Tonight's local news that Muslim leaders are calling for a state-funded Islamic school to be set up in Kent saw me turning to Martin Parsons article in this month's edition of The Difference, examining how Western educational values unwittingly contributed to the rise of Islamism.
The BBC quotes a spokesman for Kent Muslim Welfare Association, Anwar Khan, who runs Islamic classes outside school hours for about 100 children at Jamia Mosque in Gillingham, as complaining, "We run our schools for 10 hours a week - two hours a day, for children across the ages and from different schools. It is an extra burden for them, coming back from school, doing some work at home and having their evening meal and then coming to the mosque."
Parsons concludes his article by considering this very issue of demands from Islamic organisations for state funding of Muslim schools. Let us know what you think:
When Labour came to power in 1997 the government began to approve the creation of Muslim schools in a similar manner to voluntary aided Anglican and Catholic schools. However, the question which needs to be answered is whether these schools are inspired by a philosophy that is compatible with western democracy and seeks to promote tolerance and freedom, or Islamism, which combines western education's critical thinking with Islamic political values?For more on this issue, also see The Rise Of Islam.
Labour clearly needs the votes of Islamic groups but doesn’t appear to want all of their agenda. It has been willing to grant some requests – such as government subsidies for courses in Islamic theology and Arabic and considering approval for a Muslim City Academy in Bradford – but has now made a significant u-turn on faith schools. First came an announcement that all faith schools would have to allocate 25% of their places to pupils from another faith or no faith, a proposal that was finally dropped after a concerted campaign by the Catholic Church. Then the government legally required all schools to promote “community cohesion”, with Jim Knight, the Schools Minister, suggesting faith schools should twin with those of other faiths.
Many have suggested that this attempt to create “community cohesion” by targeting all faith schools instead of just Muslim ones is driven by Labour’s desire to hold onto its share of the Muslim vote, which slumped in the 2005 general election. However, there is also a marked secularising tendency in liberal-left politics, coupled with an ideological assumption that the state, not churches or parents, should educate children. The recent vote of the left-leaning teaching union, the NASUWT, to oppose new faith schools well illustrates these ideological assumptions.
Yet whoever heard of voluntary-aided Church of England or Catholic schools in mainland Britain creating problems of community cohesion? They don’t for two reasons. First, because as part of the majority community – 72% according to the last census – voluntary-aided Christian schools by definition cannot create an educational ghetto. Secondly, unlike the Islamic scriptures, the Bible does not set out a distinct political system, still less require one to be imposed on non-believers. Tragically, this is a nettle that the Labour government and other members of the liberal left seem unable or unwilling to grasp.