PRESS RELEASE: 'Schooling to be strangers' - Why Muslim schools may be the solution to Britain's 'sleepwalk to segregation'

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IHRC\'s research, indicates that Muslim parents and school children also share a sense of unease about the divisiveness of mainstream education.
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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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22nd September 2005

PRESS RELEASE: \'Schooling to be strangers\' - Why Muslim schools may be the solution to Britain\'s \'sleepwalk to segregation\'

Many aspects of today\' speech by CRE head Trevor Phillips today have been well-rehearsed and challenged before, including the troubling implications of implying that minority communities\' alienations from the mainstream relates to a failure to speak English at home or a sense of social and cultural ghettoisation.

One single aspect that has been recurring in political debate however is the idea that schools are becoming more segregated and ethnically divisive. Whilst previous claims have focussed on religious schools, Phillips raises the spectre of a mainstream education system - including universities- that is more segregated than in previous generations.

IHRC\'s research [1], indicates that Muslim parents and school children also share a sense of unease about the divisiveness of mainstream education. This has prompted many to feel that they would prefer to send their children to a faith based school where a sense of caring for each other and a confident and shared sense of citizenship are inculcated.

Most respondents, regardless of whether they preferred the idea of faith based schools, the mainstream or neither stated that they felt the mainstream let down all students but particularly Muslim students. Reasons for this included:

*Ignorance on the part of teachers and education cultures of different faiths and cultures, particularly Islam and Muslims
*Discrimination and hostility on the part of individual teachers, occasionally schools, and often other pupils
*The failure to tackle such discrimination by school authorities
*The failure of the curriculum to reflect anything positive let alone positive contribution to society on the part of other cultures

The above helped to foster a cultural and political alienation amongst children in mainstream education. Many parents saw the role of Muslim schools as a counterweight to these problems. Most saw Muslim schools as schools where an Islamic ethos of shared community could be inculcated in children NOT as Muslim exclusive schools.

To reflect this aspiration, one of the report\'s recommendations is for the government to assist the creation of enough Muslim schools surplus to the requirements of Muslims in the UK, so as to be able to offer spaces to children of other backgrounds as a way of fostering a better sense of community.

The report also recommends that the government set about immediately trying to address the polarisation and negativity that exists in mainstream school cultures that reflects wider societal prejudices and which in the authors\' opinion needs to be urgently addressed.

Physically transforming hitherto \'segregated\' playgrounds to reflect diversity will have no effect if school and education cultures not only still \'school people to be strangers\' as Phillips has said but also devalue some at the expense of others within the four walls of the school itself.

For more comment or information, please contact the office eon (44) 20 8904 4222 or (44) 7958 607475. For a summary of the report please visit:
http://www.ihrc.org.uk/show.php?id=1409
or email research@ihrc.org for both a summary and review copy of the full report,
Secular or Islamic: What Do Muslims Want for Their Children? ISBN 1-903718-27-9, pp 93


Islamic Human Rights Commission
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