There is an extraordinary proposal to unite Muslim, Jewish, Christian and Hindu children in the country’s first multi-faith secondary school. The plans, backed by leading figures, are aimed at transforming the image of faith-based education, which has been criticized in the wake of race riots. They hope that the 1000 pupils’ school planned for the London Borough of Westminster will be the first of a series of similar ventures around the country. Now Sir Cyril Taylor is of the opinion that schools dominated by Muslim pupils should be closed down and replaced with multi-faith academies.
I think Sir Cyril Taylor proposal is shortsighted and xenophobic. It is falsely called a blueprint for community cohesion and raising standards. The multi-faith schools are actually community schools. Every community school is potentially a school of many faiths and no faith, and the new academies are exactly the same. Integration does not mean mixing of different races and creeds; in fact integration means to satisfy the needs and demands of the communities who differ from each other. A few Muslims, Jewish and Christian’s secularists are against such schools and put forward a naive idea of Multi-faith schools which is not going to be accepted by those who believe in choice and diversity in education.
Multi-faith schools are not going to bring together children from different faiths. Such schools are going to mis-educate and de-educate Muslim pupils just like any other state school. State schools are already multi-cultural and multi-racial but relation between different communities has gone from bad to worse for the last 30 years. The recent riots are clear evidence of institutional racism, which is rife in state schools. Even Polish pupils are victims of physical and verbal abuse. There is no sign of respect and understanding between the children of different communities. There will be hardly any difference between future Multi-faith schools and present state schools.
The silent majority of Muslim parents would like to see their children attending Muslim schools. Muslim schools provide Muslim children with the opportunity to attend institutions of academic excellence, which could reinforce their commitment to their culture, religion and languages while at the same time opening constructive dialogue with the British society in which they live. There is a dire need for more state funded Muslim schools. There are hundreds of state schools where Muslim pupils are in majority, such schools may be designated as Muslim community schools under the management and control of Muslim educational Trust or Charities. In Bradford, two Church schools have 90% of Muslim pupils and the Church of England should consider designating those two schools as Muslim community schools.
State funded Muslim schools need bilingual Muslim teachers as role models. Researchers recognize bilingualism as educational advantage. Schools need to take steps to support children’s bilingualism, which is an economic asset as well as an asset to migrant communities. The study of Comparative religions is not required in Muslim schools because Islam teaches respect, tolerance and understanding of those who are different. The teaching of Standard English will help Muslim children to follow National Curriculum. They will be able to achieve high grades to pursue higher studies and research to serve humanity. The teaching of community languages and Urdu will help them to enjoy the beauty of their literature and poetry. They do not find themselves cut off from their cultural roots. The teaching of Arabic will help them to practice Islam and recite and understand the Holy Quran. Only state funded Muslim schools can satisfy the needs and demands of the Muslim parents and pupils right from nursery level.