In response to the bombing attacks in London, the British government plans to offer state funding to Muslim schools, bringing them under government control. Currently, there are five state-funded Muslim schools and up to 150 operating independently. The educational quality of the independent Islamic schools is poor.
Britain, which has no rule about separation of church and state, funds almost 7,000 “faith” schools, which enroll 35 percent of primary students and 16 percent of secondary students. Most are Anglican or Catholic, but there are a few Presbyterian, Jewish and Sikh schools, and a Hindu school is planned, writes Amardeep of Sepia Mutiny.
Until quite recently, no Muslim schools were able to match the strict criteria necessary to receive state support. Now a few have appeared and more are in the offing, which raises two serious questions to consider. One is, will the Islamic state schools be places where moderate, multiculturalism-friendly Islam is inculcated? The second is, will the principle of the government’s ‘supportive neutrality’ to the different faiths be challenged once more ‘foreign’ faiths enter the picture? In short, can the British public handle state support for Muslim schools?
Unlike the members of majority faiths, most British Muslims are immigrants, Amardeep points out. Islamic state schools, even if they promote a moderate form of Islam, may not help the children of immigrants “learn the ropes of British society.” Amardeep quotes screenwriter and novelist Hanif Kureishi on the dangers of Islamic monoculturalism.
When it comes to teaching the young, we have the human duty to inform them that there is more than one book in the world, and more than one voice, and that if they wish to have their voices heard by others, everyone else is entitled to the same thing. These children deserve better than an education that comes from liberal guilt.
The British-born suspects in the deadly July 7 bombings apparently attended state-run schools. One worked as a “learning mentor,” which sounds like what we’d call a community liaison, at a local elementary school. The July 21 suspects are immigrants who came as children; they also attended state schools, as far as I can tell. Government schools in heavily Muslim neighborhoods may be nearly as monocultural as independent Islamic schools.
In the U.S., the Muslim American Society is working on a pamphlet to help parents spot vulnerability to extremism in their children, and is urging Muslim youth centers to start Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops.