Channel 4’s Dispatches: Lessons in Hate and Violence on Islamic schools in Britain confirms the urgency of addressing the question of faith schools. Whilst the teachings of hatred in these schools are not surprising, it is nothing short of scandalous that vulnerable children are left to the mercy of Islamists despite years of evidence of abuse and violations of child safety and protection rules.
Religion in general, and Islam more so because of the rise of Islamism, will indoctrinate children – often violently. What is being taught at the schools profiled in the programme is what some of our members have been taught in Islamic schools in Britain and elsewhere. Religious schools by nature must teach the superiority of their belief system and the baseness of non-believers and kafirs. The teachings exposed on the programme show a deep-seated hatred not just for non-Muslims but Muslims and ex-Muslims who do not conform to Islamist standards. For too long, however, these schools have been allowed to carry on business as usual by feigning to distance themselves from those who have been exposed and by giving lip service to social harmony and cohesion.
Rather than being unusual, as the Muslim Council of Britain asserts, such teachings are very much the norm: half the Islamic schools in Britain are from the same Deobandi persuasion as one of the schools profiled. Like Sharia law courts, where women in particular are routinely denied equal rights, Islamic schools routinely deny children’s rights. Rather than promote social harmony and cohesion, they segregate and divide. Rather than being anti-racist, they are a profoundly racist phenomenon, making sub-standard schools for ‘different’ children permissible.
Despite mountains of evidence, the government continues to promote and fund free schools, whilst hypocritically denouncing multiculturalism. Also, the likes of John Hemming, the Liberal Democrat MP for Birmingham Yardley, are more concerned with hate mail received by the school, rather than the safety of the children attending these schools.
This is precisely what is wrong with multiculturalism. It gives precedence to cultures and religion rather than vulnerable children, cowering from their teachers, and being routinely beaten, abused and indoctrinated to hate each other, their friends and the world outside. And it says that human beings – depending on how they are pigeon-holed – are fundamentally different, and should be treated as such. This identity politics and its privileging of difference is what lead to extremism – whether it be the far-Right Islamist or English Defence League versions.
Unfortunately, the debate on faith schools has for too long focused on scrutiny, monitoring, (one of the schools profiled had been commended for its interfaith teaching), and changing admission codes and employment practices rather than that they are fundamentally bad for our children. This is because they are more concerned with the inclusion of religion – the religion of the child’s parents – than the inclusion, wellbeing and educational needs of the child.
How the government will be able to stand by once again, after witnessing the heartbreaking acts of violence against children as young as five years old, is yet to be seen. Given that only one person has been arrested and no schools shut down, it seems that once again it will be giving precedence to religion over the needs, welfare and rights of children.
Let’s be clear. Schools and faith are antithetical to each other. Education is meant to give children access to science, reason and the advances of the 21st century. It is meant to level the playing field irrespective of and despite the family the child is born into. It is meant to allow children to think freely and critically – something that religion actually prohibits and punishes.
Education can only truly be guaranteed by a secular educational system and by ending faith schools once and for all.
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