Mosques unite to reject Government interference in madrasas

29th Jan 2016
Mosques unite to reject Government interference in madrasas

Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Imam Qari Asim and Shabana Muneer, a member of the mosque’s women’s group, as he visits Makkah Masjid Mosque on January 18 in Leeds. Cameron linked small number of Muslim women who did not speak adequate English with extremism. (Photo: Oli Scarff – WPA Pool /Getty Images)

Hamed Chapman

The British Government is being accused of trying to regulate religions after controversially proposing to register mosques and madrasas under the guise of registering “out-of-school education settings”.

Intentions to crackdown on religious schools was announced by Prime Minister, David Cameron, at the annual Conservative conference in October, when he claimed some supplementary Muslim schools teach children intolerance though provided no evidence to substantiate such allegations.

“In some madrasas we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people. These children should be having their minds opened, their horizons broadened, not having their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate,” he told Party faithful.

But in response to a Government consultation on the emotionally provocative plans, over 500 mosques, madrasas, teachers, Imams and other Muslim organisations nationwide unequivocally rejected proposals to register madrasas under the guise of registering “out-of-school education settings.”

“Government sanctioned religious education will lead to alienated faith communities and unduly encroaches on the legitimate right of faith providers to teach their children their faith,” their joint statement warned.

Cameron’s speech led to a united coalition of Mosques and Muslim organisations to campaign to “Keep Mosques Independent” and rejected Government interference. Included is the Northern Council of Mosques which embraces the Bradford Council of Mosques, Manchester Council of Mosques, Lancashire Council of Mosques, Bolton Council of Mosques, Stockport Mosques and Rochdale Council of Mosques that representing over 400 mosques and almost half a million Muslims.

“The proposal of ‘registration’, ‘inspection’ and ‘sanctions’ as set out in the consultation document clearly departs from the British tradition not to regulate religious education and worship.”

This included the same regime as with state schools to “inspect the content of religious curriculum and its religious teaching against criteria set by Government and further interpreted by Government inspectors from LA and/or Ofsted” and have the sanction powers to remove teachers and/close the religious education out-of-school provision on principle grounds of ‘extremism’.”

“We believe the definition of “extremism’’ which lies at the heart of the regulation of religious education in out-of-school settings is “open to abuse due to its vague definition. The term ‘extremism’ is potentially all encompassing, vague and lacks any legal certainty,” the united coalition warned.

“We note the term ‘extremism’ is a much contested concept even within Parliamentary reports which offered conflicting findings often sensationalised by the media and overstated by some officials over whether ‘extremist’ practices were in fact found in Birmingham Schools” even though Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been unable to define the arbitrary term.

On the issue of Prevent extremism, which is also part of the proposals to monitor out-of-school settings, the statement criticises it for “adversely affecting” children’s development.

“Prevent Duty within nurseries, schools, colleges and universities has been misapplied due to the vague nature of terms like ‘extremism’ and the flawed theory of ‘radicalisation’.”

“There have been such reports as children being referred to Prevent Boards for wanting to pray in school or being critical of the media or foreign policy or officials saying that a change in dress, not shopping at a particular store and not participating in another faith’s celebrations are signs of ‘extremism’.”

“Children need safe space to discuss their views on current events and properly directed by true religious teachings without fear of being referred to a Prevent Board. This would be difficult to achieve within the context of the vague definitions of ‘extremism’ and the risk-averse culture which seems to develop in other educational settings.”

Muslim allies have found an ally in church leaders, including former

Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey, who have condemned the plans as “totalitarian” and warned that the crackdown on madrasas also threatens Christian Sunday schools and Bible camps.

Carey said Government proposals to counter the radicalisation of children at part-time, unregulated schools were “dangerous” and could result in the regulation of religion by the state and will hit all faiths.

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