Searching for blog posts tagged with 'multifaithism'

‘Trojan Horses’ in Birmingham Schools should come as no surprise



The 'Trojan Horse' plot in Birmingham - where some 25 schools have apparently been targeted for takeover by Islamic extremists - is yet another instance of the problems now rising as a consequence of Britain supposedly being a multifaith society; a view shared by all the three main political parties. Accordingly, a green light has been given to more faith schools, religious Free Schools and academies, which are allowed to run on the basis of a religious ethos. A laissez faire approach to culture and religion has contributed to significant levels of self-segregation, isolation, and lack of integration among some religious-ethnic minorities, not least Muslims. This is highlighted by the fact the Muslim population in which these 25 schools are located is more than 90 per cent. It is worrying that it took a maverick politician such as Nigel Farage to point out the reality when he described parts of Britain as being 'unrecognisable'; a view that most of the population would agree with.

Since the 'Trojan Horse' letter came to light, some 200 reports have been received by Birmingham City Council, including claims that boys and girls are being segregated in classrooms and assemblies, pressure on girls to cover their hair, sex education being banned, the prevention of the teaching of non-Islamic faiths in religious education classes, and non-Muslim staff being bullied. Yet all this is precisely what has been happening in Free Schools such as Al Madinah in Derby (which Education Minister Lord Nash found dysfunctional) and the Madani faith school in Leicester. But none of this should be surprising: on the contrary, it is entirely to be expected that leaders of faith communities wish to impose values and practices in schools in their neighbourhoods that are in accordance with their religion. The reason for this is that the emphasis on a multifaith society facilitates the primary identity of some minorities being on the basis of their faith.

In Birmingham, and elsewhere, community leaders and parents with strong religious identities seek to 'protect' their children - especially girls - from Western secular influences which, quite frankly, they find immoral. Such protection is indeed likely to be on offer as schools in segregated communities and faith-based schools vigorously police the behaviour of pupils strictly in line with their religious doctrines and cultural mores. An inescapable outcome is the accentuation of divisions along religious lines, so that there is a plethora of 'monofaith' neighbourhoods. This is not only profoundly harmful to schoolchildren who are seen as no more than properties of their parents, but flies in the face of the stated goal of increasing integration and social cohesion.

A pointer to the dangers ahead was provided a decade ago at the Muslim Islamia School, one of the first to be granted voluntary aided status. In regard to the teaching of evolution, the school's view was 'we approach Darwinism theory [sic] in a phenomenological way. We say, 'there is a theory believed by some, that we are descended from apes. It's just one idea among many'. In regard to the teaching of other faiths, the head teacher stated 'we can practice any religion we like. We pray five times a day, we learn the Koran in the traditional manner ... One thing we never do is celebrate Christmas'. The oft-quoted quip 'schools are for teaching and not for preaching' is inverted - indeed preaching and brazen indoctrination is the order of the day - with values that are widely at variance with those obtaining in modern Europe.

The push to expand faith schools and religious free schools and academies in Britain is particularly odd for it suggests wilful neglect or disregard of the sobering example of Northern Ireland where state schools are divided on the basis of faith; as such they are sectarian in character and have long been a powerful incubator of the schism between Catholics and Protestants. An educational policy whose aim is cohesion and inclusion would take serious note of this tragic, divisive phenomenon, learn the lessons, and ensure that it is not repeated in any other part of the country. But evidence shows that the lessons have sadly not been learned.

Education Secretary Michael Gove has appointed Peter Clark to review the evidence of the Trojan Horse plot. But, as has rightfully been pointed out by key people in Birmingham, Mr Clark is the wrong candidate given his earlier role as National Co-ordinator for Counter Terrorism. This highlights a key problem with government thinking: their only real concern is the potential for Islamist terrorism but little regard for the damage to schoolchildren and for community cohesion from those serious about ensuring that members of their communities rigidly adhere to their faith. Bob Jones, the elected West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner, is correct to state that 'My main concern is that the Secretary of State is attempting to divert attention away from the governance and diversity issues that might be embarrassing to his policies and approach to school governance'. Indeed they should be embarrassing and it really is high time that the both the government and the opposition grasped the nettle that a firm commitment to a rounded secular education is what is needed for the benefit of children and for society at large, and act accordingly.

