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Saturday, 19 July 2008

You'll learn about Islam whether you want to or not

Talking of having things shoved down your throat, as we did yesterday over the Dudley mosque, it now seems likely that kids in all state schools in England will be taught Islamic traditions as part of their citizenship classes.

Now we all realise the role religion has played in the shaping of human society, for better or worse or bits in between, and that's why it's important to learn about religions (as opposed to having compulsory talking-to-invisible-people rituals). But this, according to some critics, is holding up Islam above other religions.

A story in Britain's Daily Mail tells us that the idea, announced by Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, is to curb extremism. "Other plans announced by Miss Blears also drew criticism," the story says, "including a state-funded panel of Islamic scholars and theologians to provide community leadership.

It goes on: "Prominent Muslims said this scheme was naïve because Government endorsement would erode the credibility of those taking part, especially among the young and disaffected." For that, read, "We don't want state educators teaching it, because that might be too objective."

David Conway, senior research fellow at the Civitas think-tank, said: "Some will see this as another sign of a creeping process of Islamisation – an insidious process which plays down the Christian basis of our culture and encourages children to learn more and more about Islam's contribution.

"Muslims are still a relatively small minority in Britain and, while I have nothing against children in our multi-religious society learning about each other's faiths, for one particular faith to be privileged in mainstream schools seems to me pointless, and won't make for greater harmony.

"I fear it will play into the hands of the small minority who want to see the Islamisation of Europe, and believe they will triumph through sheer numbers."

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