“Wherever children access learning, particularly where they spend a lot of time in an out-of-school setting, we want to be confident that they are safe and are being taught in a way which prepares them for life in modern Britain and to actively contribute to society. We want to be sure that teaching is compatible with, and does not undermine, fundamental British values.”
The quotation is from the Government’s call for evidence for its controversial plans to regulate primarily Muslim madrasas. The brief consultation period was for some reason organised over the quiet Christmas period and furthermore uncommonly cut from the usual 12 week period to close on January 11. But already it has been overwhelming rejected by over 500 mosques and Islamic organisations throughout Britain.
It comes after Prime Minister, David Cameron, decided to suddenly target voluntary out-of-school teaching and threatened to close some of them down. “In some madrasas, we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people,” he told the annual Conservative Party Conference in October.
The Government goes through the formality of holding consultations as part of the policy making process ahead of introducing legislative changes. Currently more than 3,000 are being held though probably few as important as altering the fabric of society. It is a constant battle to broaden its powers by seeking to interfere with and control other pillars, including religion.
As reported elsewhere in this paper, the Conservatives are being accused of being trying to regulate religions under the guise of registering “out-of-school” education settings. “Government sanctioned religious education will lead to alienated faith communities and unduly encroaches on the legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children their faith”, the mosques warned in a joint statement warned.
For the first time, it seems that the targeting of Muslims is no longer underhand. The Prime Minister told The Daily Telegraph that these proposals won’t target Christian Sunday schools or scouts i.e. will focus on only on Islamic madrasas. And Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, was asked by Channel 4 News: “I take it if a teenager comes home and says they want to be a member of the C of E you wouldn’t expect teachers to press alarm buttons?”, to which she replied, “No, of course not” even though the website she just launched said that “recent rapid conversion to any new religion” should be considered a warning sign of radicalisation.
The encroachment like so many others into the lives of Muslims is being linked with the discredited Prevent Extremism strategy. “There is growing evidence in other educational settings that the application of ‘S.21 Prevent Duty’ within nurseries, schools, colleges and universities has been misapplied due to the vague nature of terms like extremism and the flawed theory of radicalisation,” the statement said.
The campaign against Government meddling is to ‘Keep Our Masjids and Madrasas Independent and Free From Government Interference.’ Suspicions that it has always been the intention of successive governments to have state control of Islam are not new; and want to repeat the control it already exerts over the Church of England to a large degree. The intrusion is highly unwelcome and unnecessary and the Prime Minister ought to take note to the replies to the consultations.