Published in Huffington Post 16th April 2014

Trojan horse: The responsibility for the situation in Birmingham's schools lies ultimately with mistaken government policies


April 17, 2014 Thursday 12:01 AM GMT
Trojan horse;
The responsibility for the situation in Birmingham's schools lies ultimately with mistaken government policies


LENGTH: 229 words

Sir, The alleged "trojan horse" plot in Birmingham is an instance of the problems arising from Britain being a multifaith society and attendant high levels of segregation by religion across the country ("More schools are investigated over claims of Islamic takeover", Apr 15).

Claims include the segregation of girls from boys, the withdrawal of girls from sex education, PE and music lessons, the treatment of female staff and bullying of non-Muslim staff. That Mark Rogers, the city council's chief executive, seems unworried by these phenomena - because they do not demonstrate "radicalisation" - is worrying.

These phenomena are already present in faith schools, and religious free schools, such as Al Madinah Free School, Derby, and Madani High School, Leicester, (where an advert for a science teacher stated that only men need apply).

The Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, stressing that "we are a Christian nation", only invites faith groups to retort "We are most definitely not". For these religious-ethnic minorities, faith is by far the most important determinant of identity, and "leaders" of these groups do everything they can to ensure their flock remains wedded to beliefs and customs of their religion and culture. So, the "trojan horses" in Birmingham schools are no surprise - they flow from misguided government policies.


Published in The Times 17th April 2014

Schools and the Failure of Multiculturalism and Multifaithism



The spat between Michael Gove and Theresa May focuses on the failure to tackle Islamic extremism in Birmingham's schools. Whether such failure can be attributed to one party or the other is, in fact, a moot point. The real problem has deeper roots: it resides in the failure of multiculturalism and multifaithism. Given that both the previous and present governments describe Britain as being a multi-faith society, it is entirely to be expected that leaders of those groups for whom their faith trumps all other indicators of identity, will seek robustly to instil the imprimatur of the values and practices of their religion. In this context, recent statements made by Prime Minister David Cameron and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles that Britain is essentially a Christian country, are most unhelpful in that they provoke many within the faith minorities to emphatically say 'no we are not', and to assert their own non-Christian faith identity with even greater vigour.

This fundamental truth has not well been understood by the political establishment. Rather, like the previous government, the present Coalition government's concern has been on tackling Islamist terrorism following 9/11 and especially since the 7th July 2005 bombings. It is precisely this thinking that led Michael Gove to appoint Peter Clark, former National Co-ordinator for Counter Terrorism, to review the evidence of the Trojan Horse plot. This detracts from core of the problem of heightened faith identities that are facilitated by high levels of segregation in communities and in schools.

Indeed, concerns about segregated schooling go back decades. As far back as 1985, the Swann Report on education highlighted the dangers of 'separate schools' for ethnic minorities. Two decades later, Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons Education Select Committee, warned in 2005: 'Do we want a ghettoised education system? ... Schools play a crucial role in integrating different communities and the growth of faith schools poses a real threat to this. These things need to be thought through very carefully before they are implemented'. In a similar vein, in 2007, Commission for Racial Equality Policy Director Nick Johnson cautioned that Britain risks becoming a 'mini America' dominated by racially and religiously determined schools, and warned: 'If a Muslim child is educated in a school where the vast majority of other children are also Muslim, how can we expect him to work, live and interact with people from other cultures when he leaves school? This is a ticking time-bomb waiting to explode'. Given that practically nothing has been done to tackle the roots of the problems, that is, to tackle the very high levels of segregation and promote genuine integration, such a proverbial 'time bomb' has indeed exploded in Birmingham, and will doubtless do so in many other towns and cities.

