BBC Panorama: Muslim Schooling
John Ware is nothing more than an Islamophobe and an Islam basher. To single out Islam as the only religion where such so-called teachings are given proves Ware's own prejudice, bigotry and hatred. The documentary contained many close-up images of hijab-clad girls set to sinister music, as well as slow-motion shots of so-called radical preachers and Muslim men praying in mosques. The message was that Muslim communities are isolating themselves from mainstream society. It gave the impression that Muslim parents who send their children to faith schools are exercising ‘voluntary apartheid’. We live in a world of many divides. Indeed, it would appear that divides are the norm rather than the exception.
The Panorama show was a confused and sensationalist piece of filmmaking. The Islamic Schools in the documentary were all rated ‘good’ or ‘excellent’, confirmed by their own presenter. To be honest, I didn’t find much weight in their arguments against the schools at all. Anti-Muslims sentiment spread by the media has led to increase violence and discrimination against Muslims in small suburbs and market towns. The attacks on Muslims go largely unnoticed by the media and politicians. Muslim schools protect Muslim children from the onslaught of Euro-Centrism, homosexuality, racism, drinking, drugs, incivility, anti-social behavior, teenage pregnancies and abortions and secular traditions. English is one of the most damaging subjects - reflects secular and immoral beliefs that contradict the view point of Islam. Romeo and Juliet of Shakespeare advocates disobeying parents and premarital relations. Speaking English does not promote integration into British society, and broaden opportunities. The whole world belongs to Muslims. A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to become notoriously monolingual Brit. He/she must be well versed in Standard English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research to serve humanity. At the same time he/she must be well versed in Arabic, Urdu and other community languages to keep in touch with cultural roots and enjoy the beauty of literature and poetry.
No one is advocating the establishing of Sharia law in a non-Muslim country. But Muslims like Jewish people should be able to have their own inheritance laws, religious weddings and divorces according to their own beliefs. It was Muslims in their own lands who first allowed non Muslims to be able to practice their own laws and this was enshrined in Islamic law nearly 1400 years ago. It was Muslims who gave shelter to the Jews when they were thrown out of Europe during the inquisition and during pogroms. Muslims never burnt people alive or tortured them for their beliefs. Islam is not associated with denial of human rights - actually historically Islam provided documentation for human rights. It is absurd to believe that Muslim schools, Imams and Masajid teach Muslim children anti-Semitic, homophobic and anti-western views. It is dangerously deceptive and misleading to address text books and discuss them out of their historical, cultural and linguistic context. Muslims were already disproportionately being targeted by police with programmes such as the Prevent project. Focusing on Muslim schools for investigation would tell Muslim young people "you are different" and further alienate them. Singling out Muslim schools threatened to add to already "dangerous" levels of Islamophobia, which he compared to the amount of anti-Semitism in the 1920s and 1930s.
It is not wrong to teach children that anti-social behaviour, drinking, drugs, homosexuality, sex before marriage, teenage pregnancies and abortions are western values and Islam is against all such sins. This does not mean that Muslim schools teach children to hate westerners, Jews and homosexuals. Extremism, homophobia and anti-Semitism are nothing to do with Islamic teachings and beliefs. Islam does not teach that Jews and Christians are pigs and monkeys. The government, Panorama and the Policy Exchange think-tank should concentrate on institutionally racist schooling and chicken racist teachers, the rising levels of attacks on teachers and the bullying of children; also the fact that society has rising levels of teenage pregnancy, sexually transmitted disease and anti-social behavior. British education system does not take into account a child’s ethnicity, language, culture and faith. A child’s identity and heritage are core to who they are. It is precisely for these reasons that Muslims seek to encourage their children to go to Muslim schools and learn Islamic values and develop cultural, linguistic and spiritual identities, so that they can be decent, productive people, who have respect and care for others.