drafted “without any systematic consultation”.

France’s first state-contracted Muslim school

Ouest France


Of the 25 Muslim educational facilities in France, the Lycée Averroès in Lille,  a Muslim private school, is the only one to be funded by the French state. In accordance with French law, the Islamic faith practiced in the institution is one coined by tolerance and inclusiveness of non-Muslims.

The school was opened in 2003 and started with 12 students.  After having successfully run the school with a 100% BAC success rate, the school started to attract state funding. As a result, teachers started to be paid by state salaries and the school could provide almost free education to its students. Today, there are 290 students enrolled in the Muslim school, which is open for admission to anyone, including non-Muslims. The curriculum is similar as to of Catholic schools in France, recognizing both Catholic and Islamic holidays and refraining from proselytising.

Investigation Looks For Muslim Bias In Texas Schools, Finds Christian Bias Instead

A bizarre chain email sent to district and school board officials in the Dallas area this October titled “IRVING ISD INDOCTRINATING ISLAM” inspired a recent investigation of “Islamic bias” in the district’s curriculum. Despite the outlandish claims, the district requested that an official from the organization that created the curriculum to respond. The results of a 72-page investigation done by the organization were not surprising: there’s a Christian bias in schools, not a Muslim one.


The official told the board that a bias toward Islam didn’t exist, even mentioning that “she hired a ‘very socially and fiscally conservative’ former social studies teacher who ‘watches Glenn Beck on a regular basis’ to seek out any Islamic bias in CSCOPE [the curriculum].” She “asked her to look for anything she would consider the least bit controversial.” The Dallas Morning News has the details of an investigation that mentioned “every religious reference in the CSCOPE curriculum, from kindergarten to high school”:


– Christianity got twice as much attention in the curriculum as any other religion. Islam was a distant second.


– The Red Crescent and Boston Tea Party reference mentioned in the email were nowhere in CSCOPE’s curriculum, although they may have been in the past.


– If there was any Islamic bias in CSCOPE it was “bias against radical Islam.”

This isn’t the first time Texas has debated the perceived presence of too much Islam in its school books. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education banned any books that “paint Islam in too favorable of a light.” The reasoning was head-scratching: “the resolution adopted Friday cites ‘politically-correct whitewashes of Islamic culture and stigmas on Christian civilization’ in current textbooks and warns that ‘more such discriminatory treatment of religion may occur as Middle Easterners buy into the US public school textbook oligopoly.’” A Texas based civil liberties advocate said at the time that “the members who voted for this resolution were solely interested in playing on fear and bigotry in order to pit Christians against Muslims.”


Board suspends Toronto Islamic school’s operating permit after row over anti-Jewish curriculum

An Islamic school that had been using teaching materials that dis Jews and encouraged boys to keep fit for jihad has lost its license to use Toronto District School Board property. The board suspended a permit issued to the Islamic Shia Study Centre, which operated the East End Madrassah out of a Toronto high school until an outcry last week over the content of its curriculum booklets.


But the school’s curriculum, which it has now taken off its website, referred to “crafty,” “treacherous” Jews and contrasted Islam with “the Jews and the Nazis.” The passages were from two books published by Iranian foundations. Girls, meanwhile, were told to limit their involvement in physical activities and to instead engage in hobbies that would prepare them to become mothers and wives.

Canadian Muslim Students Enrolling in Catholic Schools

The Globe and Mail – September 6, 2011

At a time when progressive sex education and gay-rights clubs are becoming an increasing part of the secular curriculum, many devout families in Canada’s most populous province are looking for a faith-based approach to learning. In Ontario, however, the only publicly funded faith-based option is Catholic schools – and that’s just fine for some Muslim parents, even if it’s someone else’s faith.

Though at least one parent must be Catholic in order for a student to enroll in a Catholic elementary school, at the high-school level faith doesn’t matter as long as there’s room. Declining high school enrolment has meant that there often is room – about 10 per cent of the pupils attending Catholic boards in the Greater Toronto Area are non-Catholic. In the Catholic board, religious accommodation hasn’t ignited controversy like it has at the Toronto District School Board.

Wanted: Teachers for Islamic Education

The details of the intended introduction of Islamic education in German schools are still uncertain; yet, the demand for well educated teachers for the new subject is already being discussed. As reported earlier this month, the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia aims to introduce the new subject in the autumn of 2012. The state’s education minister, Sylvia Löhrmann, is planning a step-by-step introduction and is already working on the curriculum with the Muslim umbrella organization KRM. While other federal states are making similar progress, again others, such as Hesse, are far behind and not sure yet when Islamic education will be introduced.

As of yet, it is uncertain how many teachers will be needed for the new subject, as the federal states do not know how many Muslim students will actually take up the opportunity to participate in Islamic education. It is certain, though, that these teachers need to be educated adequately; therefore, the University of Münster, for instance, is planning on extending their capacities for the course of study in Islamic education, which was initiated in 2004. Furthermore, the universities in Osnabrück, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Tübingen and Frankfurt have been chosen as future centers of Islam studies. They will receive an additional four million Euros over the next five years to either establish or extend such centers, which are not only meant to train teachers, but also theologians and imams. Both researchers as well as politicians emphasize the key role of such centers for the integration of Muslims in Germany.

Call for Islam classes in Amsterdam

Public elementary schools in Amsterdam’s Slotervaart district attended overwhelmingly by Muslim students face a great need for Islam classes. A study by the Vrije University of Amsterdam reveals that parents favor Islam classes outside regular school hours. Most who want the classes think that curriculum should also be devoted to teaching other religions and life philosophies.

Romania: Religion Debated in Romania Schools

Government education reforms to overhaul religious instruction and modernize curriculum are sparking debate in Romania, concerning the role of religion in schools. “Religious education here indoctrinates, fuelling prejudice against other faiths and against sexual minorities,” said Smaranda Enache, co-president of human rights group Liga Pro-Europa. However, Enache voiced her concern that teaching children to discriminate builds a negative national mentality resulting in the rejection of human differences. The Romanian government proposed education reforms that would introduce alternative to religion classes for pupils. Also under the reform, would include a place for all religious symbols – not just Orthodox icons. Atheists would also be allowed to refused religious education.