This reasoning and warning is absolutely correct. A natural consequence of residential segregation is that schools in inner cities have also become segregated: in the 21 Birmingham schools that were inspected by Ofsted, children of Muslim parents comprise over 90 per cent. Channel 4 News reported that in one school, only one child was non Muslim; the white mother of the child thought that though a secular, state, school, it felt like a Muslim faith school. Indeed, this is precisely what has been happening: parents and governors of these schools are attempting to convert them into de facto Muslim faith schools. And here is something that has not been remarked upon: what is giving cause for concern re attempts by Islamists to take over state schools in Birmingham is precisely what has been made lawful in Free schools and faith schools. Abandoning children to such schools, which are plainly not fit for purpose for modern Europe, is nothing short of a dereliction of duty.

The rising level of segregation is not only a phenomenon of 'white flight' but also the flight of those from other religious-ethnic minorities. Polite society may not notice, but the stark reality is that Hindu and Sikh parents do not wish to send their schools where there is preponderance of Muslim children and vice versa. So what have arisen are 'mono-faith' neighbourhoods and schools. Given the enormous importance of the formative years in life, this phenomenon can have a highly significant and lasting effect on how children from different backgrounds relate to each other. Put bluntly, there is likely to be a deleterious impact on integration and cohesion from heightened levels of segregation of children and this surely does not at all augur well for the goal of a socially cohesive society. If segregation of communities is not a desirable outcome and is an obstacle to improving social cohesion, then it is certainly also true for children in schools.

Michael Gove's call that school children must be taught 'British values' is inadequate given that there is simply no agreed definition of what these values are. Rather, it is imperative that a child's accident of birth should not preclude a broad, critical, tolerant education; this must necessarily be secular. Moreover, this needs to be combined with children from minority communities mixing with others, especially with those from the majority white society. These enormously important lessons need to be learned and acted upon by both the government and the opposition.


First published in Huffington Post 13th June 2014

Why Are Some Muslims in Britain Choosing Sharia?



Groundbreaking research on Sharia councils in Britain was presented at a debate in the House of Lords on 12th January. Chaired by Labour MP George Howarth, and hosted by the Henry Jackson Society, Dutch academic Machteld Zee spoke on her new book "Choosing Sharia? Multiculturalism, Islamic Fundamentalism and Sharia Councils".

From evidence garnered on Sharia councils in London and Birmingham, Machteld argued that these were leading to 'marital captivity' - an important new addition to the legal lexicon - and called on the UK government to enact Dutch-style laws that allow women whose husbands refuse to grant religious divorce, to undertake civil or criminal proceedings. The crossbencher Baroness Cox has proposed a bill which makes it illegal to treat the evidence of a man as worth more than that of a woman - which is the norm in Sharia councils and Muslim arbitration tribunals.

Also speaking was Dutch legal scholar David Suurland who pointed out that in 2003 and 2004, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that 'Sharia is incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy'. He further argued that a laissez faire attitude to Muslim communities had allowed for Salafist and Islamist dialogues to operate beneath the criminal court in the Netherlands. The Dutch solution to this has been the monitoring of all Salafi organisations, in particular of rigorous checks on the sources of funding of new mosques from outside of Netherlands.

(function() { var mid = document.getElementById('ad_mid_article'); = 'width:100%;float:none;'; var parent = mid.parentNode.parentNode; parent.tagName == 'BLOCKQUOTE' && parent.parentNode.insertBefore(mid, parent); if (window.uk_sponsorship) { return; } var div = document.querySelector('.adaptv-outstream'); var adtag = div.getAttribute('data-adtag').replace('{cachebreaker}', Math.round(Math.random()*1e16)); div.setAttribute('data-adtag', adtag); window.console.timeStamp = function(){}; var s = document.createElement('script'); s.async = true; s.src = ''; var ref = document.querySelector('script'); ref.appendChild(s); }()); It was refreshing to witness two young Dutch scholars making powerful presentations to British parliamentarians, the press, and other interested parties at a packed event, and calling on the UK government to follow the lead given by the government of the Netherlands with respect to these unsavoury phenomena.

In my presentation, I tried to explain the reasons for the appeal of Sharia jurisdiction among some British Muslims. What is being demanded seems to be pretty minimal - restricted to family law focusing on marriage, divorce, and maintenance. There is certainly no call for Sharia laws being applied to criminal matters such as theft, violence, and murder, so that there is no question of punishments that are rife in some Muslim countries, such as amputations of limbs for theft, beheadings, crucifixion, lashes, and stoning to death for various criminal offences. That said, in a 2008 Channel 4 documentary 'Divorce Sharia style', the Secretary General of the Islamic Sharia Council, Suhaib Hasan, averred that if Sharia law was implemented in Britain: 'then you can turn this country into a haven of peace because once a thief's hand is cut off nobody is going to steal. Once, just only once, if an adulterer is stoned nobody is going to commit this crime at all. We want to offer it to the British society'.

But why are some Muslim citizens of this country, living under a legal system that ensures equality before the law, choosing for Sharia? Remember that this is a legal code that systematically discriminates against women, children, apostates, blasphemers, non-believers (infidels), adulterers, and homosexuals. My argument is that such separatist demands stem from the problems that have become entrenched in our supposedly multicultural society. The origins of this view actually have good intentions: in a free society, people should be free to lead lives as they wish without government restrictions. This was also meant to be anti-racist whereby the cultures and religions of newly-settled ethnic minorities should be shown respect.

But, sadly, many a road to hell is paved with good intentions. Under multiculturalism and its successor, multifaithism, this separatist dynamic has been allowed free rein. Britain like other West European countries has generally accommodated to Muslim demands - the latest example is of changing the exam schedule during the Ramadan fasting month. So there has been little need for Muslims to integrate into an increasingly irreligious mainstream society. Unsurprisingly, the result is that we are living in a country with high levels of segregation of Muslims and of other religious-ethnic communities. But it does seem to be especially true of large numbers of Muslims. At its extreme, some have become 'psychically detached' from the rest of society so that even though they are geographically located in the UK and Europe, their mode of thinking, belonging, and living is rooted elsewhere: that is, their alienation from the host society is such that they might as well be living in another land. They have values, beliefs, and practices that are profoundly different to those of mainstream society. Because of segregation, they have few interpersonal relationships with those who are not Muslim and they show little identification with the host society. Indeed, for radicalised Muslims, who wish to fly the banner of jihad, the rejection of the host society can reach violent, terrorising, levels.

So given this reality, it is not surprising that there are demands by some Muslims for aspects of Sharia as an alternative to the law of the land. The danger is that this can be a slippery slope to a parallel legal system, what is known as legal pluralism. Rather than a universal legal system, we risk different laws for different people.

There has been far too much concern that rejecting separatist demands from Muslims - which in reality are privileges - is seen as racist or Islamophobic. But it is no such thing. There is mounting evidence that in Britain and in other west European countries, the population at large is very much concerned by what has come to pass. For example, two opinion polls last year (by Survation and YouGov) found that only 22% of the population think that the values of Islam are compatible with the values of British society. Similar attitudes exist in other EU countries. In Germany, a survey by the Bertelsmann Foundation in January 2015 found that 57% of Germans considered Islam "very much" or "somewhat" of a threat and that 61% believe that Islam is "incompatible with the western world". In France, an opinion poll conducted by IFOP in October 2012 found that 60% of respondents consider the influence and visibility of Islam in France are too high, and that 43% of French believe the presence of a Muslim community in France is a threat to the French identity; only 17% consider this is a source of enrichment. Given the events in Paris last year, these poll numbers will have undoubtedly worsened.

Therefore, in the interests of the better integration of Muslims and of a more socially cohesive society, the government must stop acceding to Muslim pleas for special treatment. They should pay heed to the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and to follow the example of Dalton McGuinty, the premier of Ontario, Canada who gave the following assurance in September 2005 when confronted with the same issue: "There will be no Sharia law in Ontario. There will be no religious arbitration in Ontario. There will be one law for all Ontarians. Religious family courts threaten our common". Precisely the same approach should be applied in the UK.

First published in Huffington Post on 5th Feb 2016