Proposed Multi-faith Schools in England

By Iftikhar Ahmad
Posted: 3 Jamad-ul-Awwal 1423, 14 July 2002

The Church of England has thrown its weight behind an extraordinary proposal to unite Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Hindu children in the country's first multi-faith secondary school. The plans, backed by leading figures, are aimed at transforming the image of faith-based education which has been criticized in the wake of last summer race riots. They hope that the 1000 pupil-school planned for the London Borough of Westminster will be the first of a series of similar ventures around the country. It is described as a highly significant development, which will open the way to a new era in relations between Britain's religious communities. Many Anglican schools already have a majority of children from other faiths. In my opinion, it is a Secularist plot to undermine faith schools. White Paper on Education endorsed setting up more faith schools to satisfy the needs and demands of religious communities. A few Muslims, Jewish and Christian's secularists are against such schools and put forward a naive idea of Multi-faith schools which is not going to be accepted by those who believe in choice and diversity in education.

Muslim children leave schools with identity crises.

Multi-faith schools are not going to bring together children from different faiths. State schools are already multicultural and multiracial but relation between different communities has gone from bad to worse for the last 30 years. The recent riots are clear evidence of the failure of multicultural education. Muslim children leave schools with identity crises with serious implications for mental, emotional and personality development. Institutional racism is rife in schools and is responsible for poorer academic performance of most Blacks and Muslim children. There is no sign of respect and understanding between the children of different communities. There will be hardly any difference between future multi-faith schools and present state schools because British teachers have no respect for Islamic faith and Muslim community.

The silent majority of Muslim parents would like to see their children attending Muslim schools. There are few Muslim schools with long waiting lists. There is a dire need for more Muslim schools. There are no shortages of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority, such schools may be designated as Muslim schools under the management and control of Muslim educational Trust or Charities. In Bradford, two Church schools have 90% of Muslim pupils because Muslims are in majority in the catchment areas and parents have no choice but to send their children there. Lord Darring should consider designating those two schools as Muslim community schools. Where Muslim pupils are in minority, such schools may be designated as Multi-faith schools to satisfy the needs and demands of secularist. LEAs can implement such plans straight away with a stroke of a pen at local levels.

British teachers have no respect for Islamic faith and Muslim community.

State funded Muslim schools need Muslim teachers. Highly qualified teachers can be recruited from Muslim countries for the teaching of National Curriculum, Islamic Studies, Arabic and Urdu languages so that Muslim children do not find themselves cut off from their cultural and linguistic roots. The study of Comparative religions is not required because Islam teaches respect, tolerance and understanding of those who are different from them. Special attention will be given to the teaching of standard academic English, accepted and respected not only by the British society but also by the global world at large. A good command of English will help them to follow National Curriculum. They will be able to achieve high grades to pursue higher education and research to serve and work for the economic, social and spiritual prosperity of the British society at large.

[Iftikhar Ahmad, London School of Islamics]