Richard Dawkins, author of books on evolution and religion (“The God Delusion”) and noted atheist, has criticized Muslim faith schools for teaching their students “alien rubbish”, as they continue to ignore scientific evidence in favour of creationism. Drawing on material from the Times Educational Supplement, the Daily Mail and the BBC quote Dawkins as saying that he has concerns with all faith schools, but Muslim ones worried him the most, as their teaching is more likely to be influence by a religious agenda. According to the BBC, the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslims4UK have already responded to Dawkins’s allegations and stressed that it was important for faith schools to come to terms with evolution and modern-day findings and teach science to children.
The views of leading UK Muslims on some of the most contentious issues affecting Muslims in Britain are to be compiled and published online in the second phase of a groundbreaking project.
The initiative, called “Contextualising Islam in Britain”, first ran in 2009 and will bring together about 30 Muslim scholars, academics and activists to address a range of topics. These include, among others, Islamic faith schools, Islam and gender equality, the relationship between the individual and the community, and political participation.
It will be hosted by the University of Cambridge, working in association with the Universities of Westminster and Exeter. The group’s findings will be released to the public in a full report which it is expected will be published online and made available for free download in June.
The project is the second phase of an initiative originally conceived and funded by the last Government as part of the “Prevent” strategy, which is currently under review, to combat extremism. It will, however, be fully independent of both the Government and of the Universities involved.
Schools Secretary Ed Balls is facing legal challenges from faith groups and individuals over his announcement of mandatory sex education lessons for pupils. Religious groups reacted with anger to the move by the Schools Secretary, which will make it compulsory for all pupils aged 15 will learn about relationships, sex and drugs over the course of a year. The age of consent in the UK is 16.
The Muslim Council of Britain vowed to mount a challenge to the new laws that it says contravene the right for children to be taught according to their parents’ tradition. Shahid Akmal, chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain’s education committee, said parents would be forced to break the law because of their beliefs. “It will cause difficulty,” he said. “I cannot condone people breaking the law, but it will be an individual decision and some parents will feel that it’s the only option open to them.”
The new legislation will also force faith schools – at least one forth of all British schools – to teach more than just the biology of reproduction and include lessons on contraception, homosexuality and civil partnerships.
La Réussite (Ibn Rushd) school in Aubervilliers, France is collapsing under the weight of its debts, its headteacher recently reported. Many critics have pointed to the French government for denying it the same grants given to other faith schools. According to the Guardian newspaper, with a 1959 law, over 8000 Jewish and Christian schools receive state grants; none of France´s four French Muslim schools have qualified. With the school´s debts reaching approximately €300,000, the school has turned to charitable donations. La Réussite was approved in July 2003 and became the country´s first Muslim school. It follows the same curriculum as state schools, and became one of the most successful schools nationwide, with a 100% Baccalaureate rate. Administrators of the school cite its importance since the banning of the hijab in state schools four years ago.
The first state-funded Islamic school in Scotland could get the go-ahead soon after First Minister Alex Salmond declared that he was sympathetic with the move. A spokesman for Salmond said: “We are very much sympathetic to the idea. The First Minister is supportive. He thinks that faith schools are a good thing and they make a great contribution to Scotland. The issue is whether there is a sustainable demand for them. Campaigners for the school are planning to submit a detailed proposal to the Glasgow City Council. However, former Scottish education minister Sam Galbraith condemned the move, saying that it would hinder integration by the Muslim community.
The football-loving archbishop tipped to be the next leader of Britain’s Roman Catholics talks to our correspondents Helen Rumbelow and Alice Miles On Wednesday afternoon in Birmingham a young Muslim woman found herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. The doors of St Chad’s Cathedral opened and hundreds of men surged out, their yellow robes flapping in the sunshine. She, in black robes, glanced back, alarmed, and broke into a run. She had better keep running. Last out was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, agitator-in-chief and hot tip to be the Church’s next leader in Britain. He had just blessed the priests of his diocese, urging them to fight a culture that he said was becoming aggressively antireligious. Name a controversy where politics and religion meet and invariably the Archbishop’s name pops up. Faith schools? It was he who forced the Government to back down on admissions quotas. Gay adoption? His views made him the liberals’ punchbag. So why, we asked as we met after the service, did he think that Britain had become so antireligious? He thought for a moment and his gentle Liverpudlian accent at first beguiled us to the strength of his opinions. It turns out that it is the Muslims’ fault, because the unease the West has with them gives other faiths a bad name. The acts of terrorism have shaken people’s perception of the presence of faiths in this country and around the world and I just wish there was a bit more differentiation in the reflection about the role of faiths in society. Some politicians jumbled all faiths into one. Sometimes the anxieties that are expressed around faith schools are actually to do with Islamic schools. And when you press a politician they say, _Well of course we don’t mean Catholic schools and we don’t mean Church of England schools’, but they still hesitate to move away from the umbrella phrase of faith schools. […]
AMIT ROY Foreigners who want to apply for British nationality will have to pass a Britishness test from tomorrow, the home office announced today. Out of 24 multiple choice questions, candidates will have to get three-quarters right before being eligible to apply for British nationality. The idea, which has gained momentum after the London bombings of June 7, is to create a society in which people feel proud to belong to Britain. Tony McNulty, Tony Blair’s immigration minister, said today: Becoming a British citizen is a milestone event in an individual’s life. He explained: The measures we are introducing today will help new citizens to gain a greater appreciation of the civic and political dimension of British citizenship and, in particular to understanding the rights and responsibilities that come with the acquisition of British citizenship. While urging people to become more British, the government has pursued policies which is having the opposite effect. It is allowing the setting up of faith schools, mainly Muslim, within the state system. Their supporters have argued that if Christians and Jews can have their own schools, Muslims, too, should be allowed the same right. While this argument has intellectual force, it does encourage children to grow up without developing natural friendships with pupils from other faiths. There are a couple of Hindu schools and a Sikh one is in the pipeline. But Hindus and Sikhs seem less enthusiastic about sending their children to faith schools. On the other hand, a whole generation of Indian immigrants, mainly women, has lived in Britain for more than 30 years without bothering to learn English. The same is true of Pakistanis, notably Mirpuris, in Bradford and other cities in Yorkshire and the West Midlands. As for the Britishness test, foreigners will have to pay _34 to sit the 45-minute exam, which can be taken at any one of 90 centres through the country. Those who fail can take the computer-based exam again and again. The Life in the UK test, based on a handbook, is intended to examine a candidate’s knowledge of everyday life in the country in such areas as British regional accents, the Church of England, the courts and the telephone system. Sample Questions Revealed Today Are Of The Type: _ Where are the Geordie, Cockney, and Scouse dialects spoken? What are MPs? What is the Church of England and who is its head? _ What is the Queen’s official role and what ceremonial duties does she have? Do many children live in single parent families or step-families? _ Which of these courts uses a jury system? Magistrates’ Court? Crown Court? Youth Court? County Court. _ Is the statement below true or false? Your employer can dismiss you for joining a trade union. _ Which two telephone numbers can be used to dial the emergency services? 112? 123? 555? 999? _ Which of these statements is correct? A television licence is required for each television in a home. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home. (Answers to the last four questions are: 1. Crown Court 2. False 3. 112 and 999 4. A single television licence covers all televisions in a home) Last year more than 110,000 people were awarded British citizenship, according to the home office.