No Faith in Faith

Over in Northern Ireland, education has always been segregated divided on faith lines. Anybody who has read British or Irish newspapers or watched British or Irish television over the last three decades know the marvelous consequences of that – Northern Ireland is second only to the Balkans in the European Religious Bigotry League Table.

On page 12 of the Saturday 29 September edition of the Guardian is an item about Tablighi Jamaat, an Islamic group that wishes to open a madrasa for 500 boys near the 2012 Olympic village. The group currently runs the Institute of Islamic Education in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. According to the article, the Institute’s 300+ male pupils spend six mornings a week studying “Islamic history, theology, law, Qur’an recitation and Arabic”. The national curriculum is studied in the afternoons only. Perhaps unsurprisingly an Ofsted report in 2005 criticised the “unsatisfactory” teaching of secular subjects.

The group’s Hafiz Malik is quoted as saying: “We are Muslims and our belief is that for anyone to attain salvation, Islam is the only way.” Tony Blair, when he was Prime Minister, seemed very taken with Faith Schools. Gordon Brown has not said anything against them. It could be that he like the notion of religious groups rather than the public purse paying for new schools.

If this is true, his narrow financial outlook is creating a situation where, to quote Trevor Philips, we are sleepwalking into segregation. Muslims frequently protest, often with justification, that there is an ignorance among the non-Muslim British about Muslims and Islam. Separate education, a kind of religious apartheid, can only contribute to that problem. Similarly, if Catholics, Anglicans, Buddhists and Hindus are all educated in isolation, our ignorance of each other can only increase particularly if each group tells its pupils that they alone are in God’s/the gods’ good graces and all others are hellbound.

 World events are already fuelling religious distrust and intolerance, particularly between Muslims and non-Muslims and the Northern Ireland experience tells us that to separate on religious grounds, to create a situation where different groups live separate lives, is to invite bigotry and bloodshed.

So why is the government encouraging faith schools here in Britain?

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3 Responses to “No Faith in Faith”

  1. Shinga Says:

    Because consistency is sometimes the hobgoblin of small minds and I doubt that many politicians are ready to address the issue of ceasing to support faith schools.

    However, I hear mixed reports of education in the USA where some argue that rather than race/religious segregation by school, you end up with it by clique in the playground, the dining hall, afterschool clubs etc.

    My small mind is likewise devoid of an adequate solution.

  2. kelvinthroop Says:

    I read today about a head-teacher who wanted to remove the religious elememt from teaching at his school. He was told it “was not politically possible” because the Bishops in the House of Lords would object. Since Blair managed to persuade the hereditary peers to agree to their own removal, this does not strike me as an overwhelming problem. Seems to me they just don’t want to do it. For whatever reason, they think our children should have religion stuffed down their throats in a system of religious apartheid.

    Then they wonder why intolerance is increasing! Whatever happened to “joined-up thinking”?

  3. jeffreyellis Says:

    Your post title brought to mind the Rush song “Faithless” from their new Snakes & Arrows album. The chorus starts: “I don’t have faith in faith…”.

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