From the Times Online, with thanks to all who sent this in:
THE rise of Islamic schools is a potential threat to Britain’s sense of national identity, the head of Ofsted said yesterday.
David Bell said that Muslim and other faith schools outside the state system were teaching a narrow curriculum that failed to prepare children for life in a multicultural democracy.
He called on the Government to monitor the significant growth of independent religious schools to ensure that their pupils learnt “the wider tenets of British society”.
“We must not allow our recognition of diversity to become apathy in the face of any challenge to our coherence as a nation,” Mr Bell, the Chief Inspector of Schools in England, said.
Three guesses “” no, one guess “” as to what kind of reaction this got:
Muslim leaders accused Mr Bell of Islamophobia.
Mr Bell said that parents had a right to pay for a faith-based education for their children but that the State also had the right to set “certain expectations of what will be done there”.
“Crucial to that is being aware of the political institutions in society, of being part of a democracy, of other faiths. In some of the Muslim schools that is not happening to a sufficient degree,” he said.
The chief inspector’s comments came in a lecture at the Hansard Society in London on citizenship education, which he said required schools to consider “what it means to be British”.
His annual report next month would show a near doubling in the number of independent faith schools to about 300, compared with 170 in 2003. They included more than 100 Muslim schools and about 100 run by evangelical Christian groups.
“Faith should not be blind. I worry that many young people are being educated in faith-based schools, with little appreciation of their wider responsibilities and obligations to British society,” he said. “This growth in faith schools needs to be carefully but sensitively monitored by government to ensure that pupils receive an understanding of not only their own faith but of other faiths and the wider tenets of British society,” Mr Bell said.
The Ofsted chief called on Muslim schools to reform their curriculums so that pupils “acquire an appreciation of and respect for other cultures in a way that promotes tolerance and harmony”.
He said that the Association of Muslim Schools was working to support schools more effectively in this.
Mr Bell said the issue had been brought into focus as all schools were now required to show that pupils were given a broad understanding of public institutions and services in England.
Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said that it was astonishing that Mr Bell had singled out Muslim schools when only 3 per cent of Muslim children attended them. “The issue of community cohesion and coherence is of paramount importance for the whole nation. But we consider it highly irresponsible to suggest that the growth of Muslim faith schools poses a threat to “˜our coherence as a nation”,” he said.
Mohamad Mukadam, chairman of the Association of Muslim Schools, accused Mr Bell of Islamophobia. Dr Mukadam, who is also principal of Leicester Islamic Academy, which has 700 pupils aged 5 to 16, said: “I challenge him to come up with evidence that Muslim schools are not preparing young people for life in British society. I think it’s a misconception of Islamic schools and a further example of Islamophobia. For a person in his position to make such a generalised comment just beggars belief.”