Accommodation or Islamification?

There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the Guidelines for Schools published by the Muslim Council of Britain. Some news sources have tried smooth this over whilst others, not unpredictably the Daily Express, call them “Taleban-style” conditions. Not happy in this case to get my news from filtered sources, I downloaded the 4.2 MB, 72-page document myself.

Well, I wouldn’t characterised them the same way as the Daily Express, but I would agree with the BBC’s Mike Baker: “The emphasis is almost entirely on how schools should adapt to Muslim pupils rather than vice-versa.” He also noted, “The language was polite but there was a strong insistence that schools should adapt.”

So what is the MCB insisting on?

Some of the things they want aren’t particularly difficult to accommodate. For example:

• School allows their Muslim girls to adhere to the Islamic requirements for dress, for example full-length skirts.
• Muslim girls who choose to wear the headscarf during all school lessons and activities are permitted to do so, including during physical education.
• Boys and girls are allowed to wear tracksuits during physical education activities.
• School respects the decision of Muslim boys to grow a beard.

Some of the food requirements require the school to do a bit more:

• School meals policies incorporate the requirements for the provision of halal meals.
• All kitchen staff receive guidance and training in the handling, preparation and serving of halal food.
• School ensures that the meat supplied is from a reputable halal supplier.
• Storage, preparation and serving of halal food is done separately from non-halal meat or meat products to avoid cross contamination, for example, utensils used in the preparation and serving of halal food are not mixed with those used for non-halal food.

Then it gets a little more involved when it comes to prayer:

• School makes arrangements for their Muslim pupils who wish to perform daily prayers in school.
• School makes arrangements to allow Muslim children who wish to perform their Friday congregational prayer on school site, led by an older pupil, teacher or external visitor.
• School allocates a regular place for the daily prayers that fall within school time.
• School ensures washing facilities are available, preferably in close proximity to the prayer area.
• School builds or adapts a washing facility in the toilet areas where pupils can conveniently make ablution which includes washing of the feet.

So not only does there have to be timetable or simply skipping class provisions, because the Zuhr prayers always fall during the school days and the Asr prayers do so in the wintertime. Then there’s setting aside a place and most schools don’t even have enough rooms for all the teachers as it is. And of course all of the construction costs of creating wudu-compatible washing facilities.

But during Ramadan, the requirements are even more onerous, and the italics are mine:

• School recognises and celebrates the spirit and values of Ramadan through collective worship or assembly themes and communal Iftar (collective breaking of the fast).
• School is aware of the likely increase in the number of pupils offering prayer during the month of Ramadan and facilities are provided accordingly, for example a larger area for daily prayers.
• Adequate arrangements are in place to supervise fasting children, during the lunch hour. These arrangements are well publicised amongst pupils and parents.
• School takes account of Ramadan when planning internal examinations and tries to avoid scheduling them during the month of Ramadan.
• School avoids scheduling sex and relationship education and swimming during Ramadan.
• School teachers are considerate and mindful that fasting children avoid engaging in over-demanding exercises during physical education lessons that may result in dehydration.
• If possible, school avoids holding parents’ meetings and other school social events in the evening during the month of Ramadan.

I haven’t included everything that is “encouraged”, but this should provide an adequate snapshot. The Muslim Council of Britain is a moderate organisation, so these guidelines do not represent the views of more radical groups.

Fortunately the Government had been very quick to distance itself from this guidance. Even they realise there must some limits to the multi-cultural agenda. For now, anyway.

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